Last week, Korean-American solo singer James Lee sat down with us for a chat when he came down for his South East Asian tour!

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Being the former bassist of K-rock band, Royal Pirates, James has been on the scene for quite some time. Due to a harrowing accident that led him to leave the band in 2017, James has taken time off to focus on his health. In early 2018, he released “The Light EP” and now, he’s ready to take the world by storm!

Q: Welcome back to Malaysia! Have you been missing any Malaysian food since you’ve been gone?

A: I missed nasi lemak! I had a fan meeting where I said it wrongly… it’s been haunting me since (laughs). I also love milk tea and boba! I heard there’s a boba street here and I really wanna go! Maybe even vlog about it?

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Q: Tell us about “The Light” and how it reflects where you are in life right now.

A: So “The Light” EP… I wrote it after my accident. If you guys don’t know, my hand was cut off… reattached after 5 surgeries. I went through a lot of trauma, and the way I dealt with it is through writing music. “The Light” EP is that collection of songs that I was able to produce to the level I see fit because of a crowd funding project. Friends, fans and family all helped bring this together. I feel like it represents me as an individual because I lost my identity as a bassist after the accident. I really prided myself as an instrumentalist and now I am able to identify as a producer… and now, a writer.

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Q: How different has it been, going from being a bassist to being your own frontman?

A: It’s a 180, a total different experience. I was used to playing bass and just supporting the front man because I never actually had confidence in my singing. Even now, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m comfortable on stage. Before this I really enjoyed being in a team? I preferred lurking in the shadows. I got a lot of commercials and modelling offers at the time of the accident but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. So this… is pretty great.

Q: What is your favourite song off the EP and why?

A: They’re all my babies, I can’t choose! (laughs) It changes time to time but probably Perfect? I was able to have my friend Amber from f(x) on the track. I really wanted to use her voice as an instrument, I like the colour of her tone, and I thought it just blended really well with the ambience of the track. If you watch the MV, it’s my favourite as well. Its super low budget… and she helped fund half of it! She’s an angel, honestly.

Q: What about the hardest song to compose?

A: “The Light”. It was originally not just a song, it was more of a cry. It was just a stream of depressed consciousness, as I was in a really dark place. I showed it to my friend Enik who’s in a band called FYKE and he said it was too depressing. He said, “Do you want your audience to be sad?” And that was a moment for me. I didn’t think about anyone else and at that time, I couldn’t. So, I let him take the wheel on it. I owe him a lot for helping me transform that song from what was originally an almost suicidal song into something more hopeful.

Q: What’s it been like going solo? 

A: It’s lonely. Lonelier than I thought it would be. But its also satisfying because I can release what I want to release. I can make the music videos that I want, so yeah.

Q: “The Light” EP has a very different sound from The Royal Pirates. Do you see yourself dabbling in different genres in the future?

A: I’m naturally like an emo kid… Like a huge fan of My Chemical Romance. I listened to Black Street, a lot of R&B and gangsta rap. I think when you’re like 15, the music you listen to kinda becomes a part of you? I noticed that in all of my music videos there are elements of hip hop… but I’m not hip hop at all (laughs). I love it still and I’ll have it placed in my music when necessary.

Q: What artists have been on your Spotify playlists recently? 

A: Blackbear, LAUV, Illenium, and GRAY.

Q: Last but not least, do you have a message for fans who may be going through some darkness of their own? 

A: Basically, it’s not gonna last. You feel like suicide is the only escape but you don’t know what’s on the other side. It’s not gonna last forever and you’re the only one who can stop it. You gotta let go, it’s not easy but you got to try, reach out; and you can get over it. There are better things ahead. You’ve just got to remember it won’t last forever, cause that’s the scary part. Like my pain is really bad, but my mentality/perspective has changed about it so I’m not afraid.. I have more energy against it rather than letting this pain control me.

James’ “The Light” EP is available for streaming on Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.

Featured image: Citta Bella.

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Our resident K-pop queen is conquering the world, one emotional support K-pop boy at a time.