Sobae switches career paths and jumps right into making music

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Sobae switches career paths and jumps right into making music


R&B singer Sobae is off to a magical start, joining famous Korean rappers San E and Mad Clown on their 18-city United States tour. The tour began April 6 and will end at the beginning of May. Sobae made her debut in October 2017 with her single “Switch Up” and released her follow-up “Homegirl” this March.

The singer studied communications at Northwestern University in Illinois and had dreams of becoming a journalist, but she later made the decision to switch career paths and pursue music.

“I’m a firm believer in trying things first because you’ll never know if you don’t try,” said Sobae in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

She emphasized that music had always been her passion despite her pursuing a different career path. “As much as I started music a little later in my career, I’m working extra hard to make up for [my] lost time, and I can say for now [that] I have no regrets with my decision.”

The following are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. Did you always have a love for music?


Top: Singer-songwriter Sobae’s second single titled “Homegirl.” Above: Sobae, middle, is currently touring 18 cities in the United States with rappers San E, left, and Mad Clown, right. [MUSIC CUBE]

Yes. I think I always kept [music] very close in my life. Looking back, I always sang; I was in the choir, I was in the musical and drama club so I always loved it. I especially have a love for jazz, so I ran my own jazz radio show for four years when I was in college. It was for WNUR 89.3 FM and it was broadcast to the entire Chicago area. I always have loved music and to be actually doing it is a huge blessing.

How did your parents react when you decided to switch your occupation? Were they supportive?

No. Like all Korean parents, they just didn’t understand [why I went from] going to grad school and finding a normal job, to changing my career so drastically. But at the same time, I think [my parents’] final acceptance was when they realized how happy it made me. They always knew that it was in the corner of my mind in part to pursue it. I can’t say I have their full blessing yet. I feel like they’re just nervous about it, for reasons that I completely understand. But in summary, the key point is that they have accepted it because of how happy I am. I’m on tour now. I’m really living my dream so they’ve accepted it.

I know you like the R&B genre. Are there any specific artists and songs that inspired you?

I listen to a lot of Kehlani, SZA, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller and Frank Ocean. I think I love anything in the genre of future R&B. I just feel like it’s really interesting. There are really no genre groups anymore, you call it future R&B but it’s really a mix of hip-hop, R&B and pop, even. I started off as a future R&B artist but I don’t have to keep myself in that genre.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring singers who don’t have the courage to change their path?

Whatever decision you make, you’ll look back and potentially regret it, but I think you should choose the path you’ll regret less. I just came upon a moment where I decided if I don’t actually go for it, I’m going to regret it forever. I hope that others who are considering it take the leap of faith and go for it as well.

Has being a reporter in the past helped you in any way when doing music?

I think with reporting, it’s still a form of storytelling, and a song is also storytelling whether you’re performing it or writing one. If anything, that’s the only thing that differentiates me from a sea of singers. I have quite an unusual background leading up to a music career but that career has helped me meet a diverse range of people from lawyers to doctors to homeless people, gang members and politicians. Those colorful characters, if you talk and interview them, they sort of become a part of you and stay with you. I vicariously experienced so many people’s stories and I trust that somehow there’s a trace of that in my music as well.

How is touring with San E and Mad Clown?

It’s been amazing. First of all, they watch out for me and have my back. Just spending so much time with them, I can understand why they’re the two top rappers in Korea. They’re so talented but also professional and humble. There’s a lot to learn from them. It’s honestly pretty exhausting being on the road because we’re going to a new city every day. But we’re still having a great time and the entire team here [with] Mad Clown and San E are also such nice people - people just having a good time, wanting to put on a good show every night. The energy is great.

What are your plans after the tour?

The tour ends at the end of [April,] so our last show runs right until the beginning of May. [After the tour,] I think I’m going to continue working on music. I’m planning on releasing a couple of singles sometime between the summer and fall so that’s something to look forward to. A lot of inspiration has been coming from this tour so hopefully I can put it into practice when I’m back home.

Is there an artist you would love to collaborate with? Why?

I would love to collaborate with San E and Mad Clown [again] because they’re top of the line artists that I respect. Being on tour with them, I think we’ve gotten really close and I would love to work with them on a track. It would be the cherry on top to this tour. They said they would love to work with me. They’ve worked with top female singers in Korea but in an interview, when they were asked the same question, they said “Sobae,” so I think it would be really nice to make it happen.

Are there any other artists you would want to collaborate with?

I love Crush. I’ve been a fan of his for a while, so he would be an amazing person to work with. I feel like he goes back and forth doing hip-hop, R&B and pop. I respect him so much as an artist. And actually, Crush is a huge fan of jazz. I think he posts album covers or songs he’s listening to. It’s kind of scary how similar our taste in jazz is so I think it’s meant to be (laughs).

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