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“I think it’s a starting point to my solo career”

May 30th, 2024

The first impression Baekhyun makes when NME meets up with him isn’t so much about the person, but that golden voice of his. As his team ushers us through the backstage area of the Resorts World Ballroom in Singapore, the EXO singer’s smooth, syrupy vocals echo through the darkened venue, as he painstakingly rehearses for a concert that would take place just hours after we speak to him in the island city.

The Singapore stop of the K-pop idol’s 2024 ‘Lonsdaleite’ Asia tour is the first time he has held a concert on his own outside of South Korea and Japan. A major milestone for any artist – but especially so for Baekhyun, who is slowly returning to the spotlight after a prolonged break since enlisting for military service in 2021. “I think it’s a starting point to my career [as a solo artist],” he says when asked what the tour means to him.

While Baekhyun has been putting out solo work since 2019, starting with the chart-topping mini-album ‘City Lights’, this tour certainly feels like a new beginning for the veteran singer, who is now over a decade into his career as a K-pop star. “I wanted to show the possibility of me changing endlessly,” he says of his vision of the tour. “I’m showing myself but also having fans look forward to what’s to come.”

Baekhyun. Credit: UnUsUaL Entertainment

This moment has been a long time coming for both the EXO singer and his fans. “I’ve been busy behind the scenes, although I haven’t released any solo albums or been active in that regard,” he admits, with his last mini-album ‘Bambi’ having come out way back in 2021. That time away from solo music, though, has allowed him to “develop” as an artist, telling NME that he has been “diligently practising and improving my craft, including songwriting and vocal lessons”.

At the same time, Baekhyun also speaks about not wanting to “limit” himself to the R&B sound that fans have come to know and love. While the genre is still his “personal favourite” and something he wants to “continue experimenting with”, the singer is striving to “try new things” with his artistry and solo career. “Regardless of the type of music, I want to make it uniquely mine,” he says.

“I would like it to become a company that is known for prioritising and working hard to create a better environment for the fans”

Telling NME that he is indeed “preparing an album” amid the tour, Baekhyun delves deeper into the artists and musicians he’s been drawing influence from. “Recently, I’ve been listening again to old pop and R&B music that I used to enjoy,” he says, naming Justin Bieber as one such example. “I draw a lot of musical inspiration from Justin Bieber’s music as well, which blends elements of pop and R&B into a style that is uniquely his own.”

“I’ve also been revisiting the music of Eric Benét, who I’ve liked since I was young due to his stable and outstanding vocal skills,” he adds. “They are artists who can command the stage with a single gesture, possessing the skill to express musical notes in the way that feels authentic to themselves. I admire them because I understand how much practice and effort is needed to achieve such an effortless and natural performance on stage.”

exo baekhyun inb100 interview new music
Baekhyun. Credit: UnUsUaL Entertainment

Three years is a long break between releases for any musician, but especially so for those in the K-pop industry, where artists typically drop new music multiple times a year. Though, Baekhyun hasn’t exactly left fans high and dry, having worked on a number of exciting projects since completing his military service. That includes the chance to provide vocals for the virtual boyband Heartsteel, made up of characters from League of Legends.

The singer reveals that Riot Games had reached out with an offer after finding out that his favourite character from the video game is Ezreal, before adding that he is “open” to the idea of returning to voice the character again. Baekhyun would go on to perform the boyband’s single ‘Paranoia’ live for the first time at the League of Legends Worlds 2023 Finals, alongside fellow real-life Heartsteel counterparts Cal Scruby, Tobi Lou and ØZI.

“I am grateful that in the years since my debut, K-pop has expanded and reached more people worldwide”

However, to Baekhyun, that can’t compare to when he performed at the MLB World Tour in Seoul, which he says was a “very nervous moment” for him. “It was actually my first time performing the US national anthem,” he adds, saying that he felt “so small” on stage at the “giant” Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. “As I [was singing] on behalf of the team, it was something I really had to do well. So, I kept practising and I got more nervous [as a result, but] I think I did a good job on my own.”

Out of all his milestones in the past year, the most monumental is undoubtedly the start of a “new journey”, his own agency called INB100. Baekhyun describes the venture as an avenue for him to “show my fans a better side of myself” as a solo artist and, more notably, as a producer. “I’m currently studying various genres and researching a wide range of music to further develop my skills as a producer,” he reveals. “I’m also looking forward to the possibility of my songs being included in an album someday.”

exo baekhyun inb100 interview new music
Baekhyun. Credit: INB100 Entertainment

Beyond production work, Baekhyun also plans to “frequently showcase new diverse aspects of myself” in order to “offer fans something different from what they’ve seen before”. With the launch of INB100, though, also comes with ”a deeper sense of responsibility and a bit of pressure”, he says. “For instance, previously, I only had the responsibility on stage as a performer, but now, I have to consider everyone I work with and the direction I’m heading in.”

Yet, he tells NME that he doesn’t have aspirations for INB100 to “grow fast”, instead hoping to create a positive culture for the agency’s artists and fans. “I would like it to become a company where artists and fans can shine together, and one that is known for prioritising and working hard to create a better environment for the fans,” he states.

One thing that he’s very sure of is that his work with INB100 and as a solo artist will be able to go hand-in-hand with his EXO activities. “The chemistry among the presenters is excellent, and I have no worries about EXO’s future,” Baekhyun says proudly. “[We] will always come together. Whether it’s Singapore or anywhere else in the world, we will come back with a new album, and we’ll come visit.”

exo baekhyun inb100 interview new music
Baekhyun. Credit: INB100 Entertainment

When NME asks whether there’s anything the singer can tease for EXO in the future, his marketing manager stops him for a second, “Wait, can you disclose this?”, to which Baekhyun cheekily says: “Yes.” The singer then adds that “during winter, there will be something that’s coming up”, before leaving it up to our own interpretation.

As our time with Baekhyun quickly comes to an end, the singer looks back on his music career so far. “I am grateful that in the years since my debut, K-pop has expanded and reached more people worldwide, receiving more opportunities and love on a global scale,” he says. “Both senior and junior artists are working hard to contribute to [the genre’s growth], and I am also working hard to do the same.”

That mentality of hard work is what still drives Baekhyun, who continues striving to improve his skills as a singer and performer. “Instead of thinking about success, I focus on goals,” he states. And what is the singer’s goal right now? “To give back more to the people who love and support me, including my fans, and to reciprocate that love. All my music activities, establishing a company, and all other endeavours are aimed at achieving that goal.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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