SOOBIN was discreet in his words expressing his gratitude to his loved ones while looking back on the times he spent with them. The word he chose after careful deliberation - love - was brimming with sincerity. Passing on his confidence and self-assurance to the people who make him a better person: that is his “warm” and cozy love language.

You paid a visit to your childhood dentist, despite your full schedule. You also went back to your old school and said hello to your teacher back in the fall.

SOOBIN: The people I’m visiting are all the ones I promised to visit again when I was a trainee. My high school was strict so it was hard to leave early, but my home room teacher was really considerate and helped me out a lotwith homework and cleaning. He also told the other teachers, “Go easy on SOOBIN,” a lot. I was so thankful that I told him, “If I debut and things turn out well, I’ll come back and make you proud. So you can brag to the kids in your class, too.” (laughs) So I go visit every year, but this year he said he’s retiring. I really wanted to go back there as a superstar but it hasn’t quite happened yet (laughs) but he said this would be the last chance so I went and said hi to his students, too. I was busy when I was a trainee, so my dentist would show up to work an hour before opening to give me treatment early. I wanted to repay the people who have worked hard for my benefit.

I think you must have had time last year to think about all the people in your life. You also wound up seeing your fans during your world tour.

SOOBIN: I kept saying to MOA thank you for waiting for so long. The reason I did that was because if the concert started at 7 PM, we’d have to leave at 9 AM for the venue to rehearse there and they were already waiting for us that early. On top of the tour, they showed up eight or nine hours before our performance at Lollapalooza to fill the front rows so they could cheer us on and lift our spirits. When I saw MOA were there early taking up four, five rows in front of the stage, I really thought, That’s something even greater than love. I’ve always been grateful, but I think I felt it even more during the tour and at Lollapalooza and Summer Sonic.

You must have seen MOA’s love for you at all those concerts clearly in front of your eyes.

SOOBIN: Yes. Going down into the audience during the tour and singing “Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go” is the happiest I’ve ever been singing in a concert. Seeing all those ecstatic fans’ faces right in front of me makes me feel like I’m a good and amazing person. (laughs) I was happy not because I was singing and dancing but because I could see how happy it made MOA to watch me singing and dancing.

You must’ve been happy you could see them face to face at the year-end concerts, too. You used to always be nervous about those shows, but you said you were excited this time.

SOOBIN: I felt like I would have no regrets and feel relieved even if I made a mistake this time because we worked really hard for the year-end performances. I thought to myself that this was the best of best I could do. When I watch older year-end performances, I see a lot of places I could have improved, but seeing the video from practicing for this year, I think I was more confident because I thought it was the coolest thing we ever put on.

That confidence came through in the way you dealt with unexpected situations as they arose. Even when you couldn’t get the blindfold tied on during your MAMA performance, you found a great new solution.

SOOBIN: The blindfold is one of the highlights of the choreography and I never had a problem tying it during rehearsals. I practiced over and over, but when it came to the real thing, suddenly it wouldn’t work. I was so worried that our highlight would flop all because of me, so I bit it and kept on dancing without me realizing it and it wasn’t like I made a split second decision thinking “I should bite this.” I was just desperate and thought I’d better do something. I felt bad and sorry because I made a mistake on stage but the immediate response was good and everyone was applauding when I got back to the green room, so I was relieved that it turned out okay.

It sounds like this year’s MAMA was an unforgettable experience for you for a number of reasons. You also got to see KARA perform, and they were your inspiration to become a singer when you were younger.

SOOBIN: I never thought I’d get to see them perform again so I almost teared up. I was so happy seeing how much they enjoyed being back up on stage. They were part of the reason that I liked K-pop and had a dream of becoming a singer when I was a kid. And I learned a lot about their mindset while watching all their appearances on variety shows. I thought they’re a strong and solid group and they influenced me in a lot of ways but I think I like them even more now that I do the same thing as them.

You never explicitly revealed who you’re a fan of before. What made you open up this time about being a fan and what it feels like?

SOOBIN: I thought the members of KARA might feel uncomfortable when I brought them up. I have such great memories of them but I thought it might be a little rude and could be off-putting to their members if their name was put out there because of me so I avoided saying anything. But I wanted to help them now that they made a comeback, even if it was just a little help by talking about them once to promote them. (laughs) It was kind of tough not talking about them all the way up to now. (laughs)

Does having been a fan in the past help you better understand how your fans feel?

SOOBIN: I think it helps a lot. I think there’s a certain kind of love that can only exist between a singer and their fans—one that doesn’t happen between friends or people dating. They exist for each other and want each other to be happy and hope for better things for the other than for themselves. It seems like it really only exists between fans and singers. Actually, as a singer, whenever fans came to a fan signing event with a fan letter in hand and said, “I’m going to hold a birthday cafe event for you,” I would say, “I think your hand will be tired from writing letters every time you come. I’m thankful you make time for me but I hope you don’t spend your money.” But now I think I should be grateful and accepting of everything they do, whether it’s writing fan letters or holding events, and I think I understand them better now, too. I’m the kind of person who puts the happiness of my fans ahead of my own unconditionally, but the fans also put my happiness first and feeling that again, I realized it’s an extremely special relationship.

You said in the Weverse Live held on your birthday that you’re having fun getting ready for your comeback.

SOOBIN: I felt that way because I have so much pride in my work now. I never really used to like myself, to be honest. I just felt sorely lacking as a person and last year in particular I questioned whether I’m even good enough to be a singer and started to have doubts about my job. But meeting the fans made me think of myself as a singer who can be a good influence and make them feel good, and that made me feel proud, and wonderful, and complete. (laughs) It changed to that kind of feeling. So I just want to do the comeback as soon as possible so I can show this off to the fans.

Why did you wonder if you’re really suited to be a singer last year?

SOOBIN: By the time we went on tour, it had been so long since I had been around so many people all in one big space. I don’t know if “shy” is the right term to use. I’m a singer, so I get up and sing and dance in front of lots of people, but I started to think, if I have a hard time doing that, how can I keep on being a singer? Maybe I’m not cut out to be a singer after all. But last year was actually my first tour, and it was the first time being around people in such a large space in such a long time that I think that something about it felt awkward to me. I’m confident I’ll have a lot of fun on our next tour. I think from now on I won’t be full of doubt about my job as a singer ever—I’ll just be full of pride. (laughs) I’ll be a better person this year than last year, and an even better person next year.

You tried a lot of new things last year. You could say you’re taking on another challenge with the concept behind this latest album. What was it like working on it?

SOOBIN: The new songs are a little tough again. (laughs) We revealed that the concept for the album would be “refreshing and sexy,” and after we did, fans seemed to be more excited for the refreshing part. So us members talked a lot amongst ourselves about what parts or sections would capture that refreshing quality best when we perform. While practicing, we would come to parts that seemed like they would capture that well, and we would say, “Let’s do this with more of a bright smile on our faces.”

The Daydream version of the concept photos really captures those bright smiles well. You called those your favorite.

SOOBIN: When we were shooting the Daydream version, they told me I’m having fun in Neverland and to wear a dreamy expression on my face. I thought of Neverland as this happy, joyous, innocent place full of smiles, so I wanted to look like a really happy little kid in the photos and actively tried to spend every second wearing a big smile. 

You also chose the Neverland-themed “Farewell, Neverland” as your favorite song.

SOOBIN: I really love that song so I wanted to sing it particularly well. And since I like it so much, I did the most takes and editing for that one. It’s a difficult song, so practicing it was a little hard, but after it was all done and I listened to it, it actually turned out really well. (laughs) And with songs like “Devil by the Window” and “Sugar Rush Ride,” there’s ideas like temptation and the devil, so I used my voice a lot in ways I never did before in my life to sing the songs in a whole new style. It was a little challenging at times (laughs) but I put a lot of effort in and I think I captured the idea of temptation well.

There’s definitely a nuance of temptation. I think, despite those temptations, there’s sometimes things you have to hold onto. Sort of like the words in the logo video: “It’s so sweet, but I should find my name.” As a member of TOMORROW X TOGETHER, is there something you want to hold onto?

SOOBIN: I’ve said this again and again since debuting, but I want to hold onto the TOMORROW X TOGETHER name. I hope the name stays pure even after a long time passes. Even when our 15th or 20th anniversary rolls around, I want to make sure the name keeps its pure image, so when people mention our name, they’ll think, Those guys worked really hard. They were an amazing group.

Considering your members, I don’t think you’ll have any problem holding onto the meaning of the name. What do you, in your everyday life, want to hold onto—want to make sure you don’t lose no matter how much time passes?

SOOBIN: I want to be surrounded by good people the way I am now for a long, long time. I have a really good judge of character (laughs) and the other members, my friends, all the staff—absolutely all of them are great people. I feel like I’m living a blessed life with all these good people surrounding me.

You probably have so many good people around you because you’re a good person yourself.

SOOBIN: Yep! (laughs) That’s part of it. There’s definitely some kind of influence there. (laughs)

It makes me think of when you said on Weverse, “I hope you take a look at the real-life Choi Soobin. Honestly, when I look at myself, even I think I’m an okay person.” (laughs)

SOOBIN: I actually think SOOBIN the K-pop singer has a number of shortcomings but that the real-life SOOBIN is a great person. It’s sort of weird coming from me (laughs) but the more you get to know him, the more you realize he’s an okay guy. And I heard a lot of good things from the people around me last year. Someone told me, “I feel really comfortable around you. I really open up around you.” My friends said, “I’m really lucky to have you as a friend.” When I heard that, it made me think I might really be a pretty decent person.

You gain self-confidence from the important people in your life that way.

SOOBIN: Exactly. If you look at it that way, I’m discovering my own identity step by step, and the more I get to know myself in the process, the more I feel like I’m a really emotionally strong person—not just a strong person, but a strong person with a good mind. And MOA’s always helping make me into that kind of person. It might sound like a cliché at this point because I say it to them so often, and I don’t want to diminish its power by overusing it (laughs) but “thank you” really is the very best thing I can say, I think. I don’t just say it lightly—I’m being completely sincere. I’m really grateful.

Article. Lee Jiyeon
Interview. Lee Jiyeon
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Project Management. Yoon Haein
Visual Creative Team. Jung Sujung, Rakta, Choi Yoonsuk(BIGHIT MUSIC)
Photography. Pakbae / Assist. Choi Mijin, Yang Junhyeong , Gu Hyekyung
Hair. Kim Seungwon
Makeup. Noh Seulki
Stylist. Lee Ahran
Set Design. HA I I HWA
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Daeyoung, Kim Jisoo, Shin Seungchan, You Juekyung, Ko Youngwook, Koo Sanghoon