When SOOBIN was told the promotion circuit for the new album would go well, he didn’t hesitate one bit as he smiled confidently and said, “I think it’ll go well, too.” The belief stemmed from the release of an album brimming with his growth and passion and from his own desire to become a better person for the sake of his beloved group members and fans.
How have you been? You’re looking good.
SOOBIN: These days I feel like I’m really living my life for the first time. When I was a student I always studied hard at school like I was told, then when I was a trainee I practiced hard at our label as told, and then after debuting I worked hard at everything assigned to me. I used to try to sleep a little more whenever I could because I was tired all the time, but lately I wake up early in the morning and go out for a walk, and I took up a lot of new hobbies. I filled up a whole album with Polaroid pictures. And I wanted to learn video editing, so I’m teaching myself. I try covering other singer’s songs by myself, and I’m doing all these things even though it cuts into my sleep time. I used to feel like I had no control over my life, but I feel like I’m living my own life now.
Why did you make these changes?
SOOBIN: I always wanted to have a pet so I started raising hedgehogs when I moved into my own private room in our new place. I loved having something out of the ordinary in my repetitive daily routine. From that point on I decided to try out what I want to do instead of what’s expected of me. Then I started taking morning walks and was happy because I felt like I was getting healthy, and like I was becoming a spontaneous person when I learned about video editing, and like I’m improving after recording songs on my own. The number of high-quality things I can make to show off to MOA is going up and that makes me happy.
It’s good to see you so lively and perky. Is that why you were showing off your ability to roll backwards in the concept trailer?
SOOBIN: I was really good at somersaulting for tests in PE class when I was a student. But after practicing for the concept trailer, I found out not everyone can do a backwards roll. I can keep rolling back a long way but the others aren’t as good at it as I thought. I was like, What? Once I found out this was a special skill, I wanted to show it off. (laughs)
You do some goofy things. Why were you cramming yourself onto the shelves of that closet with the other members in the studio? (laughs)
SOOBIN: We hide before the dance instructor and other staff come in to pretend like we aren’t there. It’s fun watching through the crack. It’s our tradition now to hide whenever we go to the studio. Now whenever everyone comes in they automatically say “come on out” and open the closet doors. (laughs)
What a pleasant workspace! You also had a competition with the youngest members a few days ago where you got to pick your own outfits.
SOOBIN: I still don’t understand why I came in last. I thought I was dressed well! We were filming something with a light atmosphere that day so I dressed up cute. I wore a pair of shorts I hadn’t even taken the tag off yet for the first time. Up to that point I thought simple is best for me but after doing a different style every week on Music Bank I realized more styles suit me than I thought. I used to always choose black clothes but lately I buy different kinds, like different colors and denim jackets or suits.
Your selfie skills have really gone up, too.
SOOBIN: When I look back at my old selfies, I wonder what MOA ever saw in them. (laughs) I bought a Polaroid camera because I wanted to keep a record of my different looks. The happiest part of my day is when I take off my makeup after I’m all done for the day. But when I like my hair and makeup I keep it all on, go home, get my selfie stick and take a picture. When I think, My face looks great today—MOA are gonna go crazy for this (laughs), I take dozens of selfies. Some days I want to upload 40 or 50 shots but that’s probably going overboard so I only upload the best ones.
The concept photos seem to reflect all the effort you’ve put into perfecting your look. There was a lot of buzz around the YOU version in particular.
SOOBIN: It was really awkward, actually. (laughs) I started to pay attention to my fashion choices these days, but used to always assume I wouldn’t be into it because I only ever wore comfortable clothes like track suits. I wasn’t used to wearing that kind of outfit and I don’t usually go to the movies, and we weren’t on the stage or doing something fantasy-related—it was a realistic concept, actually, so I felt really awkward. MOA occasionally ask me to take a “boyfriend photo” but I didn’t know how to do that, so for this photo I imagined the anticipation of waiting for your date and hoping they come quick. Thankfully the reception was better than I expected.
I think you were in a good position to make your second full-length album.
SOOBIN: Our members have always been young and innocent, but I think that youthfulness really added a kind of healthy robustness to this album right from the start. All five of us helped write a lot of it and the songs and dances are all in our favorite styles so we put a ton of effort into practicing. If it seems like I have a lot of affection toward this album specifically, that’s why. I have a good feeling about this one; whether it goes well or not, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together. That’s what we were thinking. We kept up a positive, energetic vibe while working on it.
Given how much love you put into this album, you must really be looking forward to it and your performances.
SOOBIN: When I was hosting Music Bank I kept watching other singers performing and thinking, Ah, I wanna perform as soon as possible. Some of them sang live, very powerfully, which I thought was great and pretty cool, even if they were breathing heavy, and that’s the kind of passion I’m waiting to show in our performances. We wanted our performance to really look live, so that’s why we perform the lead single with microphones in hand. I was disappointed before that we couldn’t show off our full potential, but with this song I think we can show off our abilities to the fullest.
How did you feel about your part in the title track?
SOOBIN: I concentrated most on the “angel who one day appeared to me” part. I wanted to find a good middle ground between two extremes: slowly rising up from the calm spoken lyrics before my part and TAEHYUN’s big wailing part after. So it feels a lot stronger and more intense than the part before it, but I still tried to use a soft, tender voice.
But the “girl I need you” part in the bridge is really high-pitched.
SOOBIN: I really wanted that part right from the beginning, but when I sang it I was so off-key that I kept telling the producer, I’ll try that one more time, and when it still wasn’t right I said, I think I’ll get it tomorrow for real. I was very persistent. After practicing it every day, eight times out of 10 I could sing it without my voice cracking. In the end, the producer said to me, SOOBIN, I think you were right for the part—it suits you well. That’s how I ended up with the part I wanted.
On the last album, it was the producer who was encouraging you not to give up on the high-pitched part.
SOOBIN: Exactly. It used to be that even on the recording I wanted my voice to be as far back as possible, and even on stage I felt too much pressure being in the center and wanted to be off to the side or in the back. I felt comfortable disappearing into the group and not standing out too much, but starting from this album I wanted to show my strengths and my individuality by doing more. Even for dancing I gave the instructor a lot of ideas, like, What if I do it like this, or how about like this? And to the producers: I want to do this part. I want to do that part. And when I felt like I couldn’t get my part, I’d say, Please, just give me one more chance, and then try really hard. Being a little bit pushy. (laughs)
I’m curious which parts of the choreography were influenced by your ideas.
SOOBIN: The lead single is more about expressing emotion than about singing and dancing, so when I’m in the center singing, the gesturing comes first. It’s actually my personality to try not to deviate from the dance moves I decide on, so when you watch older performances you can see all my gestures are always the same. But I told the instructor that this time I’m going to make some random gestures in every performance. It’s a sad and lonesome song but a powerful one. My heart breaks just from listening to the lyrics. It really pulls you in. So I’m just going to focus on my singing and express my real feelings without thinking about it.
You helped write the lyrics for “Ice Cream.”
SOOBIN: I agonized over the lyrics for the other tracks for days, writing tight lyrics and carefully choosing them, and then I sent them off, but they didn’t use any of it. It took 10 minutes to write for “Ice Cream” and the lyrics made it in. I wrote pessimistic things like, “end it all together,” “It’s so unfair / Put an end to it all.” To be honest, we all sometimes have these sort of wrong thoughts, like, Why am I the only one ruining things? And then you see everyone else doing fine and it makes you feel sour. (laughs) I wrote it all out really fast because as soon as I saw the topic I really felt like I could relate. The staff said, SOOBIN’s lyrics are so honest—we can probably use a lot of them. Who would’ve thought he feels this way? (laughs) I guess I wrote what I was feeling and it fit the subject matter exactly. The other members were saying my personality has changed a lot recently. TAEHYUN said a lot of people are born evil but that I was a good angel who worked hard to become a fallen one. (laughs) They all said they like the new me better. I like the new me way better, too. We even made time for regular team meetings because everyone was too sensitive to talk about what was bothering them, but nowadays I usually speak right up when I have something to say, so I don’t have anything to say at the meetings. I feel so comfortable these days that I’m worried if I’m doing the right thing. I’m enjoying myself every single day.
Did your hosting responsibilities on Music Bank influence this change in any way?
SOOBIN: I’m sure Music Bank’s had a huge impact on me. Before, I would feel more nervous to do interviews than performances, but I heard lots of interviewees say the atmosphere at Music Bank is really good and that the hosts are cute and fun to joke around with so the interviews are fun and easygoing. I was proud to think I’m the kind of host who puts singers at ease and makes them feel good. I was so happy. And I’m not as nervous doing live shows as I used to be. I picked up a lot of confidence as I gained experience.
You felt burdened at first about being the leader, but how do you feel about that position and the group now?
SOOBIN: Now I feel like I’m lucky to be the leader. Being the leader has changed my personality a ton and I think that’s leading me in a good direction. I don’t think I’d be as invested in the other members if I weren’t the leader, honestly. I couldn’t have been this close to them. Actually, the reason I pay so much attention to them is because I really like them as people, not just as colleagues. When someone you care about goes off to work you end up curious about what they’re doing and how they’re doing.
You look after the newer groups a lot, too.
SOOBIN: I’m trying to get over my shyness by getting to know them better. (laughs) I feel motivated to work harder now that I’m with people who started after me. Even though nobody asked us to sing to new BTS songs when we were trainees we danced along to the choreography anyway. But I heard ENHYPEN will go out and talk about our performances. Just like I used to watch and listen to all of the established artists’ stuff, once I realized there were newer artists watching ours too, I felt a greater sense of responsibility and started working harder.
I can tell the people and situations around you make you want to become a better person.
SOOBIN: The same goes for MOA. I still remember when I had a case on my phone supporting abandoned pets and a huge number of MOA pitched in together to buy the cases and donate to the cause. I just bought it because it was pretty and I wanted to donate, but I realized that people see the way I act and they spread that same good influence in other areas. Because of that, I ended up thinking I should be a better person with better values. It’s amazing, the way I’m making people happy and having an effect on them without even realizing it. As I always say, the relationship idols and fans have where we support each other and help each other out is absolutely precious.
I see you’re having fun keeping in touch with MOA.
SOOBIN: It’s a lot of fun. One of the reasons I post selfies is that, when I do, MOA have fierce debates. SOOBIN’s eyes are like this. And I love how his nose is like this. SOOBIN’s a bunny. No, he’s a puppy. It’s way too fun watching MOA talking like that. So when I post something, MOA have fun amongst themselves, and I’m happy to receive the love they indirectly toss around while they talk.
That’s a great way to put it—“receive the love they indirectly toss around while they talk.”
SOOBIN: I think it’s very special for people to like and support someone like they do. We get so much love from so many people. I never get used to the feeling of being loved, but I do feel happier. So I want to make sure that MOA don’t get worn out loving me, and I’m trying to be a better person so they’ll keep on giving me their love and support.
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