By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
It may be hard to imagine, but even a long-time boy band member like Kim Dong-wan
can get nervous when embarking on a solo career.
Even having sold hundreds of thousands of albums as a member of Shinhwa, Kim admitted he is a little apprehensive at the reaction to his first album "Kimdongwan Is".
"I'm kind of nervous to have a performance by myself, to stand on stage by myself and to do a whole song", he told The Korea Times at a cafe in Apgujeong, Wednesday.
Wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and jeans, Kim looked relaxed and showed no sign of fatigue, even though he was in the middle of rehearsals.
Kim said it was Shinhwa's successful Asian tour last year, which brought them to Singapore, China, Thailand and Japan, that prompted him to decide to pursue a solo music career.
"I realized that Shinhwa was loved in Asia. I felt like I had something special I wanted to share with fans… Now I think this is the right time for me to debut as a singer", he said.
If the pressure of going solo was not enough, Kim also has to compete with fellow Shinhwa members Lee Min-woo
, also known as M and Shin Hye-sung who are both releasing solo albums this summer.
"I consider them as my rivals", Kim said, with a smile. "I want to win over the fans… But I still consider them as my friends, of course. We're friendly rivals".
Even rivals help each other out, as Shinhwa members appeared on various songs in Kim's album. Lee composed a song called "My Love", which also features a rap by Eric Mun
. Shin sings a duet with Kim on "Person Who Stays", while Andy Lee raps on "I Like Summer".
Overall, Kim opted for a more Asian, if not, J-pop-influenced R&B sound for his album. "Shinhwa's music is more of boy band music. It was more American R&B and candy pop. But my album is more of J-pop, and very Asian. I even remade a Japanese song by Glay and Exile in the album", he said.
His first single "Handkerchief " is about a guy who consoles his girlfriend and wipes away her tears.
In preparation for his debut as a solo artist, Kim obviously dropped a lot of weight. "I went on a diet, since it's not good for a ballad singer to have a muscular image. Someone singing ballads should have a lean, 'hungry-looking' image", he noted.
Kim has been in the music industry for over nine years now. When he was a high school student, he formed a group with his friend MC Mong
. But he was soon asked to join Shinhwa in 1998, becoming one of the group's vocalists.
Despite Shinhwa's success, one of Kim's dreams was to become an actor. So he started pursuing an acting career, appearing in TV dramas like "A Farewell to Sorrow
, " "My Dearest Love"
and the film "Spin Kick
Being a singer-actor, Kim couldn't help but notice that Korean singers are not considered as popular or as influential as actors.
"The influence of actors is a lot stronger than the that of singers in Korea. But in Japan, it's the other way around. Japanese idols and singers are a lot more popular than actors. It's not just that they have more fans, but the Japanese idols can also sing, act and do other activities. I have the ability to be an actor and singer", he said.
In the past, Kim had said he would prefer a career in acting, but now things have changed. Now, he loves singing more than acting.
"When you watch a drama, you forget all about it after. But when you listen to music, it sticks with you forever. You can't forget it", he said.