[Exclusive Interview] Singer ÁBI on Her Single 'More' and Experiences Honing Her Craft in Korea and the U.S.

Korean-American R&B and Pop singer-songwriter ÁBI (Abigail Kim) is a talented artist with a soulful sound. She recently released her new single 'More.' In this interview with KpopWise, we discuss her journey in the music business and the differences she experienced in vocal training between Korea and the West. 

Since appearing on SBS Kpop Star season 3, do you think being on a reality tv competition prepared you to navigate through the music industry as an artist?

Being on a reality TV competition as a 15-year-old definitely challenged me to overcome rejection gracefully. I was always aware that I was going to be faced with more nos than yeses in this industry, but instead of dwelling on the anxiety and uncertainty of the outcome, I learned to find peace in knowing I had full control over my reaction or response to the situation. I had to grasp and acknowledge that not everyone was going to like me very early on—so I just paid full attention to giving every minute, and every circumstance, my very best. I believe having a growth mindset is crucial in this industry.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

For some context, I’m really bad at math. I recently went out for dinner to celebrate my 25th with a group of friends. To simplify things, we put everything on the same tab, and I planned to handle it “later”. When the time came to send everyone their individual bill, I confidently sent a text with their total and a copy of the receipt. You would not believe—it took me three different times to use a calculator to do the math, and I somehow kept getting a different number each time. Even after three separate tries, I couldn’t seem to get the correct total and needed to recruit help. We got it eventually—I think. :’)

Can you tell us about your upcoming single?

Yes, yes!! “more” is about—well, wanting more out of a relationship that has the potential to develop into something romantic. It’s a bit of fantasizing about a future with someone, a significant other. There’s a bit of a bold touch/attitude sprinkled on top of the desperation and eagerness to seek commitment and validation; a need to be on the same page as the person in question. My feelings tend to evolve quickly, and along with that comes a range of emotions. With “more”, you’re able to hear the initial excitement for a new relationship quickly turn around into a longing for love. As the desire to be with this person grows, it also becomes a search for clarity, ultimately leading to a path of discovery and self-realization.

During your childhood, you spent time traveling South Korea and Southern California honing your skills within the performing arts realm. Are there differences/similarities between the Korean music industry training and the Westernized music industry training?

From my personal experience, a lot of the approach to vocal training in Korea was mimicking or imitating the delivery of established/well-known artists to achieve a specific sound. On the other hand, I was challenged with building off of a more classical foundation to solidify vocal technique when I attended Berklee College of Music (class of ‘19), where the focus was more on developing my own individual tone/timbre. Being exposed to both (if not several) methods ultimately helped me understand and utilize my strengths as a vocalist, and I’m grateful to have had such amazing mentors along the way.

What Summer 2022 song/album are you playing on repeat?

Black Radio III by Robert Glasper has been on repeat for days. His writing, playing, and arrangements have always captivated me, and the artists he selects to have featured are always some of my personal favorites. It’s gold.

You have dual degrees in the music business from Berklee College of music. Would you consider opening your music agency one day?

Mm, I’d love to start a label one day. While I can acknowledge that improvements are being made, I still feel there is a great lack of diversity in the music industry here in the US. I’d love for my business to be focused on raising the voices of minority groups, developing and working with artists who come from various cultural backgrounds.

Fashion plays a part in an artist’s image. What are your go-to outfit items?

Ah, I love this question! My go-to would be: a leather jacket, white top, black jeans or trousers, and boots. Though I must confess, I opt for the all-black outfit a lot of the time :’)

Which Korean and Westernized artists do you look up to for inspiration?

Yoon Mi-Rae; Zion.T; Primary; DEAN; Suran; Crush; H.E.R.; Kehlani; Robert Glasper; Jill Scott; Syd; Erykah Badu; YEBBA; Alica Keys; Bruno Major; Sara Bareilles; The Internet; Aretha Franklin; Jessie J; Nina Simone; Billie Holiday; Sarah Vaughan; Emily King; Melissa Polinar; Adele; Lianne La Havas; Lennon Stella; Diana Krall; Amy Winehouse… just to name a few!

As an advocate for AAPI representation and currently living in the westernized music industry, what are some things you hope to continue contributing positively to this?

Raising awareness by raising my voice. In a lot of Asian cultures, we’re expected to act “quietly” and “discreetly” without drawing too much attention to ourselves. There’s a balance between having respect for my culture and background and speaking out for what I believe in. I think many of us feel restricted in terms of what we can/can’t say; I think there’s a lot we hold back. But that’s the beauty of music. I see it as a tool for expression. A way to share my story without feeling overwhelmed by the weight the lyrics carry. It’s a way to relate to others out there I may not personally know. It’s a way to heal. It’s a way to understand. Empathize. A way to be a voice—or a sounding board—for those who feel they don’t have a voice.

Listen on Spotify

A special thank you to ÁBI for the interview. We look forward to hearing more of her music! 

Interview by Cielo Perez


KpopWise is bringing you news, interviews, reviews and editorials about Kpop and Asian entertainment.

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