Kim Tae-won chooses songwriting over spotlight: Boohwal frontman loved being on TV but had to give it up

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Kim Tae-won chooses songwriting over spotlight: Boohwal frontman loved being on TV but had to give it up

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Kim Tae-won is the frontman and guitarist of rock band Boohwal. [BOOHWAL ENTERTAINMENT]

Kim Tae-won, the frontman and guitarist of rock band Boohwal, was describing how much recording has been done for his upcoming album. Beneath his calm tone were strains of isolation and despair.

“My 14th regular album comes out around this fall. Four songs are complete so far, and six are in the making,” said Kim during a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“I seclude myself by cutting off communication [with acquaintances] when I write songs. I can write when I put myself in a corner. Destroying myself is a way of raising myself up [as a musician],” Kim explained.

The musician was in a creative struggle with himself to produce his 14th album, his first in eight years.

Including a track called “Picturesque” (2019), about 10 tracks will be included in the new album.

When Boohwal was reuniting with former member Park Wan-kyu last year, “Picturesque” was released as a single to mark the reunion.

Kim stopped appearing on TV shows in late 2013. Prior to that, however, he could be seen daily on some television show or another.

The last TV show he starred in was “I Live Alone” on MBC.

Having debuted in 1986, Kim has written almost all the tracks for Boohwal. The musician is notorious for living a wild life and not taking care of his health.

He shared some horror stories in the recent interview.

“I went into shock while playing guitar for a song called ‘The More I Love’ [1993],” he recalled. “I couldn’t remember the chords to the song. I wanted to talk, but I couldn’t. I was taken to the emergency room, and I heard someone say that they needed to contact my family. I thought to myself ‘this is my end.’ Coincidentally, the date of that disaster was Aug. 11, the same day [my former bandmate] Kim Jae-gi passed away in 1993.”

Kim Jae-gi was a vocalist for Boohwal. He sang the group’s hit song “The More I Love” but died in a car accident on a rainy day.

“I thought to myself that Jae-gi is taking me [to the world after death].”

It was not to be, obviously, and Kim was back on his feet after a month. He was advised to work out regularly.

Well intended advice, he admits, but not for him. “I can’t write songs when I’m not feeling lonely,” Kim said.

“I feel like I’m drifting away from music when I’m happy. So I lock myself in. I think there needs to be some songs that are beautiful yet comforting and other songs that make people shed tears. Some songs befriend listeners. It’s my role to make such songs. I believe I have to make music until I leave this world.”

Kim was a regular on many hit TV shows. He was dubbed “national grandma” or “national mentor.”

The first nickname refers to his long straight hair and the second to Kim’s down-to-earth counseling of young adults, seen on many TV shows.

The attention he got from his TV appearances and his popularity were a double-edged sword. The musician said he was afraid of being estranged from his art.

“I was concerned about becoming one of the guests who keeps talking about the same things over and over again.”

Kim continued, “I kept appearing on TV shows for three years without a break and felt like I was born again because people recognized me. I’ve been doing music for a long period of time, but that didn’t happen to me before. The pleasure [of being recognized as a celebrity] was so addictive that I thought it could ruin me some day when I have less popularity.”

Kim calls that time a “midsummer night’s dream” and said he is still comforted by memories of those days.

Of the many shows he performed on, the most special was “Qualifications of Men,” which aired in 2011 on KBS.

Different tasks were given to regular hosts of the show, and one of them was forming a senior choir.

With a song Kim wrote, the senior choir won a silver prize on a talent show, and that episode led to a special award being given to Kim at the year-end entertainment awards on KBS.

The senior choir, in fact, is still performing. Kim and the choir reunite from time to time. Kim treasures a baton given to him by the choir.

“I don’t want to waste my time wondering why my music is not loved by the public. I will make music with things that come to my mind. Even if the music fails to be loved by people, I will make music for a single person who will listen to it in the future,” Kim wrote in his book “From Coincidence to Miracle,” published in 2011.

BY KANG HYE-RAN [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



부활 김태원 “작년 8월 행사장서 쓰러져, 이게 끝인가 했다”

“올가을쯤 정규앨범 14집이 나옵니다. 4곡 완성됐고 6곡 작업 중이에요. 곡 쓸 땐 전화도 안 걸고 안 받는, 은둔의 상태죠. 스스로 궁지로 몰아넣어야 한 글자라도 써지는 걸 보면, 망가지는 것 자체가 나를 끌어올리는 과정인 듯도 싶고….”

외부활동 닫고 14집 앨범 작곡 작업
“스스로 궁지로 몰아넣어야 곡 나와”
담담하게 내뱉는 말에 서린 침잠과 고독. 올해 결성 35주년을 맞은 록밴드 ‘부활’의 리더이자 기타리스트 김태원은 그렇게 자신과 싸우고 있다. 2012년 13집 이후 8년 만에 나오는 정규앨범을 위해서다. 지난해 초 보컬 박완규가 재결합하면서 발표한 싱글 ‘그림’을 포함해 총 10곡 정도가 담긴다고 한다.

2013년 말 ‘나혼자 산다’를 끝으로 TV 예능 고정출연을 모두 중단한 김태원은 그간 콘서트 혹은 싱글 앨범으로만 팬들을 만나왔다. 1986년 데뷔 앨범 이래 부활의 거의 모든 곡을 작사·작곡해온 그는 건강을 돌보지 않고 불규칙한 생활을 하는 것으로 ‘악명’이 높다. 최근 경기도 파주 ‘스튜디오 끼’에서 만났을 때 그는 지난해에도 아찔한 위기를 겪었다고 털어놨다.

“지난해 8월 행사장에서 ‘사랑할수록’ 기타를 치는 중에 쇼크가 왔어요. 코드가 기억이 안 나고 말을 하려는데 언어가 안 되는 겁니다. 응급실로 실려 갔는데 비몽사몽 중 ‘가족이나 가까운 친지를 부르는 게 좋겠다’는 말이 들려와서 ‘이렇게 끝이구나’ 했지요. 하필 그날이 8월 11일, 1993년 김재기가 하늘로 떠난 날이라….”

부활 3집의 명곡 ‘사랑할수록’을 부른 제3대 보컬 김재기가 빗길 교통사고로 숨진 날과 같은 날짜. ‘재기가 나를 데려가는구나’ 싶었는데 다행히 한 달여 만에 회복했다. 주변에선 운동 등을 권하지만 “고독하지 않으면 곡을 쓸 수가 없다”고 했다.

“행복하고 즐거우면 음악과 멀어지는 듯해서 내가 날 가둬두는 거예요. 아름다우면서 위로가 되는, 눈물을 흘리고 친구가 되는, 그런 음악이 분명 필요하고 그게 제 몫이거든요. 나란 사람이 죽기 전까지 남겨야 하는 것은 음악이니까.”

‘국민할매’ ‘국민멘토’ 등 별칭을 얻으며 인기를 누리던 2013년 말 갑자기 예능 고정출연을 중단한 것도 그 같은 이유였다고 했다. 음악과 멀어지는 공포감을 느꼈고 “이러다 같은 얘기를 여기저기서 되풀이하는, 자리만 채우는 패널이 되지 않을까” 싶었다고. “어떤 것을 많이 가졌을 때 스스로 멈추는 걸 결정할 수 있는 사람이어야 한다”는 평소 신조가 발동했다.

“(당시에) 3년 정도 쉬지 않고 예능에 출연했는데, 그땐 마치 다시 태어난 듯했죠. 누군가 나를 알아보는 나름의 희열이랄까. 음악을 그렇게 오래 하고도 체험한 적 없었는데. 그 희열의 중독성이 강해서 어느 순간 그게 줄어들면 망가질 것 같은 위기감이 들었어요.”

그럼에도 그때를 “한여름 밤의 꿈 같은” 시간으로 돌아보면서 위로받는다고 했다. 각별한 프로가 2011년 60세 이상 어르신들을 오디션 선발해 꾸린 ‘남자의 자격-청춘합창단’이다. 지휘자 김태원이 작사·작곡까지 한 ‘사랑이라는 이름을 더하여’라는 아카펠라곡으로 합창단은 출전대회 은상을 거머쥐었고 김태원은 연말 KBS연예대상 특별상을 탔다. ‘청춘합창단’은 이후 2015년 6월 미국 뉴욕 유엔본부에서 공연하는 등 독자적인 활동을 하고 있다. 김태원과도 연말 송년회 때 가끔 해후한다. 이들이 프로그램 끝나고 쌈짓돈 모아 선물한 지휘봉은 그의 보물 1호다.

“이제는 어째서 내 음악이 대중에게 사랑받지 못할까 고민하면서 살고 싶지 않습니다. 그냥 떠오르는 것을 음악으로 만들고, 그게 혹시 이 시대에서 알아주지 않더라도 먼 훗날 한 사람이라도 내 음악을 들어주는 사람이 있다면 그를 위해 작곡할 것입니다.” 책 『우연에서 기적으로』(2011)에서 그가 쓴 구절이다.

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