With the ability to capture a plethora of emotions and spin them into both fun, and catchy melodies, Eric Nam’s optimistic music is the anthem of a generation.
The easiest way to describe what singer and songwriter Eric Nam is like in real life, is that he’s like a real-life oppa. Take a dose of playful charm, add just a pinch of brooding, and finish it off with boyish good looks and a honey voice to match and you have all the makings of a Korean drama leading man. But this one is posing right in front of us, in a chocolate-colored sweater, trousers and Margiela shoes, and about to get candid about everything from his favorite albums to what he loves most about being a creative.
Nam is in Manila on the cusp of his worldwide tour to promote his new single, House on a Hill, and the eight-track album of the same name that’s slated to drop on September 8. “It is probably the most important album of my career to date. Because it really allows me to hold together everything that I’ve learned, and experienced as a singer-songwriter, as a creative, as a producer, as a writer, over the past 10 years. Not only in musical form, but in film, TV, physical, all that kind of stuff,” he tells Vogue Philippines.
Indeed, Nam has proven his mettle many times over as a musician, host, television personality, and more, throughout his prolific career. He first shot to fame as one of the top 5 finalists in the Korean music competition Star Audition: Birth of a Great Star 2 in 2013, which led to him signing with B2M Entertainment and releasing multiple K-Pop records. He has since been named GQ Korea’s Man of the Year, and was feted as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30.
Fluent in both English and Korean and with a natural wit and affability, he’s become somewhat of a go-to interviewer for Hollywood celebs, chatting with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Amanda Seyfried, Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, and more. He was likewise a mainstay on the Korean TV circuit, hosting for talk shows and appearing in various programs, on top of performing his music, that’s enamored fans with its addictive mix of pop, R&B, and soul.
Having been in the game for a few years now, Nam’s discography is extensive. It’s melodious and heart-fluttering in The Night, a ballad from the Song He Kyo and Park Bo Gum series Encounter, whilst being upbeat in catchy K-Pop tunes Can’t Help Myself and Runaway. He straddles the worlds of K-Pop and mainstream pop with aplomb, as he continues to find new avenues for sharing his unique voice.
The story behind “House On A Hill”
The 34-year-old says that the inspiration behind his album, and its namesake single, was a real house he had considered acquiring. “To me, this album is much about an existential crisis, kind of an introspective period where I [had] wanted to get this house on a hill,” Nam narrates.
And while the Korean-American did not end up getting the house, it did lead to a bit of soul-searching. He shares: “It made me start to question what is it that makes me really happy. What’s the reason for me wanting to own a house. Is it status, is it happiness? Is it a sense of stability of something that’s mine?”
Nam’s honest introspection is reflected in the title track, which features vocals by Em Beihold, vulnerable and yet hopeful in its search for answers to age-old questions as to what makes us happy or fulfilled.
“I think the hard part about creative is that, when you’re creative, sometimes it can feel like nothing is every enough. And you need to do more, need to have more. And you need to make it bigger and better and flashier. Which is kind of what the first song, House on a Hill is about,” he shares. “But finding, peace and contentment, and happiness in what you have achieved, and what you are achieving already. I think that’s kind of like the trick to becoming, I don’t wanna say a ‘happy creative,’ maybe a ‘happier creative.’ Which is where I’ve been trying to put my efforts towards.”
The Atlanta-born singer’s newest song does indeed have a wistful and feel-good quality to it amidst its pensive lines, the kind you’d listen to on a breezy summer’s day. The trailer for the album that just dropped however, hint at a seductive darkness laced with dramatic theatricality, indicating that there may be more than meets the eye. Nonetheless, his second song Don’t Leave Yet, which is slated to premiere on August 11, should offer more clues.
Indeed, with House on a Hill being his third English album after starting his own production company, the Eric Nam Company, the musician is on a roll. “I’d like to think that I’ve evolved and developed a lot. I would like to think that my melodies have gotten stronger, my lyrics have gotten stronger. And hopefully increasingly more relatable, I think,” Nam shares candidly. “When I think about a song, I wanna capture a certain moment, or the essence of a memory at its core…As best I can.”
Dressing for center stage
As he poses in front of the camera, he shares a bit about his favorite brand, revealing that he gravitates towards understated looks that are elevated with the addition of nuanced details and expert craftsmanship. He’s inspired by the classic aesthetic of Bottega Veneta, Prada and Jil Sander, whilst at times favoring Gucci and Dries van Noten when he’s trying to create a more playful look on stage. Recent finds are from brands like Bode, Karu Research, and Harago with a focus on handmade and hand-dyed textiles and beautiful embroidery.
He jokes that he may have a bit of a shopping problem, but defends himself by saying that he’s shopping for tour, and that he’s extremely casual when he’s just at home. “When I’m on camera or when I’m on stage, I wanna look good. And I think how you present yourself to the world, or on stage, really tells a fuller story of who you are what you wanna express. And that’s why we pay a lot of attention to it,” he declares.
When he’s not doing music, you can find him hosting his popular podcast, Dive Studios’ Daebak Show with Eric Nam, where he interviews celebrities and musicians alike. “I think it resonates with people because they get to see some of their favorite artists in a less filtered situation. I tend to ask questions that I’m genuinely curious about,” he shares. “There’s a lot more free-flowing conversation, and it’s refreshing for a lot of fans to see that.”
And while the creative journey may also come with its set of challenges, the independent artist is thankful for its ability to inspire and foster connection. “The benefits or the incredible things about doing creative work is that when you are able to have people around the world listen to your music, or watch your films, or look at your art, and appreciate it. And say that it impacted them, or affected them in a positive way. I think that’s probably the most rewarding part of the job,” he shares.
House on a Hill, the album by Eric Nam, will be available on September 8.
Eric Nam wears LANVIN Pullover, GUCCI Trousers, and MAISON MARGIELA Tabi Loafers. Photographer: Jerick Sanchez. Styling and grooming: Jinah Lee. Writer: Mariane Perez. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza. Art Direction: Gabbi Constantino. Digital Associate: Adam Pereyra. Multimedia Artist: Bea Lu. Photography Assistant: Jasper Albano. Video by Aijalonica Lei. Video Assistants: Joey Alvero, Rain Sevilla. Special thanks to Kroma Entertainment.
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