Written and Translated by Totorozang
Let me introduce our star of the day who has captured many hearts in China with his premium voice. As you may have guessed, Star-ting person today is HCY. I had a late night interview with him at this recording studio. HCY, who boasts of his signature husky -yet- sweet voice, is the one that everyone in town is now talking about.
HCY: Hello everyone, this is HCY for today’s “Starting”. How’s everyone doing? (Speaking in his signature heavy southern Korean accent)
Interviewer narration: He came out of nowhere in 2015, but has impressed many Korean viewers with his showmanship and charming looks, and has left a strong presence on major variety shows including “I live Alone” in Korea. Then, he was later invited to be on the popular Chinese singing contest “I am a Singer 4” The original format of the show was initially benchmarked from Korea’s famous “I am a Singer Season 1, 2 and 3” and now he has become a showcase for top a notch singing competition in China. He touched many of the audiences’ heart with a variety of performances week after week, encompassing sad ballad songs and fast dance songs. And now he has won the ticket to the final championship round.
Interviewer: Are you there as a representative for Korean singers?
HCY: No, not really seriously (laugh). I really did not think of it that way. I took it as an opportunity to further develop myself. Also, I really wanted to visit China, too. First, because I had never been there and also because I grew up watching many of the famous Chinese martial art movies starred by Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan and Jet Li. I used to love Drunken Master.
Interviewer: What was the deciding factor in agreeing to stand on the “I am a Singer China” stage?
HCY: At that time, I was already a regular contestant for this Korean singing competition show while I was also getting ready to release my new album. Then, the producer from the Chinese I am a Singer4 show happened to see my performance from video clips of the Korean singing competition and came in person to recruit me.
Interviewer (After watching a series of his performance clips from Hunan TV together): Let me give you my big hand before moving on to my next question, so amazing!
HCY: So fun, right (speaking in his signature heavy southern Korean accent)
Interviewer Q: Let’s talk about your first winning song, Bang Bang Bang. I heard it was not easy to put things all together and you went through a lot?
HCY: The lyrics had to be translated and memorized first. Dance was ok. My earlier experience in dance team helped a lot. Rap was hard. I had never done that before in my life and I just had to keep memorizing and hypnotizing myself “I am TOP, I am Top”.
Interviewer narration: He did not stop challenging himself with new frontiers of rapping. He even went on to fully memorize soft Chinese ballad song and turn it into a perfect rendition of his reinterpretation.
Interviewer: I felt so bad that you got so nervous before the show and could not even feed yourself much, just a bowl of porridge, I remember.
HCY: Yes, that’s true. I tend to get very nervous and sensitive before the competition. I had to memorize every single word over and over again and understand the meanings, too. I believe only then can I accurately deliver my true feelings directly to the audience.
Interviewer Q: Were you not getting frustrated while learning Chinese?
HCY: I can not describe enough of that. It was tough. It’s only been two months since I came to China and I just started to talk to the locals, saying anything in Chinese to improve myself like “Ni Hau ma” (Hi), or “hun peurian” (you are pretty)”.
Interviewer: I can catch a little bit of your southern Korean accent when you pronounced the second word “hun peurian”. Do you think your strong accent also helped to better fix your Chinese pronunciation?
HCY: I think some of my accent and tone did help me to better pronounce some Chinese words and I got a lot of compliments for that (laugh)
Interviewer Q: You look like you lost so much weight. Do you have something that you specially eat to better take care of you health?
HCY: The Chinese staff members here were also worried about my constant weight loss and offered me turtle soup one day. The one with the entire body of a turtle floating in the soup, its neck and everything showing (trying to describe it using his body language).
Interviewer: Did you really eat it?
HCY: I only had some of the soup.
Interviewer: Did it make any difference to you, you think?
HCY: I told the staff members it was good for my health maintenance purposes. But, I live alone and all that deposited stamina the soup is known for went to wasted (laugh).
Interviewer: You did lose much weight but I notice you are still pretty muscular.
HCY: I was really buffed up before and I was even able to do chin ups on a bar with only one hand. I used to work out a lot.
Interviewer: You mean your six pack is all gone now?
HCY: Just a little bit. I call my abs”(slave-times) poor man’s abs”, like when you get so bony. Now I only have some traces of my six pack left.
Interviewer: Omg. It looks the same! (Scream)
HCY: And I can still show off my arm muscles (laugh), though. Really fun, right?
HCY: When I was showcasing “Honey”, there was a scene where I got to pull down my jacket. That’s when I got the most cheers from the audience and I realized I needed to work out harder.
Interviewer Q: Previously, how were you as a dancer ?
HCY: I started dancing when I was in the 8th grade. Then by age 20, I got to lead a dance team and perform in front of a shopping mall.
Interviewer: I heard you used to have a nickname back then?
HCY: They used to call me Gumi’s GD or Gumi’s Rain. I really didn’t want to brag about it as you may noticed (grins).
Interviewer: Then, you stopped dancing and moved to Seoul in 2005 and released your first debut album within 11 month as Chiyeul, right?
HCY: Yes, that was my first ever official album as a singer.
It was a good hit. I was running a mini home page and it was flooded with so many fan visitors. But then, I was no longer able to continue with my career as a singer when my agency /management company unfortunately went under. I was faced with many financial hardships and was doubtful of ever getting back on the stage again. My temporary remedy to hold onto my singing dream was to live as a vocal trainer.
Interviewer narration: Then, he came back with his new single album in 2014. Let’s take a look at the music video. Doesn’t the main character look familiar to you? That’s right it is HCY himself starring in his own MV!
Interviewer Q: How was the album created?
HCY: We did not get any funding from anyone so we had to rely on what limited resources we had using our small recording studio, with the help of a friend who was a songwriter. We could not afford a professional MV so we used our own digital camera and volunteered to act in the MV.
Interviewer: How was it like to be back on the stage again after such a long period of staying underground?
HCY: I told myself at that time, “Chiyeul, there is no next time. You have to unlock everything you have now. This can be your last performance on stage.”That was the only thing I reminded myself of, thanks to the past experiences I had.
Interviewer: I am sure you are planning on your own concert and others. But the only thing I wish you could have more now is your song or maybe your signature song, right?
HCY: That’s right. Many commented that I had such a unique success as a singer. They say I do not have my own song but I got to win singing competitions and became big. When I saw some of those criticisms, I really wanted to reply to them and say “I have my own album, too”. (Laugh). I have released a total of 4 albums so far and also sang an OST song for a very popular Korean soap Opera called “Whether you like it or not”.
Interviewer narration: That’s right. Now you see, HCY is a seasoned singer with 10 plus years of singing career!
Interviewer: Now, I have prepared a “Key word talk” for HCY. Let’s start.
Q: Our first keyword describing you is “Heart oppa”. Everyone pulls out their two fingers to make a finger heart. It has become a big phenomenon now.
HYC: That started when I first went on the Chinese stage. As I was walking down the aisle to the center of the stage, I heard such a big cheer. I really wanted to give them something in return, but had nothing to offer except taking my small heart out of my jacket pocket. That’s how it all started (laugh).
Q: Our second key word is “HCY’S voice from heaven” because you can impersonate so many other singers’ voices, right? Let’s hear some of them. I can hear thousand different voices from you, wow.
HCY: The singers I just impersonated are the ones I really respect. I think I got to pick up some of their voice features while I was practicing singing, being hopeful of following their footsteps. I think that concerted effort contributed a lot to who I am today. I want to take this time to thank them. Thank you.
Q: My last question is “how do you portray yourself in 10 years?”
HCY: I made a promise to my dear fans that I would not fail to meet their expectations and will make them proud of who they are supporting. I want to prove to my fans that I am who I am, their singer with integrity just like when I first started. Then, maybe sometime in the future, I can hope for a “Top National Singer” title (laugh).