2023 has been a year of changes for South Korean musician DAWN. Early this year, the artist signed with producer duo GroovyRoom's label AT AREA following his departure from P NATION in 2022. Kickstarting a new era in his artistry, the 29-year-old — real name Kim Hyo-jong — released his latest EP Narcissus, a reflection of his 20s and his journey of love thus far. Just about a month after the album's release, DAWN began his mandatory military service as a public service worker, putting a halt to his career.
"If I could go back in time, I would want to try out a different scenario at every moment I had to make a decision — but of course that would just fill your life with a bunch of what-ifs," DAWN tells HBX in an interview that took place shortly before his military enlistment. "Right now, I'm only moving forward and I don't intend on looking back." While the artist's career is put on a brief pause, the projects he had been working on prior are continuing to roll out, proving just how much more he has to offer once he returns from his service.
Below, read our conversation with DAWN and our latest editorial shot in Seoul.
This is your second EP as a solo artist, and your first EP since you signed with AT AREA. What has your journey with AT AREA been like so far? What are some things you enjoy about working with this label?
AT AREA's biggest strength is teamwork. Skilled producers and artists come together to make good music, and the rest of the team brings it all together to build a strong album, further creating appropriate content to promote the release. It may be because we are all similar in age, but it feels like we're just learning and growing together.
How do you think your sound has developed over the years? In what ways do you think Narcissus is a turning point in your artistry?
I believe I've always been trying new things and taking on challenges, even before joining AT AREA. The only difference is that I used to be very hands-on and involved in the visual creation process. Now, I have a full team of producers and creatives with strong backgrounds, which I think contributes to a more well-rounded and polished album. Now that I've worked with the team for a bit, I'm confident we'll be able to continue to create more albums as great as, or even better than, Narcissus.
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What is one memorable moment from the process of creating Narcissus?
I really enjoyed going through each of the songs with everyone involved as we finished working on them.
What were some challenges you took on throughout the process of making Narcissus?
I believe every album is about challenges and taking chances. There were quite a few this time around — including trying out different genres and full-English tracks — but I think the biggest one for me was the style in which I sing. After joining AT AREA, I learned that there's a bigger variety of sounds I can make with my voice.
What’s your definition of love?
I'll probably be fascinated by and curious about love until the day I die. Most recently, I was asking myself whether love is nothing more than a stimulant or substance called phenethylamine. I don't deny that completely, but I do believe that love goes way beyond that in ways we cannot explain.
You’ve cited “love” as one of the key themes of your latest EP. How has your evolving view on love influenced how you approach music?
We are all born to love and be loved. I'm just doing my best as a musician and artist to put my all into my work, as I have done with love throughout my life.
How do you think you’ve spent your 20s? What are you looking forward to the most in your 30s?
If I could go back in time, I would want to try out a different scenario at every moment I had to make a decision — but of course that would just fill your life with a bunch of what-ifs. Right now, I'm only moving forward and I don't intend on looking back. I'm just excited to see my experiences in life entangle together and how that will shape me and my work in the future.
What are some things you’ve found interesting lately?
I've been interested in photography lately. I don't have the best memory, so oftentimes I struggle to recall any beautiful moments I experience in life. With photography, I can capture those moments that I want to remember from my very own perspective.
How did you feel overall about the promotional activities you did for your latest EP and is there anything you want to tell your fans?
It's already been seven years since I started as a musician. I still have a long way to go, but I'm happy knowing that there will be improvement and growth as I continue to progress in my career. I want to tell my fans that when we meet again, I will bring an unimaginably amazing album and also that I love them.