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[Herald Interview] Kim Jae-hyung cherishes love with 'One Second'

The singer-songwriter continues to explore his niche of alternative folk music

By Choi Ji-won

Published : March 16, 2023 - 15:37

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Singer-songwriter Kim Jae-hyung (Archive Achim) Singer-songwriter Kim Jae-hyung (Archive Achim)

In singer-songwriter Kim Jae-hyung's latest single "One Second," there is no mention of the word "second" in either Korean or English.

The song itself is an embodiment of that one second we wish to spend more with those who we love, that one second which feels like forever as our senses are numbed and our mind, overwhelmed by happiness.

It is this metaphor that mainly defines the alternative folk singer's music.

"One second feels different according to situations. We don't watch a two-hour long movie counting the seconds, but listening to a three-minute song, the seconds weigh in on us more deeply. When it comes to the time we spend with our loved ones, every second feels precious," Kim told the Korea Herald during an interview last week, explaining about the song's message.

Just as with his past songs, "One Second," which was released on Sunday, was created wholly by the singer-songwriter.

And this time, he added another layer to his music with his collaboration with singer Kim Su-young. This is the first time another voice featured in Kim Jae-hyung's songs.

The fluttering tension was also tangible in the two speaker's lyrical ping pong.

"The key was to turn the song into a conversation. Rather than just dividing the parts, we give and take tightly, expressing 'there's no second to spare' through the song's structure as well," the songwriter said.

The lyrics convey his wish for a more balanced relationship, he explained. Couples often turn a relationship into an endless tug of war. Yet if both were to drop their ends of the rope, there would be no war and only love, Kim said.

And Kim's answer to end this tug of war was to be present in the second they are spending together. If we were to think only about now -- not the past nor the future -- our time would ironically feel endless, and we'd have nothing to fight over, he explained.

"If we could face each other like this in every moment, there will be nothing to wish or rush / If no time snatched you away, I won't ever have to miss you," the lyrics read.

"The longing feeling doesn't always have to be sad. A cheerful groove runs through the song to reflect the pleasant tenseness as a couple tries to focus on the now, cherishing every moment," said Kim.

Cover image of Kim Jae-hyung's Cover image of Kim Jae-hyung's "One Second." (Archive Achim)

His earnest attempt to remove the sadness in love through "One Second" reflects the singer-songwriter's recent shift in thoughts about his music.

An innately pensive person who likes to brood over the meanings of life, Kim said he had been greatly absorbed in delivering messages through his songs.

But these days, the artist is attempting to remove the weight from his music. To draw his own attention away from the complexities, Kim has been immersing himself in examining and learning the dynamics behind a song.

"I like talking about the things people feel yet don't talk about in life, and music to me felt like an efficient way of delivering my story. ... It has many factors, not just the melody and the lyrics, but the rhythm, texture and instruments, which could be creatively combined in different layers and dimensions," Kim explained.

The musician guesses this is why he was drawn from the start to indie folk, especially alternative folk -- a genre through which he could continuously evolve and experiment.

Kim's interest in music bloomed when he was serving the military in a navy band. He came across a folk guitar through which he taught himself into the world of music. He naturally came to start a career in songwriting, and ultimately, began singing as well.

"Folk music always has to be accompanied by a real instrument, so I'm always working with other players. As a songwriter, I have to keep on digging out my own space, but at the same time, I'd like to stay open to new opinions and apply them if I could," he said.

Although not quite in the mainstream stardom yet, Kim's continued efforts to define his music inside the field of folk has gradually drawn the eyes of listeners and critics.

Kim officially debuted in 2017 with his first EP "Circus." In 2020, he made his name known through his first full-length album "Flex," which was nominated for the best folk album at the 2021 Korean Music Awards, and its titular track "Failure Story," for the best folk song.

Last year, the 33-year-old was given a nationwide spotlight when his single "Unforgotten Sadness" was named among Apple Music's Korean list of "The 100 Best Songs of 2022."

Looking back on his seven-year career, Kim said it was a time of exploring his music.

"I learned that my music cannot be bound into a single genre. But to characterize myself like this, I need to lay a firm foundation through my own experiences," he said.

Being the creator and the presenter of his music, Kim said music is who he is. Although he fills up his life with various stories, they all converge to build the universe inside which he makes music. And over his lifetime, the singer-songwriter hopes to carve out his own niche inside the popular scene.

"I aspire to be defined by my own music. Popular music does not always have to be general, and I hope my music could show my uniqueness. When people hear my music, I hope it reminds them of no one but Kim Jae-hyung."