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Kim Jae-hwan paints his musical canvas blue with 'Empty Dream'

Musician Kim Jae-hwan poses for pictures during a media showcase event for his fifth EP
Musician Kim Jae-hwan poses for pictures during a media showcase event for his fifth EP "Empty Dream" held in Seoul on Sept. 5. (Swing Entertainment)

K-pop musician Kim Jae-hwan is back with his fifth EP "Empty Dream," and he hopes the package of self-made songs feels like a gift set for listeners ahead of the holidays.

The 26-year-old singer held a media showcase on Monday afternoon in Seoul, a few hours ahead of the album’s release at 6 p.m. that day.

The EP comes a month after the release of Kim’s single "Snail," and is his first album released since his fourth EP “The Letter” which came out nine months ago.

Just like his last album, Kim filled "Empty Dream" with songs he wrote himself, but this time he is showcasing an array of new genres in the hopes of taking his next step as a musician.

"Becoming a singer used to be a desperate dream for me. Once I'd achieved that goal, I didn't know what to dream of next. And it made me feel really empty inside. I'm driven by my goals, so then I fell into a slump," Kim said during Monday's media event.

"And then it hit me that I might be happier if I could do more than just singing and writing my own songs and people could empathize with and accept me through them. I made this album hoping to fill up that empty space with my songwriting," he continued.

While he highlighted only ballads on "The Letter" EP, with the new album, Kim attempted various new genres from synth-pop to R&B, rock, acoustic and more.

Fronting the six-track package is "Back Then," an R&B and rock song through which he reminisces on his innocent adolescence.

"I think I was mostly thinking about my middle school period, that time when I was really innocent. It was a happy time, going to the church every week, playing soccer and watching movies at the cinema in town, which now doesn't exist," he said.

According to Kim, the song had been written quite a while ago as he was fiddling with his guitar in his room. While the song comes in two versions, dance and band, it was originally written with a band. He said he added the dance version to show off a more idol-style side of him.

"I didn't really think about dancing, and I thought about taking the performance with only hand gestures. But I know my fans love seeing me dance, so I infused some here and there," he said.

Kim set foot into the K-pop scene as a member of K-pop boy band Wanna One in 2017. He was among the 11 winners of the Mnet audition show "Produce 101," who together formed the temporary project group Wanna One. Kim Jae-hwan was the act's main vocalist.

After the band wrapped up group activities in January 2019, Kim kicked off his solo career in May that year with his first solo album "Another." Kim has actively continued recording and performing, dropping five albums, three singles and around a dozen drama OSTs.

Although he kicked off his career as an idol musician, Kim says that he now spends most of his time at home with his guitar writing songs.

"After ending Wanna One, I just went around knocking on the doors of songwriters because I wanted to write good songs so badly. I learned about the different working styles of different composers, and it made me think about my own songwriting. Now I feel awkward if I don't grab my guitar for even a day," he said.

He used to feel stressed and worried about what others would think about his creations, but now, Kim says he is free from those pressures because making songs has now become a part of his daily life.

"I started thinking only about writing what I want to write about right this moment. The thoughts I have today and tomorrow are never the same, so let's just turn those into my songs. There are many days when I don't like my work -- most of the time, actually -- and it used to be a stress, but I'm okay now."

Kim said making music is like a play for him, and he does not aim for a high chart performance with "Empty Dream."

"I expect my colors will deepen its shade as I continue to make new albums, and I think I'm just amid at a point in that process of finding my own color."



By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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