In our comeback guide last month, we mentioned Jimmy Brown, an indie K-RnB artist. This week KPOP HIGH INDIA brings you a heart to heart conversation with Jimmy Brown. He has written, composed and sung quite a few songs. Jimmy Brown made his debut in October 2017, and since then has written songs for other artists and made a few compositions of his own. His famous hits include Irene, Let Me Know, and I Got You to name a few and his new music released today (13th December)!
As we began with the interview, it was night time in Seoul. Jimmy was having his dinner, but he still obliged to answer our interview. We spoke about a lot of things, including the inspiration behind his stage name ‘Jimmy Brown’. Read along to find some interesting never read before facts about him!
KHIGH: We’re so sorry to interrupt you between dinner.
Jimmy: Aye, no problem, I’m really excited about our conversation! (he smiled encouragingly as he continued to munch on his bread)
KHIGH: We came across your songs on Spotify. We looked for you on the internet but there was very little information. So can you tell us about your early life before becoming a musician?
Jimmy: When I was 18, I had two CDs with me – one was Chris Brown‘s second album, another was Kanye West‘s third album. I was hooked to their music, the R&B genre, and I decided I wanted to do something like that. I went to Australia for a year to explore more things. A year later, I came back to South Korea and I gave my university entrance test. I passed the exam as well, but I knew I wanted to pursue music. So I enrolled in a music college to learn more. But after a few days, I see that there is no scope for creativity. The teachers expect me to follow exactly what they present. So, I dropped out of college too and became an independent artist.
KHIGH: Is there a reason you did not sign up with any record label? Being an independent artist comes with its share of challenges, after all.
Jimmy: I had thought of that initially, but I did not find most of them to my liking. I wanted to make music on my terms, so I decided to go indie.
KHIGH: How did your parents react to your decision of dropping out of university and pursuing a career in music, especially as an indie artist?
Jimmy: Well, they did not take it well initially. My father especially did not like my decision to pursue a career in music. But eventually, they have given me their support in my decision. I understand their worry, I was 26 and many of my friends were already getting a job, so I decided to set out on my own path in music-making. (He giggled) We have to make money after all!
KHIGH: Jimmy Brown is your stage name. Could you tell us your inspiration behind it?
Jimmy: Actually, my real name is Ji Won Lee. Lee is my surname. I was in Australia for a year, and the family I stayed with asked me what my middle name is. I replied that it is ‘Ji’, so they said then we will call you Jimmy. And as i mentioned earlier, Chris Brown is one of my artist inspirations. Hence, the last name ‘Brown’. So that’s why “JIMMY BROWN”. (He concluded proudly)
KHIGH: On that note, do tell us your favourite song by Chris Brown and about your other favourite artists!
Jimmy: You know, Chris Brown has over 500 songs to his credit. He improves with each song, so all songs of his are my favourites. I can’t pick one! I love all R&B artists. I don’t really listen to other genres besides R&B. I listen to Trey Songz, August Alsina. Lately, I am in love with Kiana Ledé’s songs. You should listen to her!
KHIGH: You seem to draw heavy inspiration from Western R&B artists. Any Korean R&B artists that you like? Any dream collaborations that come to mind?
Jimmy: I listen to mostly Jay Park and Golden these days. Dream collaboration will be with Jay Park, Golden, Beenzino, Swings, E Sens. I’ll tell you when it comes through. hahaha
KHIGH: Oh we’re sure it’ll happen soon!
KHIGH: We spoke about your early life, could you shed light on your journey as a musician, starting with your debut.
Jimmy: I debuted with a single in 2017. Four consecutive singles actually, which was later combined into an EP titled ‘Jimmy Brown’.
KHIGH: What was your inspiration behind your singles, and the EP eventually?
Jimmy: I am not the kind of a person who has plans for the next move. One day I felt that I should I have an EP and one of my friends also suggested I go ahead with it. So that is how my second EP… Uh, I actually forgot the name of the EP hahaha! I don’t actually listen to my own songs. (after a pause) ah yes, I remember now. My second EP is titled ‘RE’ as in the reply we give to someone. The inspiration was a reply to my loves(supporters), not a romantic love for one person, but the emotion of love I felt for people around me.
KHIGH: Your third song ‘Irene‘ was a big hit. Is there a story behind making that song?
Jimmy: I was in my prime when I released my third EP Irene. I wrote the songs I wanted to, the way I needed to. I put out all my emotions in this EP. I think that is why people like this song so much. When I make a melody, I think in any language. It may not even be English or Korean. When I heard First Kiss, I heard the word ‘Irene’. Many of my songs come randomly. I mean sometimes it does not go along with my intentions. It could change to other directions drastically, without any intents or purposes. I knew that names in English have special meanings, like flowers or emotions. And I looked up about Irene and I instantly liked it. I want people to think about their Irene when they listen to this song.
KHIGH: Coming to your 2020 release ‘Grandma’. The song is an ode to your grandma. If you could tell us more about it, please do.
Jimmy: Yes, that song is for my grandma. My grandma was sick back then. The doctor had given her only six months to live. So, at that time I was scared that she might actually leave me. Earlier I used to think that Grandma is supposed to live forever with me, you know. That was the first time I felt that she could actually pass away. I wrote that song after a phone call with my grandma. We both cried on the phone and I felt that I should I write a song for her. I made a sketch and gave it to her to listen to. She may not have understood the words, but she felt the music. She passed away just a few days before the release of the song. I was going to celebrate the release with her, but she wasn’t there. She was in a lot of pain later, and I couldn’t see her struggling.
KHIGH: We’re sorry for your loss, Jimmy. May her soul rest in peace.
KHIGH: Speaking about your next 2020 release, ‘Let Me Know‘. Can you tell us about that track, it has two versions right?
Jimmy: Throughout my musical career, and even right now, I have always wanted to show what love is. Even today, many people don’t even know how great love is. Good girls meet bad guys and they think that guys are bad. If they feel that love is not a great thing anymore then I want people to know how great love is. Throughout my life, love is the greatest thing that has happened to me. I want people to feel that way too. When I was writing, I wanted to make the most beautiful song about love. When I wrote Let Me Know, I wanted girls to know that there are nice guys standing right there. I want the girls and the boys to know that there are people who will tell you ‘Let Me Know’ – if you ever need anything. I think that love is really a great thing. I always feel that love is on top of every emotion. As for two versions- BTS got #1 on Billboard with their song Dynamite. People loved that track a lot. So I thought why not release an English track as well. So, I made an English version of the song as well.
KHIGH: We’re curious about your other tracks ‘u ok?’ and ‘i got you’ too.
Jimmy: ‘u ok?’ is about reminiscing the love that I had and now I cannot go back to. I wish her the best because I know she is one of the best people. It is a heartfelt letter to her. ‘i got you’ is actually similar to ‘Let Me Know’. It sends the message that no matter what I got you!
KHIGH: We came to know that you also have a crew called Room8. What is the story behind that?
Jimmy: Yes, I do. I also have another crew called ‘Wvvy’ (pronounced Wavy). I started a crew with 12 guys in ‘Wvvy’. Two of them asked them to join, and later they invited their friends and artists. Then slowly became an international crew. We haven’t even met each other. I have met only a few of them yet. We used to make a lot of music together, but these days it is less. About Room8, I have known two of them for about two or three years now. I met them around the release of my second EP. They asked me to make a crew, but I turned down the first proposal because I had Wvvy. Now we have become a family. At Room8, we make Korean music primarily.
KHIGH: So, are there any plans for a crew album drop?
Jimmy: Actually, Room8 and Wvvy had plans for a crew album, a compilation of sorts. But we have not started it yet, because each of us were busy with our personal schedules. We spoke about it, but we haven’t actually started it.
KHIGH: We have noticed throughout your songs that the main theme is love in each of them. Is there any specific person or something significant that has been your inspiration? What draws you so heavily towards love?
Jimmy: Growing up, and even as a kid, I got a lot of love from my family. My grandma, my older brother all of them gave me a lot of love. I had great friends in school too. I wanted to give them something in return. That was my first inspiration for doing music. I had to make money to give some gifts to my family and friends. Speaking of romantic love, when I was in love with a girl, I felt the same way. I think that love is really a great thing. As I said before it’s the top emotion! If we love, things get easier. All of this has been an inspiration for making music.
KHIGH: Time to know some fun facts about you! Let’s start with your birthday.
Jimmy: My birthday is 25th Jan 1991. Besides music, I am an ordinary guy who likes NBA… I don’t really have anything to tell that people might be interested in. HAHAHA
KHIGH: Oh, we’re sure there must be something! What about favourite movies, food or what’s your daily routine like?
Jimmy: I watch a lot of romantic movies. I like The Notebook. My favourite food is Sweet Pork. I make myself a cup of coffee every morning. I like to watch ‘FRIENDS’ on Netflix. I just leave the TV on and carry on with my work. I’ll tell you about my routine; I wake up at 5 am or 6 am because I love the time when the sun is just rising. I am a morning person, for sure! I take shower, then make myself some coffee. After that, I head to my studio to work on my projects. I go to YouTube live from 9-10 am. I really love it. I even wake up for YouTube live. I leave at 12pm because I don’t want to be in the basement all the time. I only work for 5-6hours in my studio. I work at home. I shoot as many videos as I can for visuals. I go to sleep at 10 pm. (nods smilingly as if to say that’s it)
KHIGH: Are you planning to shoot your own music videos?
Jimmy: I am trying to learn how to shoot videos professionally. Because I have to spend so much on making a music video. I am planning to buy a decent camera soon.
KHIGH: How about a collaboration with an independent director then?
Jimmy: That would be cool. Actually, I had a music video that I never put out. I did one collaboration, but I didn’t like it so I didn’t release it. I felt like I should start on my own.
KHIGH: Have you heard about ‘Stephanie Poetri’ of ‘I Love You 3000’ fame? She went around her city, her sister filmed her and they edited the video. That video was her shot to fame. Maybe you can do something like that too!
Jimmy: I am not familiar with the artist, but thank you for your idea! I shall check out the artist’s music too. The video definitely sounds interesting to do! I will keep that idea on my mind.
KHIGH: We are really curious about how an independent artist works. How has your experience been?
Jimmy: I get money from the songs I put out. I conduct songwriting lessons in my studio. I teach the students how to make melodies, how to write the lyrics. I don’t really find it hard to live like I used to be. I am in a good condition for making music. (He adds humbly) At least I guess I am.
KHIGH: You are definitely an inspiration for many people who aspire to make music even though they may not be attached to some big music label. On that note, tell us about your today’s release!
Jimmy: I am glad that people see me as an inspiration! About my single… This one has a different vibe than my previous ones. It is going to be an R&B track with a sexy, sticky vibe. I want to follow the style of Kiana Ledé.
KHIGH: Have you thought of a fandom name yet?
Jimmy: *without missing a beat* BROWNIES!
KHIGH: Oooh! We’re sure your fans will love it!
KHIGH: Lastly, what do you have to say to your growing fan base, not only in South Korea but also internationally.
Jimmy: I am grateful for the love they show to me. I am surprised to see 30 to 50 people who show up on my YouTube lives. So that is why I make music – to give something back to the people who give me their love. One of my fans asked to make a lullaby, and it is almost done too. After that, I began making music on YouTube lives as well. I may include the ‘lullaby’ track in my next release.
KHIGH: Were you aware of your fans in India?
Jimmy: I am actually surprised that you guys know me! How did you know me? HAHAHA
KHIGH: Mostly fans know you through YouTube or Spotify. We found you through Spotify!
Jimmy: I am thankful for your love. That is great! Thank you, Spotify! HAHA
Watch Jimmy Brown’s latest release ‘Everyday’ here:
Now that was an insightful and interesting session with Jimmy Brown. Which song of his is your favourite? Tell us in the comments!
Interviewed by Nikita Gupta