S. Korean singer, DJ and producer SHAUN talks writing songs for K-pop superstars, his debut US tour

S. Korean singer, DJ and producer SHAUN talks writing songs for K-pop superstars, his debut US tour
via Joshua Yi
Daniel Anderson
April 21, 2023
South Korean singer-songwriter, DJ and producer SHAUN spoke with NextShark about embarking on his first-ever U.S. tour. 
SHAUN is best known for his 2018 viral hit “Way Back Home,” which has amassed over 69 million views on YouTube. He was one of Spotify’s Top 10 most-streamed K-pop artists in 2019 and 2020 with 3.4 million monthly listeners.
Starting his musical journey in 2010 as a singer for the indie rock band The Knoxx, SHAUN has become a powerhouse producer and collaborator in the industry. He has helped produce for some of the biggest names in K-pop such as Girls’ Generation, EXO, SHINee and Epik High.
A month ago, he released the single “Steal the Show,” featuring Thai superstar Jeff Satur. Last year, SHAUN also joined forces with Malaysian singer Yuna for the track “So Right.” 
With such a prominent presence in Asia under his belt, SHAUN has crossed over into new territory and embarked on his first-ever U.S. tour, during which he also released his retro video game-inspired remix of “Give Me A Kiss” by pop duo Crash Adams.

SHAUN has three more stops on his tour: New York on April 22, Fort Worth on April 23 and Chicago on April 24.
Hours before the start of his Seattle show on April 18, the “Omnibus” singer spoke with NextShark backstage about his varied musical career and what he has learned from this new touring experience.

NextShark: People know you best from your viral hit track “Way Back Home,” what are some other songs from your discography that you hope people will listen to?

Shaun: I like every song that I’ve created. “Way Back Home” is a song that has been really popular and loved by so many people. I’m grateful that this song has allowed me the opportunity to share more of my other works. I want to share my songs with the audience that appreciated “Way Back Home.” That’s always how I’ve worked, and I really enjoy songs with those types of tracks.
It might be fun for people to listen to the evolution of my songs since “Way Back Home” and see how I’ve changed since the single’s release in 2018. Lately, I’ve been really liking the song “Swan Song,” but I like every song that I’ve written the lyrics for. I would recommend “Swan Song” and “Nocturnal.”

You get to pursue various artistic endeavors from singing, songwriting, producing and DJing. Is there one you love most or feel expresses your creativity?

When it comes to instruments, I see it as a language. Playing the guitar well, playing the piano well — this is a language that most people can “speak,” but it’s about how you put them together in a logical, harmonious and entertaining way to reach people’s hearts. It’s a skill like speaking.
As a producer and singer-songwriter, it’s similar to playing instruments. It helps bring that communication between those creating the songs and their audience. Music is what is between the process of my message reaching my audience. Whatever the process, I have a clear message I want to relay, so I enjoy whatever vehicle I express myself through.
However, if I were to pick one artistic endeavor that I enjoy the most, it would be producing music while sitting in front of my computer.
You’ve written for some of the biggest artists in K-pop. What are some of the challenges and rewards to writing for someone else and seeing it become a hit versus writing for yourself?
It’s more difficult for me to write songs for other artists. When it comes to my music, I’m relaxed and I enjoy the process, but it’s more challenging [writing for others] because I’m considering the artist that I’m producing for and their goals and results. So, it’s more comfortable for me to produce on my own, without any goals. I get to focus first on the basics of music — how can I make the instrumentals better? How can I make it more entertaining?
If I focus too much on the result of the song after its release and prioritize it before creating good music, I’m left with only the shell of the music’s authenticity. I just hope that my music isn’t like that. So when I produce, I’m always considering the intimate parts of music first. I’m happy when it’s something good to listen to, something harmonious, something entertaining. 
What is your process for transitioning your songs from the studio to a concert setlist? Is there a particular narrative you want to convey to your fans through your live songs?
This is really important to me because I’ve worked as a DJ for the past 10 years, and as a DJ, the setlist and its order is critical. Like the music I mentioned before, this is also like a language for communication. But a DJ and a live band isn’t that different because there is a clear goal for an audience and being able to achieve that special role for the people is a DJ.
So when I have a concert, I aim for a rhythmic flow and matching instrumentals from start to finish. If my music can’t fit into this flow, I’ll make a remix or change things around to create a storyline.

What were some of your expectations for this first North American tour, and how has it been so far? Have you learned anything about yourself from this experience?
Before I began my tour, I was nervous because it was my first time performing at this magnitude. For tours in Korea, there aren’t a lot of cities, and people tend to go to concerts on the weekends. Holding a concert during the week would be impossible. So, I usually perform on the weekends or days scheduled on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But during this tour, I’m performing regardless of what day of the week it is. It’s a bigger feat than I thought it would be.
But the most significant aspect — I’ve performed in L.A., San Francisco, Vancouver, and now Seattle — is performing for so many people, people that I’ve never seen or met before. Performing in cities I’m going to for the first time, even though it’s hard, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve always received love for my music, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt love for me as a performer on a stage. The last time was when I was in a band. For the first time in a long time, people I’ve never seen before are loving listening to my music and are happy to see me on stage. That was what touched my heart the most.

Who are some artists on your playlist right now?
“Left Right” by XG. It was written by my friend Chancellor. That’s a great song.
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