Interview: Korean R&B Phenom Crush On Being A Good Artist

It’s 5:30 p.m., just two and a half hours before Crush (a.k.a. Shin Hyo-seob) takes the stage for a sold-out concert at Stage48 in New York City, the second stop of his solo Crush On You: Wonderlust Tour in the U.S.

He sits on the venue’s tufted leather black sofa, next to his translator, and I sit next to mine.

The South Korean artist known for hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, and yes, K-pop, is wearing a pristinely white ribbed turtleneck sweater and loose white cargo pants with one end of a dark belt extending out from under his jumper, the entire ensemble a throwback to the ‘90s. With the house lights on, the singer-songwriter-producer is a luminous swath of pearl, his somewhat tired eyes resting below a coiffured caramel twist reminiscent of the crest of a wave.

The 24-year-old known for hit singles such as “Sometimes” and “Hug Me (feat. Gaeko)” has acquired an incredible list of credits since debuting in 2012. His featured artists and frequent collaborators include Zion.T, Loco, Gaeko, Gary, Zico, Jay Park, Simon Dominic and Dean.

His latest EP, “Wonderlust,” was released in October, and it’s a warm, remarkably intimate album. “2411” is a beautiful acoustic number, detailing the artist’s long bus rides taken while dreaming about the future — a standing love letter to the kid inside we all used to be. “Fall” grows wistful over a former lover, but the song’s a cozy hearth, much like the album overall.

Kore: How would you describe your new album “Wonderlust,” compared to your previous work?
CRUSH: I tried to show analog and acoustic feeling in this album. Instead of the singer “Crush,” I tried to share the story of “Shin Hyo-seob” [the artist’s legal name], the person. I really wanted to show my true self rather than trying to be fancy.

(Amoeba Culture)(Amoeba Culture)

K: Do you ever feel vulnerable as an artist, in revealing personal details about yourself in the music you produce, which is very public?
C: When it comes to talking about my personal life, I consider that music will last as a record of history. So I think it’s very important for me to talk about my story such as what kind of music I want to make, what kind of lyrics I want to write about at that point in my life, and in that specific circumstance — as a record of the past, present and future. To me, it feels unhealthy for me to stop myself from writing music that’s personal. Anyway, since I am a singer-songwriter, I cannot tell someone else’s story but only mine.

K: When it comes to the creative process of producing music, what comes to you first: the music or the lyrics?
C: It’s case-by-case.

K: Do you write every day?
C: That’s also case-by-case. When I think of a melody or lyrics I’ll record on my iPhone, whether it’s in the middle of the night, or anytime. When I am at the recording studio, I use those lyrics to write music.

Crush performs at Stage48 in New York City. (Lauren Winn/Amoeba Culture & CJ E&M)Crush performs at Stage48 in New York City on Nov. 13. (Lauren Winn/Amoeba Culture & CJ E&M)

K: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
C: I think I am an introvert, a little bit shy.

K: What are you looking forward to about tonight’s concert?
C: Koreans enjoy performances but Americans tend to focus more on the music. I like it all regardless of what kind of atmosphere it is.

K: When you look back upon your career, years from now, what would you want your lasting impression to be?
C: I want to be remembered as a good artist. I think a good artist means that I continue pursuing music consistently and creatively.

Other Crushbites:

—You can find Crush on Twitter: @crush9244

—He’s currently studying music in his fourth year in college, with a focus on composition.

—Before working in music, he worked part-time jobs as a wedding hall janitor and a brick-carrying construction worker.