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No K-pop for ballad prince

Before breaking into the music industry, Tim Hwang had wanted to become a pharmacist. (PHOTO: SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT KOREA)

Publication Date : 29-10-2012


In the red-hot K-pop scene dominated by dance-pop boybands and girl groups, a solo power balladeer like Tim Hwang understandably feels outnumbered.

Says Hwang, a Korean-American dubbed "the ballad prince" in South Korea: "It's definitely different, we're not getting the same attention that we used to. At the same time, it's still what it is. It's just another time and trend, as any fashion trend that comes in circles.

"It's like, maybe we're a pair of corduroys," the 30- year-old adds on the telephone from Seoul.

"One time they were the biggest trend, then they disappeared. But corduroys are corduroys. They'll come back one day."

The affable singer will be in Singapore on November 29 for his first fan meet in Singapore at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Known for his sweet and sensitive image, he has crooned love ballads such as "Saranghamnida" (I Love You in Korean) and "Unnecessary Words". The latter featured on the hit romance-fantasy drama "Secret Garden" (2010-2011).

He recently starred in an Indonesian-Korean TV drama titled "Saranghae, I Love You", and held his first concert in Indonesia last month.

Before heading here, he will take the male lead in the Seoul version of Broadway musical "Legally Blonde", playing Emmett Richmond opposite popular girl group Girls' Generation's Jessica as spunky sorority queen Elle Wood.

Born in Philadelphia to a pastor and his wife, Hwang is the fourth of five sons.

In 2000, he was talent-spotted by the son of a member of his father's congregation, a K-pop music producer manager from Korea.

Hwang flew to Seoul and spent two years learning Korean before making his debut as a singer.

Asked if given another chance, he would want to start out in a boyband, he laughs heartily.

"Um, I don't know. Sometimes I do feel like I want to sing fast songs but, you know, maybe that's not, uh, my best area."

1 As a balladeer who sings about love, what would your ideal woman be like?

Someone caring and loving. Number one, of course, is sharing the same faith. It is very important to me because that has everything to do with why I do what I do. Also, someone who is pretty independent and funny, and fun to be with. Just like a good best friend, I guess. That is what I'm looking for.

2 Would you date a fellow K-pop star?

If the right person has that occupation, then I don't mind. All my friends are K-pop people too, so more likely than not, there are more opportunities to meet those types of people. It's not a matter of what job they do, it's about finding the right one.

3 You play the saxophone and piano. Did you go through a lot of formal music training?

No. I learnt the piano on my own and the saxophone during elementary, middle school and high school. I learnt as I went, through experiencing it. It'd have been great if I had more technical training from the beginning, but it's never too late for that. I love music. I learnt the guitar not too long ago.

4 How supportive were your parents when you started pursuing music as a career?

Korea's very conservative when it comes to studies and the future.

A lot of Korean families, especially in the States, encourage their children to be doctors or lawyers, to look for a steady job because the earlier generation had such a hard time adjusting to American culture.

In the beginning, I thought that my parents, my father being a pastor and involved in the church, would think that way. But I was so surprised that they were actually so supportive. My mother would continually push me to strive and go for auditions.

5 Are you the only musician in your family?

I have four other brothers. We all love music, but they all have jobs right now. My third brother was actually a songwriter, but now he's working in Korea doing other things. My eldest brother's dream was to be a rock star but he ended up becoming a pastor (laughs). My second brother is a businessman. And my younger brother, he is still finding his way, but everyone is really musically inclined.

6 Besides heartrending ballads, would you give rap a try?

(Laughs) I enjoy hip-hop, but I don't want to say I can rap. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and hip-hop, but I also had a lot of classical background too because of schooling. I'm like a mixture of everything. But I definitely need to start keeping up with what's out these days. I still like to listen to old songs, I always like to listen to Boyz II Men, Babyface (Kenneth Brian 'Babyface' Edmonds), Eric Clapton, but I also like to listen to instrumental classical music sometimes. It all depends on how I feel.

7 If you had not pursued a music career in Korea, would you have tried to do so in America? Joined American Idol, maybe?

I was actually thinking of being a pharmacist. That was what I was going to study but I only went to Temple University for one day and then I came to Korea. I never even got to start it. That's why it was so shocking that my parents were supportive of my music career.

But maybe I would have tried in the US if the opportunity came. I always wanted to do music, just that I was scared. My personality is such that I'm very reluctant to try something new because I'm scared of failure. But I'm thankful I was actually encouraged to do these things now.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

If I could have touched just one person's life, that's enough. I just wish that I can be a person who takes care of the relationships in my life and the responsibilities given to me in that way. Someone who's genuine, not perfect, because I'm not perfect.


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