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Q&A: Justin Park

Q&A: Justin Park

Justin Park jumped onstage at the University of Central Florida’s APAC Assembly to perform a couple of covers, his new single, “Dates in L.A.,” and his unreleased original music. The R&B singer from Los Angeles sat down with Sparks to talk about his burgeoning career, representation in the media and the mixtape he’s hoping to release with 5A LABEL at the end of 2017.

 

How did you get into singing?

I remember all my life I’ve always been really into music, and the selection of music wasn’t the same selection I listen to now, necessarily, but I was always a fan of music. My dad is also a piano composer. His dream was to become one of the best piano composers in the world. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. For me, I think God has given me the chance and the prosperity to maybe live my father’s dream, but through what I want to do. So, I think it’s not a coincidence that I love music as well.

Little side story, in high school, I was a senior, and all my friends knew I liked to sing on the side, but no one at school really knew. I went out to the school talent show—I went to South Pasadena High School—and at that high school, the talent show’s a pretty big deal. When we have that assembly, everyone comes out. Nobody misses out, nobody ditches school. I sang for that talent show and won first place, so everyone was like “Wow, dude. You might be meant for this.” And at that point, I was like “Yeah, I’m going to dedicate myself to my dreams.” So I did.

 

You turned down many offers, including the chance to be on the TV show “Superstar K.” What was the reason for doing that?

“Superstar K,” that opportunity came to us last year, when we were in Korea, in December, I believe…It was a prime opportunity, but at that point, we were also starting the mixtape too. “Dates in L.A.” had already been finished for the past year—this was last year—so me and my boss and my team were talking about strategically, how’s this going to work? Where are we going to market ourselves?

I think that opportunity was really prime for my debut in Korea, but that’s not really what I wanted to do, like in my heart. I knew that, being born and raised in L.A. You know, all my friends are Americans. I’m an American, I don’t know anything else. Even going to Korea, I felt so foreign, because I’m not from there, and I understand the culture to a certain degree, but it’s a little different, so I thought, you know, if I’m going to go for my dreams, I’m going to go all the way. I want to do it in America.

And to see an Asian face in the media doing music, or just on YouTube, whatever, that really makes me happy. I’m not biased or anything, but I really want to see our people strive for better and have the confidence to do those things.

 

There seems to be a trend, where Asian Americans on YouTube and in the music industry tend to gravitate towards hip-hop and R&B, and not the other genres. Do you think there’s a reason for that?

For me, personally, I get a lot of that from my family. So the people I lived with inspired me to listen to a lot of music that I do today.

My knowledge of history isn’t amazing, but from what I’ve heard, Asian Americans have had a shorter time in America, so our culture isn’t deeply rooted. In my opinion, Asians in the East and West zones of the world are very different. Korean culture and American culture are like polar opposites. For example, in Korea, you’re not allowed to look into their eyes. But in America, if you’re listening to someone attentively, you’re going to look at them in the face.

I think it’s a lot of cultural differences, and Asian Americans have struggled to find identity in America, I think for quite a time. So the things we do relate to, we hold on to super tightly. So I think hip-hop and R&B is something that—it’s like soul, and I think Asian people do have soul. It’s like something that we connect with, so I think it’s the reason why we tend to gravitate to that kind of music.

 

What can we expect from your upcoming mixtape?

A very versatile and fun mixtape. All of the songs are written by myself. I think it’s a pretty good mix of high-energy music. This is my first big body of work, big project I’m putting together with eight to ten songs, hopefully. It’s a good mix. There’s a lot of ‘90s sounding stuff, there’s like some New Age R&B type stuff, some pop stuff, some hip-hop, I rap a little bit. I think for people to be expecting very versatile songs on the mixtape, I think that’s something you can count on.

 

Photo courtesy of Justin Chu