|Singer SAAY poses in her new single, "ZGZG," which was released last Friday. The album shows her roots in traditional Korean music. Courtesy of Universal Music Korea|
By Jung Hae-myoung, Video by Lee Min-young, Kim Kang-min
Finding one's identity and true self is not easy for people in an era of diversity. SAAY, 27, is one of the wandering artists struggling to find her true self while maneuvering to make a mark in the entertainment industry after she started from scratch.
At a dance practice studio in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, last week, SAAY told The Korea Times she was able to find her identity by looking back on her childhood ― the moment when she first discovered music.
As her stage name "SAAY" stands for her hope to "say something through music," she said she had lot to offer in her new single.
"When I released my first debut album last year, I put a lot of songs in that one year. After that, I couldn't do anything. I was literally out of energy," SAAY said.
Her new single, "ZGZG" was released last Friday. The album is pronounced "Jigi-jigi," which is a non-sense syllable to fill the beat in Korean traditional music.
Questioning herself about what she should do next, SAAY said she decided to express her identity through telling the beginning part of her life through her new album.
"When I was around four or five years old, my mom was a teacher at the Korean Traditional Institute. She taught a lot of things to the students about Korean traditional music… I was one of her students and that was my first genre in my life musically," she said.
She wanted to convey her childhood influence in the new single, mixed with her current specialty, R&B, the genre that she finds most comfortable.
She was also influenced by her childhood and teenage experiences in the United States and Japan.
"My parents always played Michael Jackson's concert video at home. When I first watched his concert video, I was around nine or ten. I thought 'Oh man, I really need to be just like him," she continued.
"I started copying everything, like his movement or gestures and everything that he did in that concert video," she said.
She still showed her biggest love toward Michael Jackson, as well as other old school artist between the 60s and the 90s.
She also explored other genres, such as rap, for the first time on her album.
"This is my first dance break, the only dance break without any vocals in it," she said. "I also do rap, and it feels very new and fresh. I think it can be my new adventure, or challenge in my musical career but I'm enjoying it, I love it," she added.
For her new single, SAAY says her own energy is what inspired her to make the song, and it is reflected by the rollicking beat.
"I am a really energetic person and my new single ZGZG has a lot of energy for me in a good way," she explained.
She says she does not necessarily find inspiration from anywhere in particular, as every moment can be her source of music.
"This can be my inspiration. This moment, these people and this interview right now can be my inspiration for sure," she said.
"I do not try to find inspiration all the time. Everything can be my inspiration if I wanted it to be. All I need is just catch the moment and write about it. It's a very natural thing."
Although many artists hesitate to follow their dreams, SAAY said she was able to find her courage for her musical talent because of the people that held her through the hardest times.
"I think this is the reason why the surroundings are very important for artists. For me, my family is the best way that I could be myself. They always come to my show, watch and film my performances," she said.
"They always give me advice on my stages. When I feel down, they would say 'you really did hard for this moment, so don't give up. Never give up and go your own way. Just be yourself,'" she added.
She also feels empowered by her friends, with whom she collaborates from time to time. She has worked with multiple, well-credited artists ― both domestic and international ― including Tish Hyman, Crush and Punchnello.
"I write my own song, and they write their own song. We are connected by music," she said. "Sometimes I go to L.A. very randomly and we do our music and create something together It's possible because we are more than friends. When we talk about music, we are talking about our life."
Even though she aspires to reach perfection, she says she doesn't want to envision any final destination for now. In the future, she says she just wants to be herself.
"It is really hard to keep their own self in their own life. It's really hard. The only thing I want to be in the future is only me. I know SAAY exactly," she said.
"That's all there is, and there is nothing more than this."