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‘Barefoot diva’ celebrates 30 years of singing

Singer Lee Eun-mee on nationwide tour till February

Singer Lee Eun-mee is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her debut with a nationwide concert tour and the release of an album.

The 53-year-old debuted in 1989 as a guest singer of band Sinchon Blues. Three years later, she began a solo career and has since released more than 10 albums. In 1993, she took her shoes off onstage “to be free.” She has since been performing barefooted, earning the nickname of “barefoot diva.”


Singer Lee Eun-mee speaks at a press conference Tuesday in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. (Neobiz)
Singer Lee Eun-mee speaks at a press conference Tuesday in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. (Neobiz)

Two tracks from her upcoming album were prereleased in September. She also began a 35-city nationwide tour last month, “30 Years 1,000th, Thank You.”

“The 30 years have not been easy. There were hardships and miraculous moments,” Lee said at a press event Tuesday in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. “It is an amazing experience that makes me feel unexpected emotions. I am nervous and excited, like when I started to sing.”

The veteran singer is best known for the hit track “I Have a Lover,” released in 2005. The classic is a favorite of many here.

“Though I cannot pick one favorite song of mine, ‘I Have a Lover’ is the one track that sticks in my mind. It is the song that allowed me to get back onstage when I was in difficulty. Whether the track is a hit or not, it is an important song for me,” she said.

Though the singer has established herself as a gifted singer, Lee remains humble.

“One of the difficulties (of my career) is that I am a person who lacks talent. I struggle and fall into despair whenever I feel the limits of my talent,” she said. “Every moment I realize my lack of talent, I want to run away. It is hard to live a life that forces me to witness my own shortcomings.”

Lee has been vocal about the music scene, for instance, criticizing singers who lip-sync. She contributed an article to a monthly magazine in 2001, titled “Are You a Singer, Too?” She also took issue with broadcasting stations not providing adequate acoustics for live performances.

“Things have definitely changed. (The environment) has become much better, compared to when I started singing,” she said.

“But there is still some room for improvement (in the music scene). Like social issues, they are fundamental problems. I am sure though, things will improve as the world changes and evolves,” she said. “At least there are not many singers who lip-sync nowadays. Perhaps, I contributed a bit.”

The singer says she is near the end of her singing career and is thinking about how she should wrap up her career.

“I am a person full of desires,” she said. “I hope that my life -- the life that I am living right now -- can naturally sink into my face and voice, become my wrinkles and add a gloss to my voice, allowing the audience to feel the kind of person that I am.”

Lee’s concert tour began in October in Gwangju and continues through February. She will perform in Incheon on Nov. 23, followed by concerts in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, Seoul and Daegu, among others.

By Im Eun-byel (