Watching Seori gaze at the entirety of New York City from the Empire State Building observation deck illustrates his vision as an artist. With a series of co-signings, collaborations and top-notch song placements in less than a year and a half, Seori has achieved an unprecedented breakthrough in the K-pop industry, but, crucially and atypically, did it on terms that put his art first.
A soft and inviting head voice opened Seori’s very first single “Running through the night” to tell a dreamlike tale of cursed lovers sporting “moonlight eyes” wishing they had time to take a break when they were together. Released alongside his first EP from May 2020, ? Depacse Ohw, the track began the larger, metaverse story Seori aims to tell, kicked off by the six-song project she co-produced and wrote entirely on her own. Followed by the ethereal “Trigger” and booming, English-language single “Lovers of the night” Seori’s vision was accompanied by visuals displaying a colorful, otherworldly universe that enchanted not only millions of YouTube viewers, but also other artists in Korea and abroad, including BTS’s Jungkook who added “Running Through the Night” to his YouTube playlist and inspired his band’s millions of fans to discover the new singer-songwriter-producer.
But before being launched into the K-pop stratosphere as a Triple Threat, Seori set out to establish a solid foundation. After months of experimenting on social media and posting covers on YouTube, Seori was contacted by several labels, including the artist-less record company Atispaus in South Korea. But even with no track record behind them, as well as an unorthodox hearing, Seori felt connected to the business.
âOf course, I had never heard of the label before,â Seori recalls of her first meeting with the Atispaus team which included Graphix, a DJ and producer now also signed as a musician under the label. âGraphix was present at the meeting and they suggested that we improvise on the spot. We worked together for an hour and did a song right there. I felt really good about it. It was then that I decided to get started with them. Since then, me and Graphix, who has become my current producer, have always worked from scratch: we do the melody, the lyrics, we do everything. Graphix is ââthe only other collaborator on ? Depacse Ohw as a co-producer on all of its six tracks.
While auditions have been commonplace for decades for Korean entertainment companies, K-pop contestants typically only have seconds to prove their singing, dancing, or modeling abilities to recruiters who spend their days at home. seek out huge amounts of new talent. Seori meeting Aritpaus and creating an entire song – in an hour, however – resonated with his greater ambitions as an artist.
âI’ve always been so inspired by other songwriters and I think that’s what I want to show when it comes to my own music,â she says. âI was very touched by Avril Lavigne when I was young and these days I love Conan Grayâ¦ I started making my own music when I was 18 years old. At first, I was just at the piano and I was composing melodies. Then I started to think that I wanted to tell my stories through music, which is why I started to write lyrics. I loved the process and have been interested in making music ever since, which is why I do it myself and don’t take tracks from other writers or artists.
This vision coincides with his creative support system which includes not only Atispaus (âThey respected my music and want me to make my own music,â Seori adds), but a recent connection to the influential music marketing collective of 88rising ( âI really respect their global culture – they constantly ask me what I like, what I want and what kind of music I want to doâ).
Her professional connections are all the more important as Seori is establishing herself not only as Korea’s next solo star globally, but also as a woman in the K-pop arena who so strongly appropriates herself. his music – an aspect that is still unfortunately rare to find especially with new artists. Seori recognizes this but hopes she can change perceptions and norms in the industry by simply doing what makes her tick.
âWomen producers are really rare in Korea,â Seori says, adding, âI wanted to make it an advantage for myself so that I can do more in the industry. It’s technically something small, but it can have a big impact â.
So far, Seori has had a remarkable impact on the scene. Not just with her production but collaborations with K-pop’s biggest idols (Tomorrow X Together featured her on a single appreciated by critics and trade while MAMAMOO’s Moonbyul caught her for new single “Shutdown”), as well as top hip-hop and R&B artists (“The long night” was a collaboration with in-demand producer Giriboy before Seori landed “UFO” as the biggest single to date R&B prodigy Gemini), and even blockbuster soundtracks (singing “Warriors” with Indonesian rapper Warren Hue for the Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings which was struck out by 88rising).
âI like to respect the other person to work together so that my most intimate and essential feelings can be put into the music,â Seori shares of his partnership policy. “I have to love this person and their music first.”
While some of Seori’s connections come in casually (âI contact DMs on Instagram,â she shares cool), others come by contacting her label (she connects to TXT as well as every day 6 both came by professional means). “I usually just go with the flow,” she adds. “If they contact me personally, that’s cool, or they can contact the company as well.”
Looking to the future, it seems Seori just has to stay focused and speak up to make her vision a reality. She’s in New York City ahead of what quickly became her very first live performance at 88rising’s Head in the Cloud 2021 Festival in Los Angeles last month, a vision of a goal she set for herself from day one. .
âI only have one thing to say,â when asked for advice for other DIY-inspired singers. âFrom the start, even when I was uploading YouTube videos and getting ready to debut, I thought,â Say what you think and say it out loud. âYou have to trust yourself that what you imagine can happen. I imagined myself being in America and playing in front of a lot of people since I started. And, actually, it hasn’t been long since I started but I’m here and I’m really grateful for it. We’re going to LA , I’m going to play. What I imagined will come true.
So what does Seori imagine as she towers over all of New York City from one of its tallest buildings? World domination? An Avril Lavigne duo? The perfect slice of New York pizza? If Seori’s story continues as it did, we’re probably only a few months away from finding out.