INTERVIEW: Norman Kim

Hi Norman, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi! Excited to be talking with you. I’ve been busy, but busy is good!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Nothing Wrong With My Life”?

“Nothing Wrong with My Life” is my debut single as an artist. I’ve done work on films and TV shows as a composer, but I’ve always been a bit timid in releasing music where I’m the main focal point. I think it’s a good first song for me to be releasing because it’s the first song I wrote when I first moved to Los Angeles in 2011.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I had just moved to Los Angeles from Boston to pursue a career in film music, and I was feeling a bit discouraged because I was comparing myself to others – I didn’t have much work that first month, and I didn’t know where I should be turning to even get started. I wished I had worked harder when I was younger because I thought maybe I just haven’t built up the skills yet, but then I realized how much of a toxic mentality that was. Of course, I still constantly compare myself to others, so it’s not like realizing really changes much.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

Yes, there will be a video! Releasing August 16th. Shot it with Joseph Cultice, and I’m pretty excited to have it out there.

The single comes off your new album Just Like You – what’s the story behind the title?

“Just Like You” is the title of the opening track on the album, and it is in regards to feeling like I was being seen or treated as someone different just because of my ethnic background even though I am American. We’re all the same at the end of the day. It is my debut album, and it will be out in October 2019.

How was the recording and writing process?

If I can remember, for “Nothing Wrong with My Life,” the initial songwriting came together probably in about half an hour, but I changed the second verse a couple times over the years. I recorded it last year, and I struggled with trying to make it sound as not folky as possible (the super straightforward writing lends itself to that kind of vibe). Originally it had some woodwinds and some brass, but I eventually swapped it out for more of a Killer Queen vibe with piano and electric guitars. I recorded myself playing the violin with a pick to keep things a little different as well. As with all the songs on my upcoming album, I played in most of the instruments in my studio, and M.B. Gordy played drums.

What role does LA play in your music?

LA has been my home for the past 8+ years, and I’m always inspired by the hardworking peers colleagues I have. I’m so grateful for all the film/TV projects I’ve been able to work on as well as all the composers, directors, and producers who have entrusted me to do a good job. The work I’ve had has allowed me to hone my self-recording technique in my studio. I don’t think there’s any other place in the world that has as much hustle and bustle in media music as LA has with such short turnaround times, and that kind of attitude helps me to keep working on my craft and chase down jobs and whatnot.

How has Queen and Prince influenced your writing?

Queen’s music has always been a big influence. All their unexpected dramatic arrangements have seeped into my psyche in some way or another. Of course, I’m not nearly as over-the-top as Freddie was (and I don’t write that many love songs), but I always try to keep my vocabulary a little more interesting with more emotional melodies, just like he did. Plus, my whole life I’ve tried my best to copy his vocal range, so a lot of my writing stays in his register as well. I’ve always admired Prince’s (and Michael Jackson’s) ability to be a complete control freak and take charge of everything he did. I’m a perfectionist just like all these guys were.

Having composed a few many shows – do you tend to take a different approach when scoring a film rather than working on this solo material?

The biggest difference is my emotional connection to the final work. My songs are very personal, so I’m a complete perfectionist. At the same time, there’s nobody really telling me what I should do, so the freedom is pretty hindering. Film music is entirely collaborative, and there is usually a strict deadline because of all the moving parts and budget and whatever, so I let go of my personal connection to get the job done. Of course, it’s still my music, but while I’m scoring I kind of “black out” and write whatever is going to help the scene using whatever tools I have in my brain – usually I take more of a classical approach rather than a song approach, so I think my score music sounds very different from my songs. In terms of recording, my process is generally the same where I just overdub myself a bunch of times to create a pleasing and interesting (to me) texture unless the score calls for an orchestra or specialty instruments that I can’t play.

What were some of the conflicting feelings you get to explore on this record?

My songs have always been extremely personal to me, so I never planned on releasing them. Just the idea of having them out there was conflicting because I felt like I was giving the world a piece of my body. I’ve explored topics like discrimination, self-deprecation, compulsions, toxic relationships, and death.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I’ve pretty much lived the past 8 years trying to think as Larry David does. I’m always taking notes and thinking of ideas when I’m out in the world. I eavesdrop a lot. I carry around a notebook. Of course, most of my songs are really about what I’ve experienced, though – in addition to the more darker feelings, I have a song about my mom, and I have a song about people bothering me in public.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’m hoping to plan a tour, yes, but no solid plans yet. I will be playing around Los Angeles over the next few months to get a feel for the whole performing aspect outside of my studio.

What else is happening next in Norman Kim’s world?

My debut full-length album “Just Like You” is coming out in October, and I’m really excited for it. The album release show will be at Hotel Café’s Main Stage on October 26th at 9:30pm. I’ve also got a few other singles off of it coming out in the meantime. In scoring land, I recently co-scored with my good friend Daniel Walter a film called “The Tenant” directed by Sushrut Jain and starring Shamita Shetty, which should be out some time in 2020.

Watch here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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