Korea’s growing pop scene is notoriously difficult with even some of its brightest stars sometimes unable to parlay chart-topping success past a few years. Luckily, the likes of Kevin Woo and James Lee prove that there can be a fulfilling, exciting next chapter after K-pop life and look to show U.S. fans with a new joint tour.
Woo is a former member of U-Kiss (the K-pop boy band who has earned six entries on Billboard‘s World Albums chart to date) while Lee was the bassist and keyboardist for the critically acclaimed Royal Pirates (the Korean-rock band with two World Albums entries). Both left their respective groups in 2017, embarking on an uncertain path that has since led to solo careers with EP releases and various amounts of touring. This weekend, the singer-songwriters make their homecoming to visit their respective hometowns (San Francisco for Woo, Los Angeles for Lee) in a two-date stint to bring what they’ve learned during their solo paths to the stage.
SoCal electronic-rock band Fyke will open the shows that where all tickets include a “hi-touch” high five event with all the performers.
Billboard caught up with Kevin and James to learn about how they navigate their place in the music scene, what to look forward to at these shows and what’s next.
Billboard: You’re both coming from different but similar backgrounds in coming from the K-pop scene but now on your own. What will these concerts show that maybe you haven’t been able to show in your past concerts?
James Lee: In the past I was able to hide behind a bass guitar and support the lead singer in my band. For the shows, I’m very much on my own, and I’ll be able to show the different types of music I’ve been working on ever since [releasing] The Light EP. I’ve got a ton of new material, so I can’t wait to show everyone all that’s new.
Kevin Woo: This tour will show more of my character as an artist. I’ve released songs that I’ve co-written during the past year, and fans will get to relate to me on a more personal level.
I see you both as independent but still connected to the K-pop scene. In your own words, can you describe your position in the music industry?
Lee: I’ve spent quite a bit of time traveling since I left Korea, and I have found myself writing and producing for different artists interested in the K-pop sound. All of my time spent traveling has definitely influenced my own music, so I look forward to writing new music for other artists
as well as myself.
Woo: An international Korean-American artist that strives to perform on a global stage.
What’s been the hardest part about transitioning into a solo artist?
Woo: The fact that I am my own boss and I have to call all the shots. I love the creative freedom but, sometimes, it can get overwhelming.
Lee: Similarly, doing everything myself. When you have a team of people supporting you, a lot of the work can be done together, but when you are alone, it feels like there are a million things to do.
And what’s been the best or most rewarding part?
Lee: When I performed at The Light release party it was by far the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life. I can’t forget how happy it made me to be with so many friends and family.
Woo: I get to have all the freedom I want. I get to make and release music when I want to. Also, having the chance to go on tour by myself in various countries and meeting my fans.
What else can fans around the world look forward to next from you? Any words for those who can’t make these shows?
Lee: I’ve been performing in Asia this past year, so I would like to try and write some more songs in different languages. But more than anything, I can feel myself getting better at writing and production. I’m excited for the next batch of songs I make, and I’m considering
making an EP or album at some point in 2020. For the fans that can’t make it, all I can say is I cannot wait to meet you and I hope to see you soon!
Woo: Definitely more music! I would love to meet each and every fan around the world who couldn’t make it to my tour this time around! Please continue to follow me on my journey as a solo artist and I hope, that through my music, it can encourage you and make life a little happier.