Posted on November 20, 2017

Interview

# It’s the first new album in three years. When did you start preparing the album and how is it different to the first one?

Jeongmilla: I’ve been preparing the second album since the release of the first one. Some of the songs that I couldn’t put on the first album have been added to this one. It’s not easy to decide what stories to tell in an album within just a few months. My life after the release of the first album may have naturally been incorporated into the second one, as I’ve been writing continuously. The real preparation began when I felt so much pressure and became hasty, since my wish was to release the album before the end of 2017. I think the recording began in July. The biggest difference I made on this album is... when I told my old, unused stories as if I was cleaning up my room on the first album, I tried to concentrate on myself more - on things that surround me, and how I am blended into such an environment. Stories of my present, and of the future.  

# If the previous album reminded the listener of a clear morning sunshine, this album has  a dense and foggy atmosphere. When preparing an album, do you decide on the character that you wish to express beforehand? Also, I am curious about the intention behind the album cover.

Jeongmilla: You know how people typically live? Like what you see when you go out on the streets. I wanted to incorporate those images of people, and the album is full of those images. I tried to shoot the album cover in an actual studio, but I made it at home since I didn’t have enough time to do so. For the previous concert, I put a frontal view picture of my face on the poster. That is like a representation of my will. My previous mindset had the image of myself dropping my head to the ground, unable to look at what’s around me. Now I can say I have broadened my perspective and have the ability to look at my surroundings. And probably more courage. I wanted to create an attitude with a clear and sharp vision.

# I heard you visited Canada during your sabbatical. Please tell us what you’ve been doing, and if there was anything that impressed you.

Jeongmilla: I stayed in Ottawa the whole time, the city I had visited once before. I stayed in my accomodation for a month, and didn’t go out. My purpose was simply to take a rest, and do nothing. The trip held nothing special, but there was something I noticed. The last time I went to Ottawa was ten years ago. Some parts of the city I thought had remained the same, but some of the other parts were no longer there. I had anticipated that I would be deeply moved by the trip, but I was surprised to find myself so complacent once I got there.

# I know many other musicians cooperated with you to make this album. Which musician(s) do you think got along best with the process?

Jeongmilla: I think all of them did. Actually I put a lot of time into casting musicians. The recording studio is comprised of only three people: an engineer, accompanist and myself. Since I personally went through every step of the process, there wasn’t any mediator. If any trouble had happened there, I would have had so much stress. I wanted to focus in a trouble-free and calm atmosphere, and thus put much time into considering working with people who could understand my music, and who had an analogous style. Fortunately all the musicians I worked with fulfilled this hope. Probably that’s why I found the recording sessions the most pleasurable. I was psychologically at peace, and my life was in balance. Everything was in place, and we were never short of time during the recording sessions. For track #10, musician Gi Moon Sung interpreted it so well that we finished recording in one take.

# I assume the last track on the second album, ‘Flower (Album Ver.)’, was recorded in one take. Is there any special reason for it?

Jeongmilla: First of all, there is barely any difference between when I do it in one take, and when I do not. The track ‘Flower’ is accompanied by piano, and for piano accompaniment it is not easy to make cuts in between. I intended to incorporate how the breath builds up along the track, then naturally extinguishes. If you listen to it, you’ll find it very lifelike. Since every musician was a jazz musician, they were proficient at live performance. There was no reason for me not to do it in one take, and I actually aim for such a sound. When the performers ran a session once, all three of them said, “we may not even have to run the session separately. Let’s just run it with the vocals.” The decision was made so seamlessly. ‘My Room is a Castle’ on the first album was also done in one take. I think it was simply an extension of that.

# For some of the tracks you have created a jazz and blues-like atmosphere by including drum and bass. Was any special reason why you emphasized such a mood? Also, what do you think is the boundary of music genres?

Jeongmilla: Well, I didn’t make a fixed decision on genre before making the attempt. The arrangement became very natural as I created tracks. It’s probably because I aimed for things that I like.

# While nylon guitar played a big role on the previous album, I think folk guitar played a bit of a bigger part on this album. Was it the same for this change in the guitar sound?

Yes. While I was arranging the song I thought it would work out well with the guitar. I concluded that the quality of the album would be much better, if a guitarist who not only is really good at playing, but also can interpret my song well, took the part, rather than me playing the guitar. Since I knew the playing styles of Young Duk Cho and Woo Suk Lee, who played session for this album, I thought their playing would styles would work well. I played on the ninth track ‘Simsulkkoch-ip' myself, because I thought that would be better for that track.

# The track ‘Flower’ received the grand prize at the Paju Folk Contest, and was also nominated in the Folk category of the Korean Music Awards. Did you expect such a reaction?

Jeongmilla: No, not at all. I released that track in April. We all know about the ‘incident’ that happened in April. It would have been bombastic if the track was about remembrance of the incident, incorporating an ‘I shouldn’t be doing nothing’ sort of thinking… Actually the track was made before that incident, and I had the mindset that I should put something into action. But I didn’t expect it would come out that well.

# You released the soundtrack online a month after the release of the CD. Was there any reason for this?

Jeongmilla: Online release indicates that the medium of music distribution has grown rapidly. To go along with the change, I should have made more concrete preparation such as videos, but honestly I was short of time. And my fans have a tendency to buy CDs. So I was curious about how many albums would get sold, and whether the CD is still an appealing medium today. Just as with the first album, I elaborated on making booklets for the second album. I did all the designs and drawings on page 24. That’s why I wanted people to listen to the tracks while exploring the pictures and the lyrics. I released the CD first, because I wanted to offer those experiences.

# For the pictures and drawings in the booklet, did you select from works you had made before? or did you make them exclusively for this album?

Jeongmilla: Actually, both. Sometimes the songs came out naturally while working on visual materials, and sometimes I expressed the visual ideas I got from the stories of the songs. I selected the right matches from those works. These images are small, 12x12cm. I picked suitable images for that size.

# I know you make artworks and do classes. There must be many differences between making art and making music. What kind of merit do you think there is in making music, compared to making art?

Jeongmilla: For making music, you first have to do it with other people, and for the performance itself you have to do it in front of an audience. In my music in particular, I deliver messages using words, not solely distributing online or offline albums. I think the difference also comes in meeting many people, and communicating instantly.

# I wonder if there is any connection between art and music production.

Jeongmilla: I am talking with a curator every day via email about an exhibition, and I said I will present my music through words that have been collected from the ideas of visual images. I write based on the ways music, art and text hold, control or are influenced by each other. So I don’t stop when I get an idea from one medium. I interpret it once more, then make music or write.

# The name of your blog is Draw, Write, and Sing. You are currently drawing and singing, but do you have any plans to publish your writing?

Jeongmilla: I have not yet put much emphasis  on writing, and I have never thought about it. The purpose of the blog is simply a diary. A diary that anyone is allowed to look at. Later I take a look to see what I have been thinking, so I can have an objective view of myself. It is simply for a sort of documentary purpose, and I am not even thinking about publishing. If, after some time has passed, people are interested in it, I may think about publishing, but for now I will have to focus on what I’m doing.

 

# After you participated in the Korean Music Awards, I heard you became a big fan of E Sens. Do you listen to hip hop on a daily basis?

Jeongmilla: No, not really. On average, probably 2 out of 100. But I really enjoyed his performance that day. I even looked up his blog and registered for it as I became interested in him. I’m a fan of E Sens. Please write this down.

# Which musician’s music do you normally listen to? Has any musician stood out for you recently?

Jeongmilla: Recently I have been listening to Cigarettes After Sex. But since I started organizing my tracks, I don’t really get to listen to other musicians’ music. Normally when I walk down the street I put my earphones in, but do not listen to any songs. So I haven’t listened to any songs for over a year, but when I do, I listen to jazz music like Duke Jordan, and classical music. I want to see the landscape of my surroundings, but if I listen to something I feel like my auditory senses are kept apart from the visual senses. When I am in a cafe I listen to people murmuring, when walking down the street I listen to the cars passing by, and in stores I listen to the pop music that they play, absentmindedly. I didn’t listen to music because I didn’t want to obstinately look out for music to find what sounds they aim for.

# You said you look around at the world a lot before making music. I think it would be hard to make warm music like yours at this time of the year when lots of issues and conflicts are taking place. Do you try to keep your distance from the world in this sort of situation?

Jeongmilla: Mostly I tend to live a diligent lifestyle, and I’m not really in a situation where I can keep some distance and contemplate it. I used to do things like hiding in a cave, or running away… but now I have enough energy to actively be part of my surroundings. I’m usually very active, but whenever I solve it through music, I think it comes out very warmly because I filter the expression of it through the person called ‘myself’. Actually, I play an active role in my reality.

# I heard you had a musical career in college, and came back to music again. You met Mimi back then too. What kind of music did you make?

Jeongmilla: It can barely be called a musical career. It was a club activity. I used to do Ryuichi Sakamoto covers, and some ridiculous movie soundtrack covers. During that time I was a part of ‘Mulchaejumoni’; since everyone was a music major who made their own compositions, we wrote our own songs, and we received lots of food. We did it by calling it our own daily folk songs, but they were a bit infantile.

# Was there any motivation for you starting to make music again?

Jeongmilla: Actually I get this question a lot, but choosing to do music was not a hard decision. Little by little, I had been singing and playing piano since I was young, so there was nothing new about it. Also I used to write short pieces for a while. I didn’t think that way back then, but later when I read them back I found out they were very suitable for making music. I also recorded some melodies just in case they got used in the future. There were a handful of them.

However, back then, I didn’t know how to play the guitar at all, and I was doing art for a living. So it was a time for me to contemplate whether I could manage both doing art and being a singer-songwriter. I also needed some time to gather the courage to perform on stage in front of an audience. Once I hesitated because among all musical instruments I thought keyboards would be the most strenuous, and I wanted to become good at playing guitar. It was around 2011 or 2012 when I started thinking, ‘it’s now or never.’ If more time had passed, I would have became an old loser who tells people, “I used to do this and that, but then I tried to make a living...” I didn’t want to become like that, and that’s why I just started doing it.

# Do you think your current image as a musician resembles the image you had of yourself at the beginning of your musical career?

Jeongmilla: Well, I think so. Back then I was basically thinking about a singer-songwriter format as well. I didn’t even think about doing projects made by some agencies, and I’m not a person suited to such stuff... I think the images resemble who I am.

# Your exhibition is coming up. Please briefly tell us about it.

Jeongmilla: I’m still working on it, but mainly I want to focus on presenting Jeongmilla as a creator who puts similar emphasis on music and art within a largely frame, not simply as  someone who does music and art. It’s about presenting current works, and I thought it would be right to show three things: what I’ve done, what I’m doing and what I will be doing, to show the present Jeongmilla. Unreleased visual works, visual works in the booklets of the first and second albums, and some music I’ve been working on in between… it’s like I simply relocated my entire work studio. Or you can see it as if I’m pulling things one by one out of an old box.

# This exhibition is being processed separately from the album release. What triggered it?

Jeongmilla: The exhibition will be held in Seongbukdong, and there, many artists gather like a community to work on projects. Once when I held some performances along with poets over there, we used to say, “let’s do something fun.” At the end of last year my friend contacted me about doing an exhibition together. At first, I was simply going to display some of my old drawings, but coincidentally my album came out at a similar time. This exhibition incorporates both music and art in equal proportion, to show who Jeongmilla is as a creator.

# What kind of musician do you want to be?

Jeongmilla: Before viewing myself as a musician I want to be some kind of a person who doesn’t say any displeasing or useless words. Within my lyrics, I don’t want to include lyrics that are unfamiliar but I feel I have to add because I “still have to be a singer”. I want to be a person and a creator who makes good music while not doing such things. It’s not that performing at a festival or on a big stage can be done by my will alone. My musical abilities and things like this have to be accumulated over time. If I’m truly ready for it, it will take place naturally.

# What is your upcoming performance schedule?

Jeongmilla: Well, the exhibition takes place in Seongbukdong ‘171717’ from November 22nd to December 3rd, and after that, I have arrangements with some media, a photography studio, and radio stations. The online album release happens on November 28th, and my solo concert will be held in January. Since I don’t have much time, I may have to do it during the off-season. An album release concert usually happens a couple of months after the album release… I have many things to think about, like the stage settings, because it is an album release concert, but nothing has been decided yet. After the exhibition, things will happen slowly.

# Do you plan to release “Buy Me Some Strawberries” online?

Jeongmilla: Actually, some people have already asked that. Not right now, but if a day comes when I’m happy, and my stomach is full and warm, I might go crazy and record it. If I do, please listen to it a lot.

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Interview : Min jip Kim, Jin Kim
English Translation : Robin Yeongguk Jo
Edited by : Rock N Rose

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For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Jeongmilla/
Twitter : https://www.instagram.com/JEONGMILLA/
Doindie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/bands/jeongmilla

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Jeongmilla

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