[Herald Interview] Gospel singer Sohyang of ‘King of Masked Singer’ breaks out of shell

By Hong Dam-young
  • Published : Jul 3, 2017 - 18:07
  • Updated : Jul 4, 2017 - 12:18

Die-hard gospel singer Sohyang’s world used to revolve around two things: Jesus and church.

Appearing on TV was a big leap for the singer, who started her musical career in a small family-run gospel band in her early 20s. 

Some 20 years later, she is making headlines for her impressive performances on MBC’s weekly music competition show “King of Masked Singer,” where she hid her identity with a mask and won six consecutive victories until she lost to another contestant Sunday. She set a record with the highest number of consecutive wins ever achieved by a female contestant on the program. 

Gospel singer Sohyang poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Incheon. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Having her roots in Christianity, however, the singer confessed that experiencing the Korean entertainment industry and coming under the media spotlight has made her wonder whether all the fame and reputation are what she truly wants.

“Frankly speaking, each competition from ‘King of Masked Singer’ was so stressful and burdensome that I used to cry all the time,” said Sohyang during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Incheon.

“One thing I realized from the experience was that I didn’t want to compromise my religious faith to chase fame or reputation, which are highly valued in the entertainment industry. I just hope my music can comfort people and mend their wounded hearts, and that’s what Jesus wants for me to do as well.”

The song she performed on Sunday’s episode was also in line with her values. Although singing rapper BewhY’s hip-hop number “Day Day” was a huge challenge for the soulful vocalist, Sohyang said she chose the track because she thought the song’s lyrics contained religious messages. She has no regrets, although the song may not have catered to fans of her five-octave range voice, which led to her being unseated from the top spot in the program.  

Gospel singer Sohyang poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Incheon. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Singer Sohyang performs during MBC’s music competition show “King of Masked Singer.” (MBC)
It was an arduous journey, but Sohyang recalled she was way more confident and faithful to God performing in “King of Masked Singer,” compared to when she competed in “I Am a Singer” and the second season of “Immortal Songs.”

“One of the guest members from ‘King of Masked Singer’ even told me that it was as if I was singing with an invisible mighty figure when I performed,” Sohyang said.

While Sohyang has been a well-known gospel singer within the Christian community since her debut in 1996, it was not until she appeared in MBC’s “I Am a Singer” in 2012 that her name became known to the wider public. The show earned her fame and the nickname “Korean Mariah Carey.” But as a self-managing singer who didn’t come from an entertainment agency, she developed a habit of comparing herself to other big-name singers during the program. As a Christian, she also became extra cautious of her words, behavior and outfits, all of which made her even more self-conscious.

However, through the program, she also learned how to embrace people and not judge them by her standards.

“Before participating in ‘I Am a Singer,’ I was a stubborn and conservative Christian who refused to step outside my community. For example, I could never understand people drinking alcohol because it was against my rules,” Sohyang said.

“One day when I was performing on the show, I spotted a woman in the audience crying while listening to my song. That was the moment I realized the true reason I sing, to cheer people up regardless of their background.”

Still, the “I Am a Singer” experience saw her mired in low self-esteem. She even traveled to New York City for a month in hopes of regaining her life and that was the moment she received a message from a heavenly voice telling her to take the next step. Sohyang said the voice directed her to participating in “King of Masked Singer,” where she wanted to challenge herself and connect with people through her music again.

Asked about her future plans, Sohyang confessed that she may take a break from appearing on TV shows, regroup herself, or maybe go on a mission trip. While she plans to continue her musical career, the singer said she will focus on comforting people with her voice, rather than gaining fame and spotlight from it as she did before.

“After everything I’ve been through, I don’t think I fit well into the Korean entertainment industry. I will just carry on with what I am good at, which is to make people happy with my music,” she said.

“I also plan to work on my solo album. But this time, I’d prefer not to use my high-pitched voice. People should know, yelling out loud is tiresome for me as well,” she said.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)