Interview by Claire Liu - Illinois, USA
In an increasingly globalized age of media, means of connection and empathy are becoming more and more valuable on a daily basis. One of the most powerful methods of empathy is present in music, a universal sharing of emotions. Music has the power of connecting with individuals as it shapes and takes meaning on a deeply personal level. These connections and impact are a driving force in LA-based singer, song-writer, DJ, and producer Gloria Kim's many paths working in the music industry.
Though currently based in LA, Kim is originally from the East Coast. Born to two pastors, she has been involved with music for the majority of her life. "I grew up with music at church all the time... and I played piano and violin when I was younger," Kim recalled. While she also started writing from an early age, her journey to perform her songs took a few more years.
"In fourth grade, I went to the Scholastic Book Fair and found a songwriting book... I started writing songs but nobody knew about it until my sophomore year of high school," Kim remembered. However, after a friend discovered her notebook of songs, she was pushed into performing at a talent show and really starting her journey in performing music.
During this time, Kim also began teaching herself the guitar and ukulele. "My mom had a really old guitar at the house... I picked it up and put new strings on it, and I was like, 'ok I'm going to learn,'" Kim said. Partly influenced by singer-songwriters like Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson in addition to rock influences by Paramore, Kim started as a songwriter but began slowly transitioning into more pop, R&B, and EDM.
After taking classes at the Berklee College of Music prior to her last year of high school, Kim made the quick decision to switch her future career path to song-writing and music. "I took song-writing classes there and I absolutely fell in love with it, so last minute I switched," Kim said. In regards to this decision, Kim credits the support of her mother and the people around her in committing to her musical career. "This would make me happy for the rest of my life," Kim cited as a major factor in her final decision. Despite the possible risks of making the switch, Kim ultimately decided to follow her mother's advice: "Wake up and do something you absolutely love... and make that your career."
Since her start in a more singer-songwriter and rock influenced genre of music, Kim has expanded to listening and taking interest in nearly all genres including country, rap, EDM, and pop. In regards to her own music, Kim describes it as pop given the breadth of such a term. "Pop these days is so [diverse]... I write whatever feels good to me," Kim stated.
Once moving to LA to focus on her music, Kim began focusing intensely on her song-writing. She remembers one of the first songs she worked on, "Take Me" by Will Sparks feat. Gloria Kim, as a major accomplishment in this process. "That was the call that I got as an artist," Kim recalled.
From her focus as a song-writer, Kim started performing more as an artist and eventually took on producing and DJ-ing. "I knew how to play some instruments so it was putting that with software to start figuring [things] out," Kim said. After releasing "Mood" as one of the first songs she worked on as a producer with fellow musician and producer Shawn Halim, Kim has continued to explore and work on music production as an avenue of creativity. As an intensely visual learner, Kim relied on YouTube videos and mentors to teach herself skills in production and DJ-ing. "When I have something in my mind that I want to do or learn, I just have to do it," Kim expressed.
In regards to her song-writing process, Kim takes inspiration from her everyday life. While composition can be started from a wide variety of prompts, such as instrumentals and samples, Kim's lyrics and melodies all stem from her own life experiences. "With all of my writing... it's life. Whatever inspires me in everyday living..." Kim revealed. This mindset of empathy and authenticity takes fruition in processes she refers to as "writing dumps" to simply get her emotions and thoughts on paper to rework later. As an example, one of Kim's most popular songs, "Winter Without You," was written by sitting at a piano and entering such a flow of writing. She hopes that this sincerity in her writing shapes her songs to be "shared experiences" between her and her audience. "Everything I write, I want people to be able to connect with it, even if it's one person," Kim stated.
However, this authenticity has also posed a challenge for Kim in the music industry. "Other people have a product that they can sell. In the music business, you have to sell your own voice or your songwriting or your production skills... You're putting yourself on the line," Kim said. She cites the vulnerability of advertising and creating music that derives from life as one of the most interesting but challenging parts of working in music.
The confidence thus required to create a career in the music industry is also a particular challenge to gender equality. While Kim encourages more female artists to stand up for themselves and their work, she recognizes that there are stigmas and stereotypes that act as an obstacle against this. "You have to prove yourself in a lot of situations, in certain rooms and studios... you can't take such a backseat role without coming off as a control freak," Kim said.
Thus, Kim encourages prospective artists to learn as much as they can and form connections wherever they are. "The music industry is a really tough place, [especially] in the sense of the business side," Kim stated. Kim herself went to school to study business and audio engineering so that she could adequately navigate her way around the industry and learn ways to protect herself as an artist. "Be a sponge and learn everything that you can about the industry... knowledge is power, know as much as you can," Kim advised.
Additionally, as success is often reliant on relationships within the industry, it is extremely vital for newer artists to be aware and confident in what they bring to the table. Kim remembers her own experience of understanding her identity before entering the industry as crucial to her ability to build her career from a healthy standpoint. "Be confident. Know that what you're doing is something good," Kim stated. She emphasized the importance for artists to take the time to understand who they want to be and refusing to allow external judgement to alter their self-worth.
Despite all the challenges her work presents, Kim is consistently grateful and passionate for her work and the impact she has on her audience. Specifically, she hopes that the music she produces can help listeners understand that they are not alone. "I want people to have the connection of 'someone else understands what I'm going through,'" Kim said. She refers to the private messages she receives from listeners surrounding their experiences and feelings of comfort through her songs, especially a song she contributed to called "Save Yourself" by Vanic ft. Gloria Kim, as her greatest success as she reinforces the concept of not being alone. "If I am making an impact in at least one person's life with the music that I make, that's success [to] me," Kim stated.
In the future, Kim hopes to explore more genres and a wider variety of emotions in her music. Similar to her recent releases with Besomorph such as "Midnight Sky," she is interested in making more upbeat songs that lend towards dancing. Additionally, she seeks to create songs that reflect a diverse array of her emotions. "It's all part of who I am and what I want to relay in my music," Kim said.
Regardless of the exact forms her future work will take, Kim is set on creating greater forms of empathy and connection with her audiences in all genres and emotions. No matter the distance or setting, Kim's music is sure to touch and inspire the hearts of many.
This or That with Gloria Kim:
1. Books or movies? - Movies (only because of the music!)
2. Winter or summer? - Summer
3. Singing or dancing? - Dancing (anywhere and everywhere)
4. Cake or pie? - Cake
5. Chocolate or vanilla? - Chocolate
Connect and follow Gloria at the following links!
Website Contact: https://www.gloriakimofficial.com/contact
Check out some of the songs mentioned in the article:
Winter Without You Official MV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WLeYiOK_Qs
Mood Official Lyric Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60uRkjNhnjs
Save Yourself by Vanic feat. Gloria Kim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KJ99ELqYvU
Take Me by Will Sparks feat. Gloria Kim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGMA-zR4kcQ
Midnight Sky by Besomorph feat. Gloria Kim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlvOVNg7U1o