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[Herald Interview] Singer-songwriter Demian hopes to sing complexity of emotions with not-so-loud voice

Some might say that life is a succession of pain and joy, but for Demian, it was one tight ball of ambiguity. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter believed that even the most miniscule moments of life, despite their fleeting nature, overflowed with complex, undefined, contradicting emotions.

“I try to seize those unfamiliar moments in our daily lives, when all kinds of conflicting emotions crash with each other, such as love, hatred, guilt and understanding,” said the rising singer-songwriter during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

“I think people and this society tend to simplify those mixed feelings and quickly jump to conclusions without speculating. What I try to do with my music is to unravel those tangled emotions and tell listeners that it’s okay to be ambiguous. I think a lot of listeners would sympathize with it.” 

Demian (Sony Music Korea)
Demian (Sony Music Korea)
Having freshly burst into the scene with his first single “Cassette” in March, this sophisticated rookie makes music that is as toned-down as his whispery speaking voice. His stage name -- his given name is Son Jung-hyuk -- follows after the philosophical character from the novel of the same title by Hermann Hesse, as Son shares that he saw the resemblance between Demian and himself.

Although his bleached blonde hair looked artistic enough, Son said that his life before encountering Sony Music Korea was far from the path of becoming a musician. Music has always been his hobby and he had talent in it, but his youth was more tilted toward academics. He entered one of the most prestigious colleges in Korea as a business major. He’d thought he would become an accountant or work day and night in a consulting firm just like his peers.

“But soon I realized that living a typical office life wouldn’t fit for me and I had too much passion for music,” recalled Demian. “I knew it was way too late to start music professionally but I’d thought I’d give up after releasing at least one good album. I even developed a habit of searching for other artists who started music later than me.”

After continuously sharing his self-crafted songs on SoundCloud and promoting himself on Instagram, he finally got a call from Sony Music. But the road to debut was bumpier than he’d imagined.

“Acting out of the character was the hardest. I wasn’t outgoing enough to comfortably reach out to random people and ask them to listen to my songs,” he said. Some even raised eyebrows over his unprecedented behaviors and sudden transformation. But Son was desperate to achieve his dream.

For the first time in his life, he bleached his hair and took vocal lessons to mold his own musical style. It took him two agonizing years to break out of his shell, but Son still says that “keeping a low tension” is his inborn trait.

Son continued, “I have a not-so-loud voice, which won’t make me look like a diva. No matter how I try to make upbeat music, it may sound somber.”

“But I think there are certain messages that can only be relayed through my small voice, give listeners a feeling that I’m sharing my own stories, secrets and emotions with them,” adding that his all-time favorite musician is the late Mac Miller, whom he thinks is a master of storytelling rapping.

“As a business major, I’d like to say audiences could consume me as they please, as long as I could offer them the best.”

Demian released his second EP “Karma” in June.

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