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INTERVIEWMusic producer explains why he dove into K-pop world

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American music producer/songwriter Justin Reinstein / Courtesy of Justin Reinstein
American music producer/songwriter Justin Reinstein / Courtesy of Justin Reinstein

'K-pop format allows limitless musical experimentation'

By Dong Sun-hwa

When American music producer/songwriter Justin Reinstein first stumbled upon K-pop, he felt like he'd discovered the best home for his music.

"My foray into K-pop followed soon after I signed a songwriting deal with a Japanese management company (a few years ago), and my transition was relatively seamless," Reinstein, who has produced music for a plethora of top-tier K-pop acts like Stray Kids, TWICE and IVE, told The Korea Times in a recent email interview. "My musical style was already compatible with the sounds coming out of Korea and I felt that I finally found my musical home."

K-pop act Stray Kids / Courtesy of JYP Entertainment
K-pop act Stray Kids / Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

Reinstein first set foot into the music industry about a decade ago, producing songs for artists in the U.S. and sharing his self-written tracks on YouTube. Soon, he was contacted by a Japanese management company that told him his tunes would work great for the Japanese market. So he inked a deal with the company and later, naturally, came across the music of the neighboring country, Korea.

"I fell in love with the musical freedom K-pop provides," he said. "I love music that makes you feel something. Great chord changes, dope melodies, juxtaposed with hard-hitting production. The K-pop format allows for limitless musical experimentation for me."

The biggest difference between K-pop and Western music is that the former gives more freedom to explore jazzy chord changes, the producer explains.

"I am a big fan of the 60s rock, 70s soul, 80s funk and pop," Reinstein said. "Using them as inspirations along with newer production techniques is sort of my formula, which just so happens to work for K-pop."

After building his career in the K-pop scene for several years, the talented producer decided to form his own team to make a fresh sound in an environment of positivity and forward-thinking musical creativity. This was the reason that he established NuVibe Music in 2019, which comprises of Reinstein, producer DTP and topliners Anna Timgren and Suhyppy. DTP produced music for K-pop groups like BLANK2Y and Rocket Punch. Timgren previously worked with TWICE and IVE, among others, and Suhyppy ― the latest member to join the team ― partnered with FIFTY FIFTY.

Justin Reinstein and his teammates at NuVibe Music / Courtesy of Justin Reinstein
Justin Reinstein and his teammates at NuVibe Music / Courtesy of Justin Reinstein

"I am so proud of all of us," Reinstein said. "We all share a true closeness bonded by a strong desire to create a new, cutting-edge sound for K-pop. Some songs we have done include 'Stay This Way' (2022) by fromis_9, 'My Satisfaction' (2022) by IVE, 'The Feels' (2021) by TWICE, 'Upper Side Dreamin'' (2021) by ENHYPEN and 'Reveal' (2020) by The Boyz."

For Reinstein, the most memorable song is "Stay This Way" ― a track that he created in collaboration with his good friend Lee Woo-min, who is also known as Collapsedone.

"It is the first song I wrote with NuVibe's resident genius Anna Timgren," Reinstein said. "It sparked all that was to come through our amazing collaboration. She is one of the quickest, most talented topliners in the business."

K-pop girl group fromis_9 / Courtesy of Project Ribbon
K-pop girl group fromis_9 / Courtesy of Project Ribbon
According to him, K-pop record labels often look for specific types of songs for their artists, giving his team an idea of the sound or concept they want.

"Then, we will do our best to create something unique and fitting to their leads," he explained. "Sometimes we also make songs out of our own inspiration and pitch those to the labels. For example, 'Push & Pull' (2021) by TWICE was a tune that we got our own inspiration to create."

Reinstein calls his job a "never-ending journey."

"I am responsible for pitching the songs, collecting and distributing royalties and managing other day-to-day tasks," he said. "Other writers put their faith in me, which is the highest privilege, so I do my best to do a great job for them. If one of us wins, we all win. I am always striving to find new ways to compose a song. It is a never-ending journey, and I am here for every minute of it."

Reinstein added that K-pop is now a global phenomenon and that numerous writers from across the globe are itching to enter the market.

"I achieved my first top 10 on Billboard U.S. through K-pop and I would have never imaged that five years ago," he said, referring to TWICE's third full-length album, "Formula of Love: O+T=<3" that ranked third on the Billboard 200 chart upon its release. The album features his song, "The Feels."

The producer hopes he gets the chance to collaborate with boy band NCT 127 and girl group NewJeans in the days ahead.

"I love how creative and artistic NCT 127's albums are, and definitely hope to partake in one of them one day," he said. "NewJeans is also totally up my alley … Speaking of my other goals, I also want to keep pushing the boundaries musically, and continue to work with great K-pop artists. I want to leave a legacy of great music that inspires people, in a way that others have inspired me."

Dong Sun-hwa


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