Singer-songwriter Sam Kim’s debut album features six self-written, folksy tunes that tell personal stories of his family, hometown and boyish energy. The songs are honest and without pretense, much like the 18-year-old himself.
“I feel shy and nervous, but excited. Everything’s unfamiliar. My Korean has improved a lot though, hasn’t it?” said Korean-American Kim on his newfound spotlight at a showcase for his album at Itaewon on Monday.
It has been three years since Kim ventured to Korea alone to try out for the 2014 season of singing audition program “K-pop Star,” where he ended up becoming a semifinalist. He then signed a deal with record label Antenna Music, famous for housing singer-songwriters and its noncommercial focus, and has now returned with his first EP, “I Am Sam” -- still young, still true to his acoustic guitar-based musical style and 25 kilograms lighter.
Kim was open about his own inexperience, saying he still has a long way to go in terms of songwriting, singing and performing.
“It’s still hard for me to hit the high notes, which is why I get nervous about live shows. But I’ve been practicing and training hard. I’m still young and I hope to keep growing,” he said after giving a live performance of his album’s title track “Let’s Leave It,” a groovy acoustic-funk number that features the in-demand hip-hop artist Crush.
“We wanted to feature a rapper in this song, so we asked Crush to recommend some rappers who would be a good fit,” said Kim. “But when (Crush) heard the song, he said it was so good that he wanted to feature in it himself. I was so grateful.
“I haven’t written that many songs yet,” he said. “One thing I can say for certain is that ... all of my songs are very honest. They contain things I’ve wanted to say. This is a very honest album, and I think my future albums will be the same way.”
One of the toughest aspects of making the EP was being away from his family, who live in Los Angeles and take up a big part of his music, Kim said.
“It was especially hard when I would get sick,” said Kim, who currently lives alone in Seoul. “When I was back home, my mom would make broth for me if I caught a cold.”
Kim said his parents shed tears when they heard the track “Mama Don’t Cry,” a folk acoustic slow jam dedicated to his family. Written from the viewpoint of his mother, the song is an ode of love and consolation to his loved ones, telling them “not to worry” since he is doing well and thinking of them.
“They were worried to send off their son abroad by himself,” said Kim. “But they said this song brought them some relief.”
Producer Yoo Hee-yeol, the head of Antenna Music, graced the stage in support of his label’s newest and youngest artist.
“Our company isn’t well versed in making stars,” said Yoo. “But we do know how to enjoy music. Our veteran artists (including indie band Peppertones and pianist Jung Jae-hyung) still find joy in making music. That is one thing that I want to pass on to our next generation of artists.”