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[Indie spirit] With gentle comfort, Kim Sawol portrays raw emotions

Confronting personal yet universal theme of loneliness, singer presents happy ending with new album

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : March 13, 2024 - 17:07

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Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol is a sincere yet mysterious figure, a quality that is often reflected in her music. Not much is known about the soft-voiced musician, including her real name and age. She uses the stage name "Sawol," the Korean word for April, which is the month of her birth.

Kim explained that she began her musical journey without disclosing any of her personal details because she is shy. "I am a musician, which means I need an audience. But paradoxically, I didn’t want people to know about me as a person. I want to be seen as a singer."

Kim grew up in a relatively conservative household, disconnected from the world of music and feeling like just an "ordinary" girl. Despite her fondness for art and music, she didn’t dare try to take the path of a musician. It was only after struggling to adjust to college life and taking a leave of absence that she began to discover her true passion.

"The leave of absence was kind of an escape for me. When I started performing on small stages around the Hongdae area, I realized I wouldn’t be able to return to the life I had been living before. Standing on stage was so fulfilling.”

"From the audiences who attend my performances to the colleagues who work with me, everyone connected to my music sympathizes with me in their own way. Even a seemingly trivial moment can be very special when I feel that people around me are feeling the same thing as me. Those moments are what keep me going.”

Kim’s music has a strong focus on lyrics, which reflect the complicated, self-contradictory feelings that swirl around in our minds.

“Some musicians get inspiration from external sources like movies or books, but I have to delve deep into my mind and my experiences to create something new. I especially rely on my tears. When I observe and contemplate the reasons behind my tears, I can find the raw materials for the lyrics,” said Kim, adding that composing the melody and choosing the music style and genre comes after writing the lyrics.

Although she frequently talks about raw emotions, a topic that might be uncomfortable for some, Kim’s music ultimately conveys warmth and support.

The singer chose the phrase “When all my tears have been shed, I'll fold a flower with the tissue I cried for you” from the song “Signals Across the Night“ as one of her favorite lyrics.

“Life is a combination of so many things, and it is impossible to distinguish one side from another. Because I also find life can be too lonely, I'm sending comfort and solidarity through my songs to those who feel the same way.”

Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Kim aspires to be "a singer who arouses curiosity."

"People might feel like I'm always talking about similar themes, but every piece of my music goes out into the world after lots of struggles. I hope my listeners will always feel curious about what I'm going to present next."

"I saw a comment saying that (my song) was surprising and awkward at first, but became more relatable after seeing the name Kim Sawol. It felt so good because I always want to be seen as an artist who tries new things and offers up something unusual."

Asked about her goals for the rest of the year, Kim said her upcoming album “Default,” which will be released on March 19, holds great meaning for her. Kim noted that she wrote a happy ending for the first time.

“It is about a narrator who cannot adapt to the universal concept of love, so the person goes on a journey to find the real meaning of love. The first half of the album consists of rough rock songs, showing how the narrator struggles during this journey. The title song is in the middle of the track list, and the latter half then becomes a folk album,” said Kim, emphasizing the wide spectrum of the album.

“It's nice to see a lonely person begin to find happiness. Even I am finding a way to find my happiness; I hope the listeners feel comforted by that.”

Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Singer-songwriter Kim Sawol poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, in Seoul, March 5. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)