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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Cowl Story: Eric Nam Brings His Sound to India Categorical Occasions

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On an oddly chilly and wet day in my metropolis final week, I used to be tearing my hair over an unstable community shortly earlier than this interview. That evening, at 10:30 p.m. IST, Eric Nam was becoming a member of me on Zoom to go over his impending gig in India at Lollapalooza 2024. And there he was, simply in time; solely the anticipatory anxiousness in me got here true because of terrible climate and spotty web. We bought off to a shaky begin, and Nam was like, “Sorry, I didn’t catch the second a part of your query” and “Might you please repeat? It’s uneven” a few instances whereas I whistled at midnight to maintain it cool. Nonetheless, and fortunately, higher alongside the best way, we had roughly a 40-minute dialog—unfolding a freewheeling artist. One carrying his coronary heart on his sleeves by means of music, who creates what he feels, is prepared to problem himself persistently, discover unchartered territories, and loves India—he’s “so stoked” to lastly return to India.

How does connecting with an Indian viewers [live] make you are feeling forward of the live performance? I ask, “I’m very, very excited. I’ve been trying ahead to this,” he says. Anecdotally, he hasn’t been again to India since 2011. “I think about there’s rather a lot that has modified in 13 years, and I’ve by no means carried out in India both. So, I’m very curious, I’m very excited, and it’s with numerous anticipation to know what the gang in India will likely be like. However greater than something, I feel that for the followers who’re there to see me, I’m going to convey out numerous the previous hits but in addition a number of the new ones, and we’re going to have a very good time and dance, hopefully like nobody’s watching,” he provides.

The Asian-American singer-songwriter, performer, and media character has come a great distance. Setting off by means of the Korean TV present Star Audition: Start of a Nice Star 2, which unveiled a profession in South Korea (2011–2012), he headed to launch his maiden EP, Cloud 9 (2013). En route, he gained steam as a number alongside subsequent music releases, a slew of worldwide excursions, and considerably extra, consolidating his renown over time.

It’s been fairly an expertise, although. He went out with out a map, relying solely on his intestine and what he was feeling. “Nothing in my life acquainted me with doing music till I simply did it,” he remarks. Nam was imagined to be a guide and an analyst at Deloitte. So, he took this massive leap. “I needed to go to Korea to construct a profession to then be capable to attempt to reverse and generate again within the States and use that like a pop artist but in addition like a Ok-pop artist, to, like, you already know, tour the world and do reveals like Lollapalooza. It has been some time.”

Eric Nam for Rolling Stone India's February 2024 digital cover
“I’m going to convey out numerous the previous hits but in addition a number of the new ones, and we’re going to have a very good time and dance, hopefully like nobody’s watching.” Photographer: Kartik Kher; Stylist: Malvika Tater; Assistant stylist: Vruti Sakariya; Shirt: YAVI; Pants: Kartik Analysis; Neck equipment: Beadie Boo Retailer; Ring: Amrapali Jewels; Kolhapuri: Aprajita Toor

I cock an ear nearer to my laptop computer as Nam opens up about his journey, what his sound basically captures, and the way impacting individuals stays the centerpiece of what he does, whereas concurrently comprehending the have to be at peace with what he maintains is so necessary—that he ought to create one thing and other people ought to take heed to it. “Creating is a type of remedy for me. I’ve to create for myself, and I’ve to be egocentric,” he says. And in a bid, he has been on it, making a profession that feeds his inventive ardour however navigating challenges within the course of—one being how the world sees him.

I ask him about it and a gamut of different issues, working means up into the trade—like, he’s been searching for solutions to questions raised in his songs—striving to reside as much as his full potential and pursue success, happiness, love, and different goals. He has all the time had a fascination with attempting to grasp cultures and locations that appear so totally different, as an illustration. Stands to cause his curiosity in visiting India. “It’s additionally actually on the opposite aspect of the world.” “So, it feels so distant,” in his phrases, but he feels linked in that with a few of his Indian buddies, he shares a commonality of values and morals.

Because it seems, Nam is rarely accomplished indulging in his heartfelt explorations and experiencing the world—his present cease is India, and he dubs the entire thing a “enjoyable course of,” additionally one which he can “study from and really feel rather a lot out of.” It encompasses how he makes himself distinct and manifests with what he creates and places out. And his sincere replies incrementally reiterate that. Listed below are the condensed excerpts.


Partaking with and experiencing the very best of each home and worldwide music has develop into what Lollapalooza is. Any particular artist or efficiency you’re trying ahead to?

I’m trying ahead to Kenny Beats. I’ve heard some nice issues about his present. I’m additionally clearly very excited for my buddies, The Rose. We have now been on tour just about on the identical timeline, however we haven’t been capable of meet up with one another. So, I’m hoping that I’ll be capable to see them.

After which Sting [Obviously]. He’s a legend, and I feel youthful audiences may not understand how a lot he has influenced so many songs and music and the way cool it’s to have the ability to hear him and Kenny each of them.

After which lastly, OneRepublic is a band that I beloved once I was rising up, notably in faculty. I went to see them in Boston when no person knew about them, and I used to be like, “Oh my God, that is nice!” I’ve seen them a number of instances, however I haven’t seen them since faculty. So, I’m very excited to listen to them.

As a Korean American man from Georgia, touring to Korea to have the ability to tour, sing, and carry out everywhere in the world should have been loopy and time-consuming. I want to hear extra about this expertise.

Yeah, I imply, it has been a loopy trip, you already know. I feel the toughest factor has been that there isn’t a blueprint and there are lots of people who’ve needed to do it the best way that I’ve needed to do it as a result of to be particular, there aren’t many Korean-American singers or Ok-pop artists. And so, for therefore many people, we’re figuring it out as we go as a result of we haven’t historically absolutely belonged in both class. We haven’t absolutely belonged in Korea, and we haven’t absolutely belonged in America, however someplace within the center. And to should create a profession path and a trajectory of how the world sees or treats you is a problem. And that’s a problem on prime of the problem of being or turning into a musician in and of itself. So, it’s been very advanced. However I feel it’s been numerous nice studying and I wish to say, I used to be attempting issues I haven’t accomplished earlier than which has been onerous however on the similar time rewarding.

Does your live performance repertoire embody a music that you just all the time should carry out?

There’s like two or three, that we all the time should do. “Love Die Younger” is one we all the time should do, and “Actually” is one other one which we all the time should do. “Actually” was like Ok-pop however doing it on my phrases, after which “Love Die Younger” was my first English launch that was a part of my first English album.

After the present, do you may have plans to spend slightly extra time in India—possibly visiting some locations, exploring town, sampling Indian meals?

I completely would like to. Nonetheless, I’m straight off again to a different schedule; I’ve some shootings that I’ve to do. However I suppose I’d be there slightly bit early. I’ve a couple of days, so I’m hoping to strive the meals and discover a number of the locations once I get there early. So, I’m very enthusiastic about that.

You talked about your affinity for Indian tradition and music in considered one of our earlier interviews. I’m inquisitive about when and what precisely piqued your curiosity in issues Indian.

Initially, India is huge. And so, I really feel it’s a spot you’ll be able to discover ceaselessly and all the time come throughout new issues. I feel that’s one thing I keep in mind as a result of India is so massive and overwhelmingly giant and there are such a lot of individuals; it’s like, the place do you even start? It’s overwhelming to consider and course of this. However I’ve all the time had a fascination with attempting to grasp cultures and locations that appear so totally different. That’s why I used to be very involved in visiting India within the first place, and as soon as I bought there, I spotted, “Wow!” The films are so totally different, the songs are so totally different, the colours, the style—all the things is so totally different. And never that I actually have a baseline understanding of what’s occurring, however to be in it, be open to it, and attempt to embrace it—to me, it’s a really enjoyable course of. But additionally, one which I can study from and really feel rather a lot out of. I feel that’s all the time been my fascination, and once more, I’m not very properly versed, and I haven’t been again in so lengthy. So, I’m very excited to go, to sort of do it yet again and to attempt to expertise as a lot as potential.

Is something new coming quickly by way of an Indian artist you’re collaborating with?

I can’t inform you [laughs]. I don’t know precisely what’s occurring, the place, or how but. However, you already know, if and when there’s, you’ll be the primary to know; Rolling Stone India would be the first to know.

You could have been making unimaginable content material the place you give artists, particularly these from Ok-pop, a platform to be clear and sincere about their psychological well being and private lives. Was there a private cause behind you creating this property, or as a result of psychological well being is simply so related?

I feel we began it as a result of individuals in our neighborhood wished it. We have been having a dialog a few podcast, and our neighborhood was like, “We like this content material,” and for us, we have been like, “Oh, okay,” however “How will we do that? How will we determine it out?” as a result of everyone is speaking about it in a means that’s serving to them and having fun with the stuff that we’re doing, so we have been like, “Can we make it extra structured and make it a platform and extra sustainable?” On the similar time, for me, it was very scary once we have been going by means of the primary iterations of it as a result of I used to be speaking about issues that I had by no means talked about publicly. I used to be speaking about my struggles, my pains, and my obstacles. And never lots of people have accomplished that, particularly these coming from Ok-pop. So I used to be very nervous.

However you already know, I’m very glad that we did it as a result of, as I’m on tour and (as we’ve been doing actions with Mindset), we meet so many individuals who’d be like, “Thanks for what you do as a result of this has positively impacted my life and my psychological well being,” and as an artist and as an individual, impacting individuals by means of music, artwork, or a movie is all the time like a giant focus of what we do. However to do it with the tales of who we’re and what we’ve lived can be simply as necessary and really worthwhile. So, yeah, that’s sort of how we got here throughout that journey.

Eric Nam for Rolling Stone India's February 2024 digital cover
“I’m attempting my finest to reside and be the very best model of myself that I could be, pursuing happiness, love, relationships, success, and no matter it could be in one of the best ways potential.” Photograph: Kartik Kher; Stylist: Malvika Tater; Assistant stylist: Vruti Sakariya; Shirt & pants: Kartik Analysis; Neck equipment: Beadie Boo Retailer; Ring: Amrapali Jewels; Kolhapuri : Aprajita Toor

What do you assume is one of the best ways to maintain and thrive for an artist in a quickly altering surroundings?

Actually, it’s fairly tough; it’s fairly difficult as a result of media modifications consistently and the platforms are altering consistently. Algorithms appear to be extra necessary than ever, and I feel that’s sort of probably the most tough half. After I’m in a songwriting session or once I’m speaking to my artist buddies, we’re like, “Okay, however what’s the algorithm? Can it feed individuals?” So, we now have misplaced numerous what appears like a pure discovery—individuals trying to find good music and trying to find what they like.

Our platforms are sort of a beat to us, and in order that’s what I feel is the trickiest half. We have now to write down and assume in a sure means, writing for the algorithm. However that’s bizarre, for I feel artists needs to be creating what’s true and sincere and resonates with them. So, that’s a difficult half. Additionally, individuals’s consideration spans are so brief. We so rapidly overlook what we watched and what we consumed, so our music is dropping worth in entrance of individuals. For many artists, we spend months and years engaged on one thing, and inside a matter of some hours, minutes, or days, it will be like transferring on. So, I’d be mendacity if I stated that it’s not tough.

There are occasions when it’s discouraging, and at instances it will get very tough, however the best way I give it some thought is that creating is a type of remedy for me, one thing that I like to do and recognize. And I simply can’t create for different individuals; I’ve to create for myself, and I’ve to be egocentric. That in itself is a really tough factor to return to phrases with, particularly as an Asian-American. As an Asian, I really feel we’re all the time informed to thoughts our manners and consider different individuals and what individuals round us are going to assume—that’s a lot part of how we’ve grown up. However in artwork and creativity, I feel it’s about “me.” It’s about “I.” It’s a must to be egocentric. How does this make you are feeling? How do you wish to create it? What do you wish to say? What do you are feeling is so necessary that you need to create it and other people ought to take heed to it? which is sort of at odds with how I’ve been raised and plenty of others maybe, and so, coming to phrases with that and combating for your self and advocating for your self is the factor that I’m studying, and on the finish of the day, if I’m pleased with it and really feel fulfilled, then that’s all that ought to matter.

Over time, your profession has flourished, and you’ve got engaged in a wide range of actions, together with singing, creating songs, internet hosting reveals, doing interviews, and way more, to the purpose the place you’re additionally a family identify on tv. Have you ever ever felt that possibly this was negatively affecting your music?

I feel there was a degree once I was so busy doing different issues that I didn’t have the time or the vitality to place into music. That’s in all probability what made it most tough and negatively affected my music. But it surely’s a catch-22 state of affairs as a result of I feel the media and the world we reside in thrive on tendencies like who’s scorching and who’s not. So, the toughest half was that I needed to do all these different issues to create buzz and relevance and be on development, but in addition create music, albums, and tour.

It’s simply so many issues to do directly. And that’s simply sort of the lifetime of a solo artist, which may be very onerous. I have a look at friends who’re in a bunch, and if they’ve 10 members, one or two of them can do the TV, one or two of them can do the radio, and one or two can do YouTube—cut up the tasks. However for me, I by no means had that, so being consistently booked and busy, which is a blessing—don’t get me flawed, I’m very grateful—simply made it onerous to spend time on my music. I feel that was tough typically.

Your songs are deep and inform tales, I really feel. Which music—that one—made you are feeling really pleased and satisfied that it finest captured your emotions, how you reside, who you’re, and your essence?

I feel it’s going to be “Home on a Hill,” as a result of I feel it is sort of a common music for people who find themselves residing life in immediately’s time and age the place we see a lot and we’re uncovered to so many issues that all of us have, like this purpose, this northern star that we’re attempting to get to.

It may very well be [literally] like a home on a hill; it may very well be some extent or job or wealth or a relationship, no matter it could be—that’s the “Home on a Hill.” What I’m attempting to get there—the individuals round us, what different individuals have, the issues round us—could be very distracting. It could possibly appear and really feel as if everyone has all the things as a result of the grass is all the time greener and the sky is all the time bluer on the opposite aspect. However, if and once you get there, you’re usually left feeling like, “Okay, I’ve it; now what?” Like, “Oh, I’ve this lovely loopy automobile that I believed I wished, however the particular person subsequent to me has a unique colour, just like the newer mannequin or the mannequin with slightly little bit of an improve.” There may be all the time going to be one thing larger and higher than what you may have. And so, to me, I feel it’s attempting to say, let’s reside within the now, let’s reside within the second, recognize what we now have already, and never an excessive amount of fear about maintaining with our friends or the individuals round us and discovering that happiness within the course of or the happiness inside you, which is, you already know, a really advanced factor to share inside a three-minute music.

Even a couple of days in the past, I used to be rehearsing and going by means of conferences and speaking to individuals, and this concept saved coming as much as me: simply be thankful for what we now have. We simply should be very, very grateful. So, that’s why “Home on a Hill” may be the music that sort of finest represents who and the place I’m proper now as an individual.

Your songs increase questions concerning life, love, and the spectrum of feelings one could expertise, as you may have identified on varied events. Have you ever discovered a solution but?

I feel the reply modifications on daily basis. I don’t assume there’s a solution, however even when there’s a solution, it’s necessary to consider it. When you’re pondering these ideas and these questions, I feel it channels your intentions and the way you reside your life. As a result of a lot of what we pursue in life is this stuff. That’s why many people reside, work, examine, and do what we do. To do it aimlessly could appear meaningless and never as fruitful. However I’m attempting my finest to reside and be the very best model of myself that I could be, pursuing happiness, love, relationships, success, and no matter it could be in one of the best ways potential. I feel that there’s worth in that.

When an initiative fails otherwise you obtain a unfavorable evaluate, it’s simple for an artist to develop into overwhelmed and begin doubting issues. What are your ideas on this?

I feel it’s extra about discovering worth within the creation and the mission itself than the evaluations or suggestions from critics or audiences. I feel as an artist, you’re creating with the very best intentions to inform your story or no matter it’s that you just wish to specific in one of the best ways potential. And typically, possibly, that doesn’t come by means of. That’s unlucky; you simply have to determine what you may have accomplished otherwise to get that message throughout. However on the finish of the day, you additionally should take time and assume it’s okay. You created what you felt you wanted to create and put it out to the world. And there’s worth in simply having completed that. There may be worth sufficient.

I feel a lot of our time in society we spend wanting the validation of others, and if we get it, it’s nice, however I don’t assume it’s the healthiest factor for that to be the one factor that we hold our hat on. And I feel I realized that early on in my profession as a result of, even doing TV, I’ve accomplished so many TV reveals, both as a visitor, as a number or as a forged member. And like, you need all the things to be nice; you need all the things to be the thrill of the city, to be trending, and to get all the nice evaluations, however it’s not all in your energy. There are such a lot of different issues that go into it. There are such a lot of different individuals—there’s a director, there are different forged members, there’s the editors, there’s the music individuals—what time it’s being broadcast, what community is it on, is there anything competing? These items can apply to music as properly, or something that we put out. So, there are such a lot of different issues that aren’t in your management that simply occur. You possibly can’t change it, however you simply have to just accept it and say, “I put my finest effort ahead, and that’s all that issues.”

You additionally acted within the psychological suspense film Transplant, right? How did that occur?

I used to be on tour, and so they have been like, “Hey, there’s a terrific script that’s getting made within the coming months, and we predict you need to audition for it,” and so we did numerous auditioning. Quite a lot of studying, numerous taping, and I went by means of this whole course of, and I bought the function, and we shot that. It was a really tough mission for me; I’ve by no means acted earlier than. And such as you have been saying, it’s a psychological thriller, so it wasn’t a simple function. There was rather a lot to consider and rather a lot to course of. I used to be confused consistently, however I realized rather a lot. To me, it has sort of given me this curiosity in regards to the world of movie and TV and appearing and writing. That’s sort of the place I’d like to spend some extra time within the coming years figuring that half out and difficult myself extra.

Maybe you’re pondering of doing a Ok-drama?

Yeah, I imply with Ok-dramas, historically I’ve all the time sort of stated “no,” and I’ve all the time sort of stayed away as a result of I wasn’t very assured in that, and I used to be like, “I don’t know if I can do a very good job at it.” However now I’m feeling, “Why not?” If the appropriate function comes up and if the appropriate alternative comes up, then I’ll simply go for it and take a look at it. I feel what I’ve to be okay with is that I can’t management all the things. There will likely be others, there will likely be writers, and there will likely be individuals who will work with me to make it possible for I’m making the very best selections as an actor in no matter function that I’m taking part in, and I simply should belief them. So, in the event that they see it in me and I see it in myself, and we simply belief one another, then we are able to strive it out; we are able to attempt to have some enjoyable on a Ok-drama. I’ll be down.

What are the stuff you want you had understood earlier that you just perceive now?

You realize, one factor I preserve coming again to is saying to create for your self and curiosity your intestine intuition. I feel that took me a very long time to return to phrases with. It’s like trusting your intestine, believing in it, and giving your self full authority. It’s onerous as a result of once you’re younger and once you’re not skilled, you’re like, “Is that this proper?” All people looks as if they’re making issues up within the course of; it’s all about how they really feel. However your emotions and my emotions are simply as legitimate as anyone else’s. Possibly I’m not as skilled, however there’s fact to that feeling and to that emotion. And so, ensuring that you just take heed to your self—I feel that’s invaluable, and it’s additionally what makes a terrific artist. I feel somebody very a lot in tune with their feelings and emotions ought to put that right into a music, a TV present, a movie, or one thing.

In the identical vein, simply begin. Simply begin earlier. I feel I used to be terrified as a result of I didn’t know the place to start out or the way to begin. After I debuted, I used to be late. I used to be previous, and other people have been saying I used to be previous; I used to be 24 and so they have been like I used to be so previous. I used to be like, “Oh! Okay, I suppose I’m previous, however I can nonetheless strive.” However I want that even when I began a couple of years earlier, who is aware of what my life can be like? I don’t know. However I want to assume that I’d have had extra expertise below my belt.

Eric Nam for Rolling Stone India's February 2024 digital cover
“India is huge. And so, I really feel it’s a spot you’ll be able to discover ceaselessly and all the time come throughout new issues.” Photographer: Kartik Kher; Stylist: Malvika Tater; Assistant stylist: Vruti Sakariya; Shirt & pants: Kartik Analysis; Neck equipment: Beadie Boo Retailer; Ring: Amrapali Jewels; Kolhapuri: Aprajita Toor

What’s your upcoming music, album, or mission that you just’re engaged on?

I’ve been touring rather a lot recently, so I haven’t had time to place out new stuff after “Home on a Hill.” I’m nonetheless touring till Could. I’ve tried to write down a couple of issues whereas I’m touring, however it’s actually onerous. So, for now, let’s simply concentrate on placing on the very best tour potential.

This yr begins with India, after which we undergo Asia in February, then Australia and New Zealand by means of March and April, after which let’s see the place life takes me and the way I really feel. I feel if something, it’s about following that emotion, like what you wish to create now. I feel possibly there will likely be some modifications within the musical course. In accordance with what I’ve been listening to not too long ago, it has been very totally different. So, I feel there may be some modifications, however nothing that we now have began or something that we really feel strongly sufficient for me to say like that is what’s coming.

Your message earlier than the live performance

I’m very, very excited! So stoked to lastly be going again to India. I can not wait to see everyone; I can not wait to re-experience the individuals, the tradition, the meals, and all the things about it. I hope everyone comes prepared to bounce, able to sing, and have a very good time, and I feel that’s what music is about—coming collectively and having a extremely good time. So, I’m simply actually excited, however it’s going to be scorching and humid, I feel, so please keep hydrated, wholesome, and secure, and I’ll see you quickly!

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