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JUNNY isn’t comfortable with being comfortable. This is the mentality that carried him to South Korea from the warmth and safety in Vancouver, Canada’s snow capped mountains overlooking shiny blue buildings, glittering harbors, and lush parks teeming with brown bears and pine trees. When asked about letting go of his youth, he tells us, “You can always go back home, but right now it’s not about settling in…So, if home or my youth was a place where I’m comfortable, I wanted to break out of that barrier and try my best to experience new things.”
JUNNY seems to be blessed with a mentality that resides in a high-vantage point, overlooking a fully-pictured landscape. In our interview, he tells us of writing his song, “Thank You” while still living in Canada, a song that he describes as if “I knew what the future would look like for me.”
JUNNY’s debut album is titled blanc because he sees himself as a blank canvas that is colored by the people and experiences that inspire him. Despite a personality that he has described as “easily-influenced,” he is unwavering in what he wants. JUNNY’s happiness lives in change and evolution, like a canvas that is painted with vivid brushstrokes then covered in crisp white paint soon after. The brush strokes still exist underneath the white paint and add texture to his story, but he always wants to be able to work over a boundless surface to paint a new landscape.
JUNNY released blanc in August 2022 and embarked on his first U.S. tour in September. Now, he is set to return for a U.S. tour and a European tour starting at the end of the month in New York City. In our interview, he uncovers the fantasy of the music industry, opens up about the story behind some of blanc’s tracks, talks middle of the night studio sessions, and discusses performing on stage!
I want to start with a general question that I am curious about. Does being in the music industry change how you are as a fan of music? You have had a chance to personally get to know a lot of artists that you listen to, so I would imagine it changes your experience as a listener.
That’s a great question, yes, a lot! When you listen to these songs as a fan, and you don’t know this person, you don’t know the process so you just hear the product. Same thing for clothing. If you’re into clothing and you buy clothes and know how they’re made, it really breaks the fantasy. People fantasize about how things are created in a magical way but if you’re in the industry, it’s not as magical [laughs], so it definitely impacts the way I listen to these songs. Obviously, when the song is great, I appreciate it even more because I know what they’ve been through. I can imagine what they went through and the hard times. Yeah, it’s totally different, especially if you know the artist and they come out one day looking amazing, but then the next day you go over to their house and they look so different, it’s hilarious to see. I think it’s great to be on either side. I’m very thankful to be able to experience both sides.
Yeah, absolutely! It’s on a different scale, but even if I interview an artist who I end up personally really liking, it changes the way that I listen to their music and it makes me feel more connected to their music.
Yeah, I’m sure you feel that all the time. If you interview someone, the next time that artist releases a song, you’re going to hear it differently.
On that note of connecting personally with music, you say often that blanc represents you personally very well. What about you personally do you feel is most revealed in the album?
I think the most important thing was how I feel about my future and how I feel about where I am right now. There are certain stages in life that you go through, and once you’re an adult, you’re settling yourself into this whole other world that you’ve never been in. Once you get used to it, there’s a stage of thinking, this is the way my life is and I’m going! I think that’s what blanc is about, like starting a new chapter in my life where I’m totally 100% into this music thing, especially in my artistry. I have a full road ahead of me and I’m excited for what’s to come.
Even on the song, “boyhood,” it’s like I’m talking to my family or my mother, telling her, “Yeah, I loved the days that I was your little kid, but now I have to move on. I have my own life now and I need to live it.” That’s what the whole song is and what the whole album is.
I’m glad you mentioned “boyhood” because it’s my personal favorite on the album and I wanted to ask more about it. Like you’re saying, it is about letting go of your youth, but do you think it is ever possible to fully let go of your youth? What does “letting go” mean for you?
Wow, great question. You can never forget about your youth, that’s what makes you who you are. I’m still influenced by artists I listened to in high school. In a certain way, I wanted to let go of who I was at the time so I can really evolve into someone else. You can always go back home, but right now it’s not about settling in. I told myself, “This is the time that I have to really work hard and make sacrifices and not be satisfied with where I’m at.” So, if home or my youth was a place where I’m comfortable, I wanted to break out of that barrier and try my best to experience new things. I wasn’t saying, “Farewell forever!” It is more like, “I’ve gotta go, you stay healthy and safe, I’ll be right back but I have to experience all these things.”
That makes a lot of sense. Next, I want to do a kind of visual word association. On the theme of blanc, I want you to imagine a blank canvas, and when I say a few words, I want you to say what the first visual image you see is as if the canvas is being painted in. The first word is “home.”
[Closes eyes] Mmm. The first thing I see once you say “home” is my house that I grew up in during my high school days. It’s not a very fancy house, just a regular old house. I see my parents and my brothers and my dog [laughs]. It’s just the place that I’ve lived so much of my life and I learned so much living in that house. I started music in that house, so that’s what I imagine in my head.
"Seeing people that appreciate songs that I make and have been listening to the album or previous releases and having them play my songs in their playlists every day when they go to work, wherever they may be, is amazing. Being that presence for them is so rewarding."
I like that. The next one might be similar, but “boyhood.”
Actually, [when you say] “boyhood,” I imagine the studio and us ripping our hair out trying to figure out the song and trying to write it perfectly. We made a lot of changes. When I close my eyes, I imagine 5am and five cups of coffee for each person in the studio with five dudes trying to figure out the lyrics, chords, melody, and production.
What was the hardest part of it? The lyrics, or just everything?
The lyrics were pretty difficult, but it was more just the structure of the song in figuring out where the verses should go and the hook. There were so many sections we were all arguing about like, “No, version A is better! No, version B is better!” It was just a constant fight, and I was the dude who was like, “No! This is how we’re going to do it, and everyone just shut up [laughs]! Obviously it’s painful to be up that long and to go through that, but that’s the beauty of it! Once the album came out, we were all definitely proud because we went through all that to make this. Especially for people to enjoy the song, like you said it’s your favorite song, it feels great to hear.
Yeah, I really love it and the entire album. I also love “Mercury,” as an intro it’s just such a nice sound and brings you into the world of the album.
Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Moving on to the next word, what do you see when I say, “happiness.”
Happiness, wow! That also really resides with the experience of creating the album. I enjoy touring, I enjoy being on camera, I enjoy talking, but nothing makes me happier than being in the studio making music. I think that’s what happiness was to me. Creating the album was so much fun. There were so many things I could do and so many concepts, the only stress I had was that there was only a certain amount of time and a certain amount of songs that I could make. I wanted to make 50 different songs. So, that was the only stress, but the whole experience was great. I think that’s my true happiness and that’s where I find the muse. I love creating albums and I love creating songs.
You mention wanting to put 50 songs on the album, so what was the process like for narrowing it down?
Yeah, when we’re writing, everything is personal. All these songs were meant to be sung by me and no one else. I didn’t actually think about the actual details of the story, it was more like talking about every experience I had in the past and who I was, who I am now, and who I want to be. We wrote the most we could and wrote two or three songs a day. We stacked up 50 songs, but obviously not a lot of them were finished. We work on them, but some we feel either went in a direction that I didn’t want to go yet, or others were too different from the concept. So we’d scrap it and push it aside. So it’s not like 50 songs that are completely polished and fully produced - it’s more like sketches. When it goes past the sketch phase, it means that it’s fitting for the album, and we just continuously polish it.
“Mercury” was probably one of the first songs. I didn’t even think about the album then. For “Mercury,” I was just in this zone and we were trying to vibe with how we were feeling at that time. I remember that day- I was very tired after a schedule [laughs] and I just wanted to make a calm, soothing sound. The lyrics just came out. On the demo itself, most of the lyrics I just kept because that’s how I was feeling at the time. Later on we thought, what if we take the listener back in time after saying all these things as if I’ve experienced so much and I’m so tired? So we take them back in time and then the next song is something very upbeat which is “Obvious.” That’s when the concept started coming along naturally and I think we’re very lucky to have that experience all together.
Yeah I can definitely hear that when I’m listening!
Yeah, the start of “Mercury,” when I go, “Please have a seat,” it sounds like I’m asking the listener to have a seat and experience this with me, but really I was just dead tired [laughs] and literally wanted to sit down! So yeah I was sitting down the whole time in front of the mic, and I don’t know what came out from there, like “Please have a seat [sings],” it just came about naturally. These kinds of things give you ideas and a pathway to take.
I love hearing the backstory. It makes me want to go listen again now! Last word for the visual game is “tour.”
Fans, fans, fans, fans, fans! I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for them. We are going like 12 hours across the Pacific ocean and seeing people that appreciate songs that I make and have been listening to the album or previous releases and having them play my songs in their playlists every day when they go to work, wherever they may be, is amazing. Being that presence for them is so rewarding. As much as they are excited to see me, I’m excited to see them to be honest with you. That’s what tour is about - just being able to connect with fans and putting on a good show. It is hopefully to make new fans as well. If a fan of mine brings a couple friends over, then the more the merrier! But the main objective is to see my fans and show my gratitude for the love that they have given me so far.
"Later on we thought, what if we take the listener back in time after saying all these things as if I’ve experienced so much and I’m so tired? "
You have said that now when you write your own songs, you think about how they will be performed. Is there a particular song or a few that you really had a clear vision for the performance right off the bat?
Mmhm. Yeah definitely! The song, “By My Side” is one that has gotten a lot of love. The first thing that I imagine when I perform it is that I will be sitting down and really enjoy every second of it. I didn’t expect the fans to sing along that well because it’s in Korean too so I didn’t expect a sing-along, but I wanted a spotlight and I wanted to really sing the song for them. It’s a message to the fans too, but they made it perfect as soon as they started singing back to me. That was the most beautiful part and is probably why it is one of my favorite songs to perform.
Even songs like “Not About You,” I wanted it to be more like a riot type of thing. I wanted the fans to be on my side and I wanted the ex-lover, who I am talking about in the song, to hear from across the world. I wanted her to hear me singing, “It’s not about you!” So, I was thinking about getting them to really yell out. It’s a fun little thing, so those are the kinds of things I think about. After my first North American tour, I came back to Korea and started working on new music and it had a huge impact on me where I was thinking oh, during this part on stage I’ll be doing this. I started enjoying myself a little bit more and I realized that my songs were taking this different vibe from what I was previously working on. That’s when it hit me, and I was like, woah, this is what evolving is. Tour definitely helps me in my musicality as well.
Is there a particular song that you feel like really lives a different life on stage? In other words, was there any song that you were really surprised by the audience reaction?
Oh wow, yeah! When I do the song, “Color Me,” it’s a hard-hitting song and is very electric and energetic so I expected the crowd to have fun, but as soon as I went on to “Obvious,” it was something I didn’t expect at all. I really liked how they were vibing with it. Most of the time, the songs that aren’t hard-hitting but the fans really enjoy, makes me step back and realize that it’s not always about these hard 808s and big kick drums. The presence can be about the lyrics and it can be about the mood and the vibe. It’s not always about this hard-hitting sound. Like I said, “By My Side” is a super soft song but it’s probably one of the strongest songs on my set because of the fans singing along with me.
I didn’t expect this song to be such a tearjerker for me, but “Thank You” is the last song I perform and I created it way back when I was in Canada. I didn’t even imagine that I’d be coming to Korea, I just wanted to make music and I wrote it. The lyrics now performing it on stage feels like a full circle as if I knew what the future would look like for me. When I’m singing these lyrics, it’s like, “I’ve been listening to you from the start” which is me seeing what these fans are saying to me. At the time, I had no idea that I’d be getting fans so it really hits me. Still to this day, it gives me chills when I perform the song. I think, wow I wrote this song way back when I was young but now I’m able to perform it and it really makes sense. I don’t know why I wrote that with those lyrics [laughs], but I guess I just knew. It was what I wanted for myself. Let’s say I said, “Five years later, I’ll be performing this song and it’s going to be beautiful” and it has actually come to fruition. It feels great.
"I didn’t expect this song to be such a tearjerker for me, but 'Thank You' is the last song I perform and I created it way back when I was in Canada. I didn’t even imagine that I’d be coming to Korea, I just wanted to make music and I wrote it. The lyrics now performing it on stage feels like a full circle as if I knew what the future would look like for me."
Wow, that’s amazing. I had no idea that it was written so long ago, it feels almost like a premonition.
Yeah, it wasn’t intentional, I swear to God! No way [laughs]! I can’t see the future, but that’s what it is. Mentality comes first and that’s where it was. I was confident enough to do something with my life and come to Korea. Whatever you set your mind to, it will happen if you constantly think about it and really go for it. This is the perfect example, I wrote a song for myself to sing 5 years later and here I am doing it still!
That is so cool. I would imagine that before you are able to tour and meet fans, even though you are immensely grateful, there is a lot of anonymity and it’s hard to imagine how many people are impacted by your music. Once you are on tour, seeing fan’s faces and hearing about their lives, how does that feel to you?
It’s crazy! Obviously, with Spotify and Apple Music, you see numbers but they’re just numbers, they aren’t actually humans. So you don’t have that grasp of how many people are actually listening. The first show on my North American tour was L.A. and we were driving up to the venue and I saw people lined up and was like, “That’s not a line for me, is it?” First thing is that I’m super thankful and then I think that I have to put on a great show for them. I have to work really hard and make them proud. I was on tour last year and now going back on tour, there’s a certain bar that I want to hit. I want to do even better and give them a better show. So, I'm preparing really hard for that. It’s like trying to make your parents proud [laughs], you know? They love you either way but you want to make them proud so I really want to work hard and make good music and perform well.
I like the parent analogy because that’s so true. An audience doesn’t really care if you mess up, they are just looking for a really nice exchange of energy and to see the artist in person. I’m coming up to my last question- I'm always interested in the mindset of a performer when they’re in front of so many people that love them. Is it ever difficult staying in the present moment on stage?
I have a little bit of ADHD and can’t focus on one thing for a really long time [laughs], but being on stage, I know these people are all watching me so my mind is set. I do have certain times though when a certain thing happens like I really want to take a picture for a person, but I really need to do my set. I think those things come with experience, so if I do this more often, I’ll be more smooth with it. Coming back from a successful tour last year, I’ll be recharged and know what’s coming. I know what to expect so I’ll be better than last time. Last time, I wanted to do so much for the fans and went out of my way to do things, but you can’t blame me. It was my first time seeing them! I wanted to give them the best show. Yeah, that’s a great question. The songs that I perform take a lot of preparation so there’s not a lot of mess ups, but once you get fans and it gets hectic and super crazy, some things may happen, but that’s part of the show! I expect that to happen anyway. I think in order for me to smoothly go through it and put on a great show is what makes me a professional and them my fans.
I like that answer. Thank you so much for the interview, I really appreciate your time!
Thank you so much, these were great questions.
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