[Herald Interview] ‘Musical introvert’ Kim Ye-ji breaks out of shell to sing for women, socially disadvantaged
Singer opens up about feminism and being the odd one out in new album
Published : May 13, 2022 - 12:08
Updated : May 13, 2022 - 15:36
Kim Ye-ji (SGM Records)

Kim Ye-ji found fame as a musician through the survival show “The Voice of Korea” in 2020. Last year, the singer became the center of attention when she introduced herself by singing Bishop Briggs’ “River” on the audition program “Super Band 2.”

People know her as a rock vocalist with short hair and a signature winged eyeliner look who makes great cover songs. But this time, the singer made her way onto the music charts with her first EP, “Turned,” that was released on May 1.

“It seems like yesterday that I uploaded cover songs of other singers on YouTube, but now, I have my songs. I’m filled with emotions right now, and it sure was a long journey,” she told The Korea Herald in a recent sit-down interview.

Apart from being her first-ever album, “Turned” is an album that carries her values, thoughts and what she wants to tell the world, the singer said.

The four-track package features title song “Freak” and sidetracks “On&Off,” “She’s mine” and “Alone.”

Among the four pieces, Kim said “She’s mine” is a track that holds a special place in her heart because it delves into issues that she cares about, such as ongoing social problems and feminism.

Inspired by the movie “Gone Girl,” it is also the only track that isn’t about her personal story.

“It’s a song that talks about discrimination against women and how men see them in society,” the singer said.

“There was a scene in which the main character tried to fit herself into the stereotypical female figure, which I thought was wrong. It’s something that I can’t understand, but the problems continue to happen in today’s society, so the song is a message I wrote to men who see women as sexual objects,” she added.

Speaking about her title track, “Freak,” Kim said the song came to her during a time of uncertainty.

“Before, what others said to me and their comments bothered me, and I kept thinking about that, but the song talks about a different side of me” that is bold and speaks up for others, Kim said.

“People used to insult or mistreat me because of my docile personality, and ‘Freak’ is a song that says ‘mind your own business, and I’ll go my way,’” she said, hoping that the song would encourage others who have been in her shoes.

The song gave her a chance to take a trip down memory lane back to high school, a time she struggled to fit in with others.

“I wasn’t a girly girl back then. I wouldn’t cover my legs if I wore a skirt, and people thought I was somewhat peculiar, so I likened myself to a freak,” she said.

Spending time in solitude has not always been easy for the musician, oftentimes making her feel unwell. But singing through the emotions inspired her.

“I’m shy and am the type of person who finds it difficult to cope with problems coming from different relationships, so I poured much effort into overcoming those hard times through music,” she said, reminiscing about how she first floated the idea for her album.

Kim saw it as a turning point and an opportunity to show a different side of her.

“I’ve never really had a chance to show who ‘Kim Ye-ji’ is as an artist, so I wanted to make a leap of faith as a soloist by broadening my musical horizon. That’s why I named it ‘Turned.’”

While most see her as a powerful rock vocalist who can blast out the high notes, she said she is also a songster who can sing more mellow tunes capable of stirring up deep emotions.

“There are so many genres and musical styles that I haven’t tried, but I think I’m making music with a lot of jazzy vibes and kitsch now. I usually write the top line of a melody, so I tend to focus more on the tune and how it would sound like,” she said.

Looking forward, Kim, who calls herself a “musical introvert,” said she hopes to be an artist who can speak their mind and compose songs others could relate to.

And although she’s just a rookie, Kim believes her music can be an instrument of change, which is why she uses both her platform and voice to advocate for women’s rights.

“I want to be a singer who can be on the socially disadvantaged people’s side and make their voices heard through music. I will make music and sing forever, so hopefully, my songs and thoughts will resonate well with those who listen to my music.”

By Park Jun-hee (junheee@heraldcorp.com)