Hyolyn Talks Sistar, Musicality & 'It's Me' Solo Album at SXSW

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW
Hyolyn performs at KPop Night Out during 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Belmont on March 17, 2017 in Austin, Texas. 

As a member of the girl group Sistar, Korean vocalist Hyolyn (also stylized Hyorin) has one of the most recognizable voices in K-pop. Her husky, airy tone has resulted in multiple appearances on a variety of Billboard charts, both through her solo work and collaborative efforts.

Performing at SXSW for the first time at K-Pop Night Out on March 17, the soloist put on a sexy, EDM-heavy performance featuring some of her own music before ending with an explosive cover of Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande’s “Bang Bang.” The set was the first leg of her multi-city U.S. tour, which took her to Los Angeles and New York before the weekend was out.

Ahead of her performance, Billboard spoke to Hyolyn about her newest album and what it's like straddling her identity as a both a popular K-pop vocalist and girl group member.

Welcome to Texas! How do feel about performing at SXSW?

Since I typically perform with my group Sistar, I feel quite nervous to perform alone onstage, but I hope that I can get more opportunities like this to meet my fans from overseas. I want to keep presenting my fans with special experiences.

Your most recent album is titled It’s Me. What exactly is the "it" that you are?

I wanted to tell a story about the true Hyolyn, so I gave the album the title It’s Me to reflect that. It took three years to release this album, and I’ve been involved deeply in this album’s creation. My original compositions are included, so that’s also why it’s titled It’s Me.

It’s Me was promoted with three different singles: “Love Like This," "One Step" and "Paradise." What inspired you to do that?

I like various genres of music, so I tried to find a way to blend it all together when presenting my music. When performing onstage, I try to find a perfect balance between vocal, dance and performance, because those are my strengths, but I also like to add ballad pieces and R&B music. As pre-release singles ahead of the album and lead single “Paradise,” I put out “Love Like This,” a neo-R&B song produced by an international production team and featuring the popular Korean rapper Dok2. I also co-wrote the lyrics. The song is about the best moment of love. The second single is a '90s-inspired R&B and soul track called “One Step.” For that, I tried to stay away from powerful vocals and high notes to make an easy listening experience, and that one featured the Korean-American rapper-producer Jay Park.

You appeared on the Korean rap competition show Unpretty Rapstar. Do you have any further plans to incorporate hip-hop into your music, or perhaps release a full-blown rap track?

I like rap very much, and I learned from my Unpretty Rapstar experience that, depending on the genre, adding a rap can really change the vibe. When I get a chance I would like to release new music featuring my raps.

Is there any difference between the Hyolyn we’ve met through your solo work and the Hyolyn we know through Sistar?

Sistar's style and music are well-balanced, so that the songs are created to appeal to the masses and musicality. It’s about evenly split, 50/50, in terms of which aspect we focus more on. In comparison, as a soloist I like to focus more on the music. I try to show a different side of myself by blending various genres through my solo work.

You’re touring in the U.S. as a soloist. How’s that going for you?

In Korea, I have performed many times, both as a solo act and as part of Sistar. But this is only the second time for me to perform alone internationally, after my performance at Ultra Singapore last year. Back then, I was very nervous because I came with a mission to promote K-pop, but the show was way more exciting and fun than I was concerned it may be. For this second appearance, I am still nervous, but It's a good opportunity to promote K-pop, Sistar and myself. I will do my best to deliver the best performance to my fans.

Do you have any other plans while you tour?

I love eating high-calorie foods. [Laughs] For this trip, I have concerts in Austin, New York and Los Angeles right after one another, but if I have extra time in between, I would love to try out tasty foods and go shopping. I mostly want to use this time to meet and mingle with my overseas fans.

Did you come to SXSW excited about any other performers?

I’m really very excited about all the performers. I am a fan of many great artists, so I want to check them all out, but most importantly I’m excited to see the other K-pop artists who are sharing the stage with me this time.

What else will we see from you and Sistar in 2017?

There’s actually a new Sistar album in production, so there’ll be that. I also want to get more opportunities to showcase more of my solo work while preparing for that album.

*All answers have been translated from the original Korean.