Welcome to Fan Chant, a weekly column for K-pop fans, stans, and newbies alike. Each week, I’ll be rolling out interviews, lists, and all kinds of content to keep you in the loop on the latest and greatest from our friends in Seoul and beyond. Also, make sure to subscribe to my companion newsletter!
It’s approaching midnight in Seoul when KANGDANIEL sits down for an interview over Zoom, black baseball cap on. He’s not bothered by the time we’re meeting, he explains — he just came from the gym. “I’m really into working out right now,” he says, almost bashfully.
Mild-mannered and thoughtful in our conversation, KANGDANIEL exudes drama onstage. He has the ability to strike a balance in his music between pop hooks and R&B energy, the latter of which is often aided by collaborations with fellow KR&B artists like pH-1 or Chancellor. He’s perennially drawn to cinema, and his writing process is a bit atypical, often seeing the soloist placing himself in expansive narratives of his own design.
He’s in the middle of a world tour right now, titled “The First Parade,” which kicked off in the UK in January. This Friday, March 3nd, he’ll touch down in the US with a show in New York, and continue making his way across the country to wrap up in Los Angeles later this month. Read the full chat with KANGDANIEL below.
You’re in the middle of your world tour, about to come to the US. I was curious what you were most excited about when it came to this tour and preparing to meet fans on the road.
As you know, the US is huge with its music market. I’ve been such a fan of US music for such a long time, so of course I’m very thrilled to meet the fans while on the road. At the same time, the US is the home of my musical inspirations, so I look forward to touring there. It will be a great opportunity to promote my music, too.
I really liked your 2022 album, THE STORY — I especially enjoyed “How We Live” (feat. sokodomo). Do you have a specific track you’re excited to perform each night?
My pick would be “MAD” because it’s so fun and energetic — although, of course, the message can come across as a little dark. But it’s still fun.
I was also excited to see that you’ll be performing at the very first We Bridge Festival in Las Vegas in April. How is preparing for a festival set different for you from preparing for a solo concert?
The preparation is similar for festivals and solo concerts, but the major difference is that in concerts I only perform my songs and have all the time I need. For festivals, I have a scheduled time slot, and in the midst of that I need to promote my songs. The way you prepare for a specific slot can be different.
So would you say you try to pick specific songs that best showcase you as an artist?
Personally, I think that for festivals, rather than focusing on how you perform, it’s more about connecting with the audience. At a solo concert it’s headsets and mics and dance performances, and festivals it’s more about hand mics and reaching out to the fans. Being able to convey your gestures.
I was wondering what your songwriting process is like, and if you’re someone with lots of ideas to sort through or if you start writing when inspiration strikes.
I love imagination, and the way I work is that when I listen to a song, I almost picture a virtual protagonist — a hero or heroine. If the backdrop is an almost Middle Ages type vibe, for example, I start imagining the protagonist facing hardships, maybe a war or conflict. Ideas start rushing into me, then, and that’s kind of the way I work.
What’s been inspiring you lately? Is there something specific that’s filled you up creatively?
I guess it’s mostly films for me, because I’ve been an avid fan of films since I was little. My song “Ready to ride” was inspired by Star Wars; I was really drawn to the pilots. I started to unleash my imagination and the themes of those films give me inspiration.
Have you watched The Mandalorian?
Yes, of course.
What are some of your goals as we continue into 2023?
I feel a bit nervous performing solo concerts in the US, because to be honest, K-groups have been performing a lot in the US, but often within the context of KCON or other projects and festivals. I haven’t had many solo concerts in the US, so I’m very nervous but excited to perform.
I want to finish the world tour on a solid note, and finish well. I’m also currently preparing a new album. Personally, I think I’ve always stood up to various challenges well, I guess, but with this one, I really want the outcome to be great.
KANGDANIEL’s “First Parade” World Tour continues this week — grab tickets via Stubhub.