Interview with Singer-Songwriter JUNNY on Composing Music and First North American Tour

Debuting in 2017 with his first EP Monochrome, K-R&B singer-songwriter JUNNY has been making music for quite some time, and he’ll soon be embarking on his first North American tour this September. Prepared to show fans his new music live, the soloist will be releasing his first full-length album blanc on August 12th. Ahead of his album release and tour, APA sat with JUNNY to discuss ØFFSHORE, the collective of Korean artists that he’s part of, his creative process, future plans, and more.

The Vancouver native has been living in Korea for the past three years to pursue his music career, and he’s excited to perform for fans in North America for the first time. Despite growing up in Vancouver, JUNNY didn’t have much opportunity to explore North America in his youth. “I’ve been to Seattle before because you can just drive right down, but I’ve never even been to Toronto or Montreal, and I’m just really excited because I haven’t gotten to see the whole of North America before,” he shared. “As a Canadian, I’ve only lived in Vancouver my whole life, and just to go there to perform, it’s crazy.” On tour, he’s looking forward to trying new things: “I want to try the foods that represent each city and maybe try and visit famous monuments and stuff like that. I’ve been here in Korea for three years now, so I kind of miss the air around the world.”

As a singer-songwriter and composer, JUNNY takes a different approach when he’s writing for himself and writing for other artists. “Whenever I make songs for myself, I have no barriers, and basically no limits to what I want to do. I can write about whatever I feel because it’s my song, but when I write for others, it’s more of a challenge because you want to make the perfect song that can fit the artist. I always talk about it like dressing up a person, being like their stylist. You want to give them the right coat, right jacket, or right hat, like, you don’t want to put them in something that they don’t want to wear or they’re uncomfortable with. I enjoy both the same amount, but right now I’ve been very focused on my own music and I’m happy about that.”

JUNNY is credited for writing, composing, producing, and arranging countless songs for various artists, but he’s not credited for every step for every song. Occasionally, the songwriter will only participate in one part of the process. “When I’m writing my own [music], I’m trying to really stick my feet on every part of the song. I try my best to, you know, give my input. But, when I’m writing for others, it’s more of just, I do my part, and everyone does theirs, and as soon as I’m done with my own thing, it’s off my hands and it’s up to them. In a way, it’s like sending away your child. Like, you raise this kid and then you kind of see it go live their life. For my own songs, it’s more like I raised this kid forever and it stays with me forever, so it’s a different feeling for sure. And then seeing these artists perform the songs that I’ve written or I’ve contributed to, it’s a cool feeling, but at the same time, it kind of motivates me to, you know, grow as an artist myself and become someone who’s able to perform more.”

With so many songs credited under his name, JUNNY’s enjoys making music from all genres: “I grew up listening to various genres, and I’m interested in everything that catches my ear. I’m very, very diverse in my library of songs I listen to, so I’m always thinking about what to make. Then, if something catches my attention, I feel like, oh, maybe I should try something like this. I’m an open person. And yeah, of course K-pop has its own style, and R&B can have its own style, and contemporary stuff can have its own style, but at the same time, good music is good music to me. Modern day music nowadays, everything is just mixed together.”

Mixing genres aside, being bilingual also means mixing languages when going through the creative process. When describing his method, JUNNY admitted that he typically writes in English, then translates to Korean: “Sometimes I get the idea in a Korean word or like just a topic in a Korean sentence, but most of the time when I’m writing melodies or top lines, I just say random English words. I say random gibberish and, if you listen to it, it’s probably very funny, so I never let anyone listen to those. But those little sketches, I always do it in English, because that’s my first language. As soon as that’s done, I start getting into properly writing it in. Whether it be Korean or English, it doesn’t matter, but when it’s in Korean, I usually have terrific lyricists and Korean songwriters that help me out. With English and Korean, they’re both unique in their own ways, but very, very different at the same time, so it’s a challenge, but at the same, when everything just fits, it’s like the greatest feeling ever.”

JUNNY’s also no stranger to making music with others. When working on collaborations, he usually figures out whose voice he wants to add to the song after it’s made. Having worked with many artists before, he’s still very open to working with any other artist for possible future collaborations, though he would love to work with Bazzi in particular: “I’m a big fan. But, I just love to collaborate. I think that’s what got me to really be a songwriter, and I don’t think there’s a limit to the possibilities now, because nowadays, someone overseas can be working with someone like way across the world. Anyone who’s down, anyone who has some similar music interests as me, I’m always happy to work.”

JUNNY is also part of ØFFSHORE, a collective of Korean artists, producers, rappers, vocalists, and lyricists, consisting of iHwak, MirrorBOY, HNMR, Royal Dive, Jomalxne, RoseInPeace, and Def. (or Jay B of GOT7). The group works on music together, and are also great friends who meet up regularly. Their last album together came out in March 2020, and fans are hopeful for another release soon, or maybe even a tour as a group one day. While both projects are things the group would love to work on, it can be challenging to find time that works with all their individual schedules: “We have been talking about getting all together, just working on a few songs, and just having a session together. It’s usually Jay B that gets everything started on the group chat, and he’s like, ‘I think we should work together now again.’ He knows that we’re all busy on our individual schedules and stuff, but hopefully after my tour, I’ll come back and we’ll get together and make some songs. I’ve been constantly in the studio with him, like listening to each other’s songs, so it’s not like we haven’t been in touch. We’re always seeing each other and stuff like that, it’s just not musically. We’re all busy, so we’re just kind of cheering each other on, but hopefully an ØFFSHORE album can come soon.”

The soloist is also known for posting covers on his YouTube channel, usually of songs he’s made for other artists. It’s been a few months since his last cover, that being of NCT Dream’s “Rewind,” but JUNNY shared he still plans to release covers: “I love doing these covers and it’s great for me to put out content like that for my fans. They seem to enjoy it a lot, but recently, it’s just been a very, very busy time. Trying to promote the album and trying to finish everything up in time, it’s been quite a ride, so the covers are kind of pushed back for later when I have a little bit more free time. But definitely, they’re going to be out soon. I’m thinking of a load of songs.” As for which song he’d perform out of the songs he’s written for another artist, JUNNY had a tough time choosing who he would cover, but no issue deciding who he wouldn’t want to cover: “I would never choose an NCT song. Their dances are way too hard, and I’d have to fill this whole stage with like, if it’s like NCT Dream, seven people. There’s so many things I would have to worry about, so I probably have to choose a solo artist.” Pausing to think about his answer, he continued, “Wow, that’s tough. I really like Kai’s ‘Mmmh.’ To be honest, I’m really proud of that song, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull off his dance moves. I mean, if I can just sing the song, I’m totally down. But, if I do those crazy moves that he does, he makes them look great, but I would probably destroy it – in a bad way.”

Despite how much JUNNY loves working behind the scenes on music, performing is where his heart truly is: “I’ve been writing songs for so long, and it’s been hard to perform these past few years, but I’ve really enjoyed performing ever since I was young. Performing was my thing, and I used to love singing in front of a crowd, and I found it very fun to do. I’ve dreamed of performing as a child, and now to be able to do that, it’s kind of cool. I debuted in Korea, and now finally being able to go overseas and see my fans and be able to perform is a crazy feeling. I love songwriting, and I love working in the studio, but nothing beats actually singing in front of a crowd that wants to hear you live.” Thinking about the upcoming tour and how fans may be singing along to his songs, the soloist shared that he doesn’t think he’ll be able to hold back his tears.

His upcoming album is comprised of nine songs including his latest single, “Color Me,” featuring Chungha. The entire album was nearly completed by the time his previous single, “Get Ya!,” featuring pH-1 was released in May: “We just had to do the mixing and mastering and stuff like that, so it was all part of the plan because I wanted to take it slow. I’ve been working on this album for over a year, and I cherish each and every song, so I wanted to give each song enough room for it to get that much love.” With seven other songs to be revealed, JUNNY explained the reasoning behind his release plan as his way of showing his range in music: “I wanted to be diverse with it, and I wanted to give my fans a clue or hint of what to expect on the album. ‘Get Ya!’ was the smooth R&B track that [fit what] I used to put out a lot, like my signature thing, and ‘Color Me’ was a totally different song. It’s something that I feel like I stepped out of my comfort zone with, you know, even with the dance challenge I did and stuff like that, so you can tell that it was a totally different direction I wanted to go for.”

With the album and tour both titled “blanc,” JUNNY believes the word, which translates to “white” in English, is a perfect descriptor for himself. With this in mind, if he had to choose one color as a theme for the album’s title track, “Not About You,” he would choose navy blue: “I think that song is the most personal one I’ve ever written, and it’s very close to the heart. For that reason, I think it should resemble a color that I am very close to, and my favorite color is navy blue.” He also considers this song to round out the whole album and represent him most in terms of sound. JUNNY also recommends another song off the album, more for its lyrics: “I also want people to listen to a song called ‘boyhood,’ which is a song that’s very, very minimal. It contains very minimal tracks, and it’s about the lyrics for me. It talks about how I view things in life, and how I feel like I’ve grown as an adult, how it’s time for me to let go of my youth. It’s a song about letting go, and everyone goes through that kind of phase, so I feel like a lot of people can relate.”

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