For Han Seungwoo, music is an invaluable device that encapsulates the desires and aspirations in his life. It led him to pursue a journey as a K-pop idol, eventually debuting as the leader of boyband VICTON in 2016 and, four years later, as a multi-hyphenate soloist with a hypnotising stage presence. After releasing two mini-albums (2020’s ‘Fame’ and 2021’s ‘Fade’), he put his journey on hold to fulfil his mandatory military service – but his creative drive never stopped.
He was discharged last January, but his return to music came later during the summer solstice. At the end of June, Han Seungwoo released his third solo project, ‘Frame’, a seven-track workpiece underpinned by his agile vocal delivery and with the charming lead single, ‘Dive Into’. The record is a beguiling overview of his musical versatility – going from balmy R&B to rock-influenced compositions – and most prominently, it’s also a gladdening account of gratitude.
“For the people around me and my fans as well, since they are the ones who supported me and waited for me,” he explains to NME over Zoom. “Through this album, it’s a good opportunity to say I [am the one who] will approach them this time.” His words come adorned with a kind smile, reflecting the charismatic and soothing personality that has defined him throughout the years.
Fans welcomed Han Seungwoo back with open arms and helped him earn his first solo trophy win on SBS’ The Show. Shortly after, he embarked on his first 2023 ‘ONE’ tour across Asia, shrinking the distance between his international audience and weaving a new outset simultaneously. With a renovated perspective – filled with self-awareness and continuous learning – he is taking charge of the present and always prepared for whatever comes next.
Han Seungwoo. Credit: IST Entertainment
What aspects of your life do you think have changed after enlisting?
Han Seungwoo: “After I got discharged from the military, I turned 30 years old [in Korean age], so image-wise, I wanted to be more mature, and [I feel that] my health and mind got stronger. Those kinds of changes made me grow.”
When you debuted with VICTON, you were mainly a rapper, but as time passed, you leaned more toward your vocal abilities. Now, you’re known as someone who can do anything. How would you describe your current artistic identity?
Han Seungwoo: “Including all the genres [that I’ve done] as well as my singing, performance and rapping, I believe I’m interpreting different types of music, and I can digest all kinds of abilities. I grew up a lot by making [my most recent] album, and I [was able to] learn a lot about myself.”
Do you believe you already reached your full potential or feel content with your current skill set?
Han Seungwoo: “I think I’m not fully satisfied yet and I know what my weaknesses are. Of course, there’s always room for development and improvement, so in the future when I look back, if I feel great about it, then I’ll be fully satisfied.”
I read an interview you did before the release of ‘Fade’, and they asked about a specific moment where you cried during a concert. You said they were tears of regret because there are many things you couldn’t try during your 20s. Do you still have the same regrets? Or do you see them more like life lessons nowadays?
Han Seungwoo: “Ah! [laughs]. At that time, I cried because I had so many regrets, but now when I think about it, I don’t know if I should cry like that. Nowadays, I don’t have any regrets at all. I’m confident, and I cannot predict anything that will happen or what will come out for me. The past is the past. I turned 30, and I’m [trying to be] as positive as possible. I have to keep making music and live for tomorrow.”
Han Seungwoo. Credit: IST Entertainment
And how is ‘Frame’ different from ‘Fame’ and ‘Fade’?
Han Seungwoo: “First, it’s so different musically, and the album has different themes and messages. Last time, I said goodbye to disappointments and excitement before I left [for the military], but this time, it’s an album with a lot of ambition for the future.”
The word ‘Frame’ can have several meanings, but it’s often referred to as a structure that surrounds or encloses something. How would you describe the frame enclosing your life?
Han Seungwoo: “Oh, this is difficult [laughs]. There are so many frames surrounding me, so I like to [discover them] one by one, just like a quest. I’m going through every frame [towards] the future. But if [I had to choose] one, it would be music.”
Speaking of music, I read in another interview that, when you’re working on an album, you always keep in mind that “it could be my last”. Is this the same mentality you adopted while creating your most recent release?
Han Seungwoo: “I think there are two types of mindsets and one is, just like you said, ‘This could be the last one’, which means that I did my best and I put all my effort into it. But on the other hand, I’d also like to think that this is just another start for me.”
Can you guide us through the creative process behind ‘Frame’? When was the moment when you started developing this mini-album?
Han Seungwoo: “I was thinking about starting the album with the letter ‘F’ even before leaving [for] the military, and it took me a while before I came up with the word ‘Frame’. The reason is [that] I consider what message I can put out. I have a lot of thoughts about emotions, and as people live their [lives], they go through many feelings, so I tried to express that [unfolding] in this album.”
You also participated in writing the lyrics of some of the songs. What’s the significance of songwriting in your trajectory?
Han Seungwoo: “When I started working on songwriting, I just wrote my own stories to actually digest my sentiments. But at this point, I feel it’s a record [of my life], so when I look back, I can see those lyrics and think, ‘Oh, that was that and this was this.’”
Finally, what is the song that you treasure the most from this album? And what does music mean to you?
Han Seungwoo: “I love the lead single ‘Dive Into’ because once I got to work with talented composers, it became a human story, and the work was just so good. And for your last question, this is a bit cliché, but music makes me realise how I should live my life and, through this, I can grow more.”
Han Seungwoo’s ‘Frame’ is out now