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[INTERVIEW] Jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun awakens pandemic-weary with new album

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Jazz singer Nah Youn-sun / Courtesy of NPLUG
Jazz singer Nah Youn-sun / Courtesy of NPLUG

By Park Ji-won

Jazz singer Nah Youn-sun has been one of Korea's most active singers, performing and spending time outside of Korea, especially in France. But the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled stage performances and, like many other musicians, she has been anxiously longing for the end of the pandemic, as she has otherwise had a hard time finding meaning doing music.

She said during an interview with The Korea Times in Seoul, Friday, that at the beginning of the pandemic, "I felt my life was a mistake. I was almost thinking of quitting my career as a musician. I was happy because I spent a lot of time with my family in Korea, but at the same time, I left my home in Europe and musical career there. I was missing home while being stuck at home. So it was tough to endure a life without music, and at the same time thought that doing music was a luxury while people were dying. I ended up failing to listen to music and making music only about a year after the outbreak of the virus."

Nah has included her own compositions from time to time on her last 10 albums, but they are not her priority, because she considers herself a vocalist, rather than a composer. So she felt that she had lost confidence in making her own music.

The cover image of the album
The cover image of the album "Waking World" by jazz singer Nah Youn-sun / Courtesy of Courtesy of NPLUG
But the pandemic was like a wake-up call to her. Finding herself on the edge of the cliff and amid one of the most difficult times in her career, Na decided to resume her musical activities at the beginning of last year and create her 11th album, "Waking World" with Warner Music, by herself from the beginning.

"I was healed by listening to the music of other musicians and made up my mind to make my music so that it could also do that for my fans too."

Starting from composing and writing lyrics, Na, as a producer, mixed and mastered the album and even took the photo for the cover image, marking the first time she had worked on every aspect of the album-making process. She had to learn computer programs for composition by herself. Out of the 11 tracks, about half of them were created anew, and the other half were those she had composed previously.

The tracks are hard to categorize as jazz and are more like pop, she said, but she tried hard to create a genuine sound and lyrics as if the entire album itself was a reflection of herself, or a diary. She used wind and brass instruments on the album, such as the trumpet, which is also new to her music.

"In the past, I used to do a lot of scatting on the albums. But this album is calmer and slower than earlier albums. I used to think about the climax of the music, but this time I just went with the flow."

Pressuring herself, she found some peace while writing her music, as it also spoke to her. She said that she hopes listeners also can find some respite through her music.

"In addition to the pandemic, I also realized that I have sort of pressured myself too much so far. I didn't care about myself, continuing to hurt myself. Through this album, I tried to tell myself, 'I am doing fine. It is going to be alright.' And the album gave me a lot of comfort. I hope listeners also find some peace from it."

Na is planning to leave the country to start her international tour for the album in Europe and the United States starting the last week of January. She will return to Korea in December to meet audiences here. Her new album will be officially released on Jan. 28.

Park Ji-won

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