Singer sets records with 20th anniversary concert tour

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Singer sets records with 20th anniversary concert tour


Lee Eun-mee

Lee Eun-mee is more than just a singer. She is a revolutionary figure. Not only has she had a long list of hit songs, but she has also given more than 700 concerts. She has also played a prominent role in eliminating lip-synching from the Korean music scene.

Lee, now 41, celebrated the 20th anniversary of her debut with the launch of her “Walk on the Sounds” tour in April 2009. The tour schedule is rigorous, and she will have played more than 70 cities by the time the tour finishes at the end of the year. On June 26, she gave her 49th concert in Seoul.

Q. Your body must be worn out from performing every week.

A. I’ve gotten used to it. More than a few times, I have had to perform after rehearsing with an IV drip attached to my arm. To keep up my health, I get regular check-ups before beginning a tour. Luckily, after I’ve given every ounce of my energy for the show, it only takes one or two days for me to recover.

Last month, you cried at the end of a concert in Seoul.

I cry a lot on stage. It feels like I’m standing alone on the edge of a high cliff every time I walk out on stage. After the last song of the show, a mix of emotions rushes in because I feel thankful for having had a successful performance. I start to wonder if the audience was satisfied with my performance, then I start to worry about the next show. With all of these thoughts, it’s hard not to get emotional.

Do you still get nervous after having performed for more than 20 years?

I get more and more nervous on stage as time goes by. And I have accepted the fact that it isn’t a problem that can be solved. We all get stressed because of work, and music is my work. When my colleagues or younger performers send me text messages asking if I’m worn out from performing every week, I sometimes reply that I can’t breathe [laughs]. I guess the problem is how I deal with the stress on stage. I used to get so stressed about music that I was always sick, but now I try to treat music like a close companion.

You’ve been performing at cultural centers in the provinces since 2005. How did you begin?

Someone from the Taean Culture and Arts Center in South Chungcheong sent me a hand-written letter. He wanted to put on a concert that the people of Taean would enjoy.

The concerts developed from there. Every district has an arts and culture center, whether it is big or small, which is practical for shows. It was an opportunity for me to meet fans in the provinces, whom I don’t often get a chance to meet, and it provided me with more opportunities to perform.

Shows on small stages in the provinces can’t be very lucrative. How do you survive as an artist?

Of course, my career as a singer is linked to whether I continue on in the music industry or not. However, I have never once stood on stage for the money, even when I first started performing. With all of the staff involved in a show, there are always difficulties when it comes to sharing the revenue.

But it has always been worthwhile to try, and we have been successful. I reduced my guarantee by about one-third and staff members also gave up portions of their fee to support the tour.

For example, staff members covered the ticket cost for the people of Yangju, Gyeonggi. It felt amazing when the fans said that they were touched we had come all that way to visit them. I always tell them not to thank me, but to thank the organizers for putting the show together. [Laughs.]

With this tour, you’ve made history with so many performances over such a long period of time. Is it a record?

I think so. No one in the history of Korean pop culture has ever had a tour that’s lasted for two years, and no tour has been to 70 cities. If I am able to finish this tour successfully this year, I’m going to have something to brag about. The Walk on the Sounds tour is meaningful for me as an artist, but it should be meaningful for the music industry as well.

By Chung Kang-hyun []
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