Interview: Kim Bum Soo

Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

Recently, Kim Bum Soo was in Canada for two concerts – one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Luckily, thanks to TR Canada, we were able to sit down with him while he was in Toronto and ask him a few questions. Keep reading to hear what he had to say.

Editor’s note: my fabulous friend Hana acted as my translator for the interview and occasionally added a little extra for clarification, her comments are in italics. Thanks Hana!

Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

The Interview

This is your second time in Canada. It was interesting that you chose Calgary for your first visit. Did you have time to see Toronto?

Today, I went to see Niagara Falls, a winery, outlet stores and had a busy schedule. I don’t have such busy schedule in Korea. Canada is very big. One day was not enough to see all things in Toronto and area. It is sad that I only have limited time here, as I want to see different parts of Canada when I have more time. I enjoyed the fresh and cooler temperature weather than Korea.

One thing that we noticed is you have amazing “Chemistry” in harmony with others singers. How do you prepare for duet songs in your concerts?

When I do duet? I feel it is harder than solo. Keeping in tune with the partner is really important. Let’s say… We both have 100%. If we put each other’s the best, 100% becomes too much. If the partner has the same talent that I have, then you sometimes need to be decisive to give up a certain part or… if the partner does not have one, but you have, then you can put your ability to maximize the harmony.  If you know what the person has, then you can sometimes rely on each other… It comes from your experience. When I was a rookie, I only thought… how do I do well, how do I not make mistakes. As I do more, I can bring out the proper level.

I love the duet songs, the stage. If the partner is well-experience singer, you do have sort of “Chemi” [chemistry]… it is fun to have harmony. If you are a new singer with relatively less experience… I enjoy the journey to keep in tune with. I guess… people give me a good reputation. I also pay attention to duets. I love duet, it’s enjoyable, I put a lot of effort into them too.

Kim Bum Soo with Wonder Girls′ former member Sunye
Kim Bum Soo with Wonder Girls′ former member Sunye in Toronto

I was told that you were called a “faceless” singer before, but are now called a “Visual Singer”. Did being labeled “faceless” discourage you from performing?

I was not happy that my song was judged by my appearance, not by my talent, or the song itself when I first started my career. I wanted to show and let them think how I was prepared, and listen to my song first. At first, I felt sad that only my appearance stood out. However, it made me strong. When I look back, all the sadness, discouragements that I experienced helped me a lot. And now more people take my songs and skills just as they are, and I really appreciate it. If I hadn’t had this period, I wouldn’t appreciate everything I have now. As a result, everything became a part of me. I am satisfied now.

I mentioned this at the concert on Saturday that as I hear… I look better, I become handsome…

Hana: You ARE handsome! 

[Laughter] All these compliments, good spirit and words give me confidence in me. I can feel confident and it melts into my music as well.

You are a well-known R&B singer with a powerful voice. And your performances on “I am a Singer” were fun to watch. Which is your favourite song to perform?

Hana mentions giving goodies (hairbands, hats, etc.) to the audience during his performance in Toronto. 

I like fun things! In Korea… you know the genre, Ballad, regardless the tempo, it is very popular in Korea. I am known as ‘specialized in that genre’, but I personally like all the performances that I showed on “I Am A Singer”. Each stage I had was what I really wanted to show/do, such as 님과함께, EDM, 희나리 and etc., all these performances I really wanted to do. Each stage has my colour [his interpretation of the song].

I also like to get closer to the fans, to the audience off the stage like I did at the concert so I can interact with them. I am a witty person more than a serious one. If you just listen to my music, you might think I am a very quiet and still but there are different aspects of me. The colour of my music I pursue… the personality… There are more..all hidden underneath.

I would say, maybe, those stages match to my own personality are close to is… in terms of music itself, I would say “Ballad”, but I prefer fast tempo, wit, comical… it’s more me. I like to do ones that I am good at and what the audience feels sympathy for are Ballads. I also find attractiveness from both sides (fun and serious part).

Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

What other projects are you working on? I saw you are a MC or judge of a couple of TV programs like “Superstar K”. Are you also interested in finding talented people like you?

These days, it is a trend that people want a multi-player. Well, the truth is I don’t know anything else than singing. I am not interested in anything else but singing. I thought the only thing that brought my energy out was singing. However, as trends and generations change, I am asked to be on different TV programs. I am starting to feel those are interesting too! But I still think singing and performing on stage are what I want to do the most.

Like I mentioned earlier, I like fun things. I like to being on 예능[variety show] programs, it gives me chances to communicate and get closer to fans. I continue to have these chances. I am not recruiting rookies, but I would like to help open doors for them.  Every year, I found an increasing interest in this. I don’t mean that I’d like to produce new singers. For example, people found out 황치열 (Hwang Chee Yeol) through “I See Your Voice” who almost gave up his dream becoming a singer.

[Hana: not 황치열 that is so popular in China, through “I Am a Singer” Chinese version].

I’ve learned a lot and am happy about it. If I can help, I would love to continue to do so in balance with my own work.

You have participated a numbers of OSTs and your voice really conveys the emotion of the scene. How do you express the feelings in your songs?

OST… I was not a very able person. It is just… the OST I sang matched well to the dramas and brought synergy. It is not that I did well, I was lucky to meet good dramas and participate in the OSTs. It was fortunate that I got these great opportunities. When I could not be on the TV, the limited activities I could do was participating in OSTs. It led me to that way, it was a chance. I felt appreciated. I was lucky to meet these great chances.

Hana: There were many Canadian fans at the concert. They got to know you by watching Korea dramas and later came to listen your music.

Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

Speaking of your music, what song would you recommend to new fans?

Well, if you are a new listener, I would recommend to start listening to the first album. My songs are like… same as other singers, every album has different vocal style, I try to have different colours of music. It is not like a serious of album with same style. First, second, third… First jumped to 5th album, the sound is different, there are huge difference. Even if I listen to my first album, I think ‘is this really me?’ There are big changes in my singing method. It is a point that you can feel my charm, if you listen from the first album…fifth…eighth…

Which has been a memorable performance for you to communicate with your fans? Where would you like to perform in the future?

I like to communicate with my fans, I have good memories when I performed on smaller stages. I can feel the fans closely. The small concerts have longer schedules than big ones, I have to watch my condition, and it consumes a lot of energy but I found it is very attractive. One performance that I did a couple of years ago, I did a camping type of concert. We had recreation activities, games and so on. There were about 300 people, we divided them into groups, did games and had camp fires as well. It was very memorable, I liked it personally.

Next place to perform… I will take a break from having a concert in Korea next year, am planning to have more concerts overseas. Canada is the first one. Next year, I’m drawing a picture for USA, South Asia, Japan, China, and Australia and so on. I don’t have anything concrete yet, but I want to meet Koreans overseas next year.

Hana: As one of the expats, we need more of these!!


Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

Is there any Canadian/American singer whom you want to collaborate with?

Hana: like Justin Bieber

I personally like Drake more. I am not a fan of him [Bieber], but I like one of Justin Bieber’s songs, “Love Yourself”. It’s a great song. It would be great to have a stage with Drake. I also like Michael Bublé and Celine Dion. Celine Dion is not a trendy singer at this moment, but she made history as a vocalist. I went to Las Vegas to see her performance. I assume she had grown up with breathing clean, fresh air as she has incredible voice. She is so great.

Hana: it’s surprise to hear that one of top singers in Korea went to see other’s show? It sounds pretty new.

Oh well… When I was young, I got inspired, influenced by her. I admire her.

This is our final question, your last release was in 2014. Are you planning to release a new album any soon?

I am planning to have a new album, 8th album. In near future, the 20th anniversary is coming up. But I don’t want to be under that pressure that I must release a good album since I have a big gap between them. If I work on my music like that I won’t be able to produce a good album. When I really want to do… I want to produce my album with the feeling that how and what can I show to my fans with my heart flutter. I try not to have big pressure from it. But I am thinking of a 20th anniversary one, and I know that the fans expect to hear me soon… in the near future, for 20th anniversary, you will hear a new album, a new project I am planning to have it come true.

Kim Bum Soo in Toronto
Kim Bum Soo in Toronto

Final Thoughts

I want to sincerely than Kim Bum Soo who was kind enough to make time in his busy schedule to sit down with us for an interview. Thanks also to TR Canada for arranging it for us and of course, to my wonderful friend Hana for her help as an interpreter and translator. Despite being told we only had a limited time for the interview, it turned out to be one of the longest I’ve conducted as Kim Bum Soo was very eloquent with his answers and generous with his time.

If you aren’t already familiar with him, I recommend starting with “I Miss You (보고싶다)” from the Stairway to Heaven (천국의 계단) OST as that is the first song of his that I listened to.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

One thought on “Interview: Kim Bum Soo

  • August 22, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I’m not too familiar with Kim Bum Soo as well, but I was able to watch him in this variety show, Invisible Man. I really enjoyed this show but sadly, it was cancelled.

    I saw him again at Fantastic Duo. He sang “I Miss You” with the contestant. Kim Da Mi and it was amazing! At Fantastic Duo too, he sang in perfect harmony with Taeyang and Lim Chang Jung while singing “Eyes, Nose, Lips”.

    He has a full cover of the song at Yoo Huiyeol’s Sketchbook. I just think he’s an amazing singer. I should really explore his music more. 🙂

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