The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] ‘I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life miserable’

Ali seeks less sadness, more joy in life as she returns with more upbeat music

By Hong Dam-young

Published : July 12, 2017 - 15:09

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Her husky yet warm voice used to dig deep into torn young hearts pining for past loves.

Fully charged with overpowering emotions, Korean singer-song writer Ali crooned lines like “If only I can remove you with an eraser, I want to erase you a hundred times over” in her tear-shedding ballad hits. 

Ali poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Ali poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

However, Ali’s persona has outgrown her downbeat past and the singer has developed into a young woman in her early 30s unafraid to explore life. She now wishes to unleash herself from the sadness that has kept her under pressure and live in a world full of laughter, honest mistakes and bright music.

“My world was all pitch-black at the time I sang ballad songs because I always had to dip myself into that sad emotion. Maybe that was the reason why people could relate themselves to my songs. But as I grew older, I started to realize that I wanted my life to be filled with less sadness, and more joy,” Ali told The Korea Herald in Seoul.

The artist recalled that the years 2013 and 2014 were a tipping point of her life, when both physical and mental illness dragged her down to rock bottom.

Ali said she started to turn melancholy and miserable since she featured in “I’m Not Laughing” for now-defunct hip-hop duo Leessang in 2005, before she officially debuted in 2009. At the time the artist was only 22 years old, but she had to constantly think herself as a mature woman in her 30s and act out of character in order to deliver the convoluted feelings in the song.

“In 2013 I was so depressed that I was afraid of meeting people. I used to live with my parents, but at that time I left home and even temporarily stayed in a mountain area rarely frequented by people,” Ali said. 

Ali poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Ali poses during a recent interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

She felt as if a cloud of depression surrounded her. Being bound to such emotion made her a master of ballads, but it has also cemented the singer’s image as a poker-faced woman who seldom smiles.

“Along with the depression came a severe problem in my vocal cords in 2014. I was totally wrecked at that time that I even considered giving up on my musical career. After that experience, I’ve been trying to transform myself into a happy person by singing happy songs and thinking positively. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life miserable.”

Ali now prefers cheerful music to poignant tunes. Smiling was hard work before, but now she can laugh without holding back.

Although her previous non-ballad tracks didn’t receive as much attention as her ballad hits, she is optimistic the public will enjoy her upbeat vocals as well.

While the songstress has dropped several singles and full albums since her first album “SOULri” in 2011, she was mostly well-received for her impressive live performances on music competition show “Immortal Song” from 2014 to 2015, where she performed remastered versions of old Korean classics.

She also made headlines last year for her soulful singing on another competition show, “King of Masked Singer,” where she won three consecutive times.

After all those years of connecting with the audience through her voice, Ali also said she now feels most confident when performing live, which she defined as the pinnacle of her creativity and production ability.

Having successfully performed at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Los Angeles with singer Shin Yong-jae from June 16 to 17, Ali also said she now wishes to communicate with US-based fans by holding more concerts in the US in the future.

“My head is always overflowing with ideas for my performances, such as blending various music genres into one song or spicing up old classics with a modern sound,” Ali said.

“If I put more effort into mastering my live performance, I may be able to present people with shows just as good as Beyonce’s,” she added.

Ali is set to hold a solo concert at Blue Square Samsung Card Hall in Yongsan-gu, Seoul on Saturday, as a part of her first nationwide solo tour. Ali also revealed plans to release a new song in August, emphasizing that it won’t be a sad ballad song anymore. 

By Hong Dam-young (