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Making 2023 a year that will bring the “SOHMI” experience to further life and anticipating that this year she will be using her voice more, Korean American dance music sensation SOHMI welcomes this new stage in her life with her latest release, Only One. This is the second single from her forthcoming four-track EP, Recital, and is the result of going one step further in exploring her ‘minimal pop tech’ sound. Having enormous meaning for the artist, through this song she explores “an insecurity that maybe others can relate with,” as she tells us.

This new release embraces a new phase in the artist’s career in which self-care and the boundaries she establishes for herself are essential. We now speak with her to find out the message behind her new single, how she felt during her performance at Coachella's iconic Yuma last year and what are her plans for the coming months. We don't overlook the most difficult moments in her journey and the obstacles she’s had to overcome to get to where she is today.

How are you and where do you answer us from?
I’m doing great, it’s nighttime in Los Angeles where I am currently and I’ve just lit my favourite candle to relax while listening to the sounds of rain. I’m trying to be more mindful of being present and practising self-care this year.
You’ve just released your new single, Only One. What can you tell us about this new track and what it means to you?
So Only One is the second single from my forthcoming four-track EP, Recital. It’s another step forward in the exploration of my ‘minimal pop tech’ sound, where I try to bridge the gap between pop and the underground dance world in a seamless and authentic way. As with any pop record, the vocals (which I recorded straight into my laptop while isolating alone at home with covid during a visit to see my parents in Korea) here are the focal point of the record - but they’re used more like samples than traditional verse-chorus structure so in that way the spirit of the record still maintains a minimal, underground feeling. The lyrics are simple, it’s really just the line “what do I do if I’m the only one?” but there’s a lot of meaning behind it for me. It conveys a fear of mine – an insecurity that maybe others can relate with – where you’re afraid of being the only one who cares about someone, even in love with someone, who might not love you back the same way.
What conclusions do you draw from 2022, what have you learned as a person and as a professional?
I kind of touched upon it briefly in the beginning, but one of my biggest takeaways from 2022 was that we have to be able to prioritise ourselves, and demonstrate every day to ourselves through good decisions and self-care that we are honouring ourselves.
Looking back on last year, I think my personal and professional life and ‘selves’ became very blurred, to the point where I could not really make the distinction between the two and I found myself doing nearly everything in the name of my professional self and efforts – while further and further abandoning and forgetting to take care of my personal self and her needs. The irony of operating like that, even though at first it might seem like work is going great because it’s being prioritised above all else, is that eventually, it all starts to break down. Because you start to break down; from lack of good sleep. From not giving yourself enough genuine breaks and time away from staring at screens. From inconsistent routines. From justifying drinking every single weekend as ‘something you just have to do as part of touring.’ I broke down and became quite ill both mentally and physically from September through December, forcing my body to continue touring while not at one hundred per cent and prolonging being unwell for longer than it should have gone on. I’ve learned now that boundaries are key to both personal happiness and professional success, and not only boundaries that you establish between yourself and others, but even and maybe, especially, the boundaries you establish for yourself.
You've had a meteoric rise, even performing at Coachella's iconic Yuma Tent last year. And I'm sure this has been one of your most important experiences to date, hasn't it?
That was an amazing experience. As someone who had attended Coachella several times before ever getting into DJing and producing music, I had a hard time wrapping my head around how I could be back now as a performer myself. The Yuma Tent in particular was where I had spent most of my time getting lost inside every year, often leaving all my friends elsewhere and going inside even if by myself because I loved the music so much. So it was all very surreal for me, and I’m extremely grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had in my relatively short time doing this. 5 years ago, I’d never even touched a pair of decks or mixed two records together before. But I’ve been extremely focused from the moment I decided this was something I wanted to do. And that’s kind of the way I’ve always been about anything I’ve ever taken seriously or pursued in my life.
You've overcome societal stereotypes and parental pressures as a first-generation Korean American. What obstacles have you encountered in your career and how have you overcome them?
One of the first obstacles I had to overcome, as the first part of this question already sort of implies, was gaining understanding and support from my parents about choosing this path. Though both my parents are United States-college educated, they are also both very traditional at heart still and were not at all pleased initially with my decision to become an artist. We fought and shed tears over it. But I had reached a point in my life at the time that I presented this decision to them that I could not live inauthentically any longer, so it was never really a matter of ‘if I can make them approve, then I will proceed ahead’ but rather, ‘I’m not dropping the topic until they see where I’m coming from and give me their blessing.’ And I think they sensed that and were kind of blown away by my position on everything to where they didn’t feel they could or should even try to stop me anymore.
Now, of course, everything is amazing with them and they couldn’t be happier for me or more supportive. It’s brought us all much closer together and I’m so thankful for it and for their support every single day. It’s something I wish and hope for all other aspiring artists who share my background and have felt throttled by the fear of disappointing or rocking their relationships with their parents. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or smooth sailing – it wasn’t for me either – but that journey and fight to get them on board, to fight for yourself and what you truly want to do is so critical. We only have this one life to live.
And what can you tell us about your next projects for 2023?
This year is all about bringing the ‘SOHMI experience’ to further life, really building out the entire universe and world of it if you will. That’s going to come from my music and releases this year, as I mentioned further honing in on and exploring the range of my ‘minimal pop tech’ sound, and presenting that for the first time alongside a visual world. I’ve never really had my own visuals at shows thus far, which is something I’ve always wanted to build out and provide as part of the entire experience of coming to one of my sets so I’m really looking forward to getting into that this year. I’m working on my biggest musical project to date, for one of my dream labels, while continuing to share music with the world through my own label Permission and label partner, Thrive Music. So keep an eye and ear out for all those things, and last but not least… I will be using my voice more in 2023!

David Alarcón

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