The Korea Herald


[Indie spirit] Singer-songwriter I’ll ventures to broaden his reach

Diligently and boldly, I’ll polishes himself to become an approachable musician

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : March 6, 2024 - 15:55

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Singer-songwriter I’ll poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, Feb. 15. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald) Singer-songwriter I’ll poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, Feb. 15. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Like the positive and brave image conveyed by his name, the singer-songwriter I’ll is bright and cheerful. The name, which evokes the feeling that anything can be accomplished, came from the singer’s birthday.

“After contemplating various names before my debut, I created the name out of my birthday. Using the number 3 like an apostrophe, the date Nov. 13 became a stage name 'I’ll.' I liked the idea that it signifies 'I'll do something' when followed by other words.”

The modest and playful singer had various dreams before becoming a singer, including being a classical pianist, composer, or doing anything related to music. He studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, debuted as a singer in Japan, and is currently active as a singer in Korea.

The singer’s family had a big influence on his path. At home, he was exposed to diverse music -- his mother was once a Japanese Enka singer and his older brother, No Min-woo, is an actor-singer.

Such a background has had a positive impact, but also presents challenges, the singer said.

"When I debuted in Japan, to Japanese audiences, I was a Korean singer without any experience related to Korea. To Korean audiences, I was a singer active in Japan without Japanese nationality," said I’ll, adding that he eventually decided to establish himself in Korea first.

Apart from crossing borders, the 29-year-old singer has also built a career going back and forth among different music genres.

In 2019, he formed the four-member band Hoppipolla through the audition program Super Band. Proving his strength as a band member, producer and a vocalist, he showcased emotional songs. As a soloist, his songs cover a wide spectrum of styles, from lyrical and warm ballad tracks like “You & I,” to upbeat and rhythmic tunes such as "Animal Instinct," where his lively singing shines, and "One More," which showcases a pop sound.

“I listened to a wide range of music growing up and I liked everything. I couldn't choose a specific genre, so I simply set a goal to try everything in my 20s. So, I became a singer with an ambiguous color. Looking at it from a positive perspective, I became a singer who explores various genres."

His contemplation on genres led to the creation of "Mixtape," an album series. Mixtape refers to a collection of albums that musicians release for self-promotion before their official debut. I’ll explained that the Mixtape series, released in 2021 and 2023, represents the journey of discovering his musical identity.

"I'm currently in a phase of exploration, and labeling the albums 'Mixtape' gave me confidence. Since it's a 'Mixtape,' regardless of the content, I can make an excuse that it is still unofficial."

The singer, who has yet to release a full-length album, mentioned plans to conclude the Mixtape series this year and prepare for the production of a regular album. While delving deeply into genres and music he can pull off, the singer added that ultimately, his goal is to compose and perform music imbued with stories.

"I want to challenge myself as a musical actor, and ultimately, try composing an entire musical piece. I am good at writing songs with narratives and emotions. I'm considering going back to school later to take some classes about film music," he said.

Although he is full of ambitious dreams, the singer likened himself to the universally beloved fried chicken, saying he wishes to deliver music that anyone can sympathize with anytime.

"There are countries where people don't eat pork or beef, but there isn't a country in the where they don't eat chicken. Especially in Korea, fried chicken can be delivered anywhere and it's a dish that makes you feel good every time you eat it. I want to be a singer who is easily approachable."

I’ll said that his passion and dreams ultimately stem from gratitude towards his fans, recalling the fan letters he had read. “Young fans call me their first love, while some older fans write that I am their last love. It gives me a sense of responsibility, to preserve their hearts. That's what drives me," he said with a smile.