All visual and audio media courtesy of Astrid Holiday
By: Hannah Waitt
When SM Entertainment CEO Lee Soo Man announced his plan to release a new single and music video every week for a year in 2016, fans and industry experts alike scoffed at the idea that it would actually happen. The first season of SM Station came to a close with huge success and surprising regularity, producing hits like Taeyeon’s “Rain,” “Spring Love” by Eric Nam and Wendy, “All Mine” by f(x), EXO and Yoo Jaesuk’s “Dancing King,” and many more.
The SM Station digital release series was created to allow the roster of SM Entertainment artists to explore new genres and collaborate with artists outside of the SM roster, and as a result the company has produced both high charting pop hits, as well more experimental tracks that dabble in jazz, classical, and other lesser known genres. For this season of SM Station, the company vowed to reach even further outside of the SM bubble to start recruiting international musicians for weekly releases. Astrid Holiday is one of the first recruits from abroad.
Discovered while playing a show in Malmö, Astrid is signed to RoastingHouse Music, a collective of over twenty singers, songwriters, and producers who make music not only for themselves, but for artists all over the world. On a chance visit to Sweden from an SM Entertainment A&R rep, Astrid played her latest single “New Beginning” and the rest was history. Since releasing “New Beginning” under SM Entertainment, Astrid’s video has amassed over 400,000 views on YouTube and earned her new fans from all over the world. In an exclusive interview with moonROK, Astrid tells us all about the process of working with SM, what it was like to shoot a full scale music video with the Kpop company, and what we can expect from her in the near future.
How did you end up participating in the “SM Station” series?
It’s a long but quite funny story. About a year ago I had a gig in in the harbour of Malmö, Sweden, and the CEO of RoastingHouse Music was on his boat at that time by coincidence, and he heard me sing and play and since then, I’ve been writing songs for RoastingHouse and I’ve got my own studio their 12 studio complex in the center of Malmö. RoastingHouse has been writing music towards international artist including Asian artist for years and have written songs like “Masuyme Chasing” by BoA and Sayonara Hitori, [songs for] Taemin and many more. In the beginning of this year some of the international A&R’s from SM Entertainment came to RoastingHouse for a visit to meet all the new writers and talk about future collaborations with Roastinghouse. They told us about the new Season 2 of SM Station and after hearing me sing “New Beginning,” they invited me over to record the single and music video and make the release through SM Station. This was an amazing opportunity for me.
Can you tell us more about your single, “New Beginning”?
The lyrics of the song is about having to part from someone you really love without having a choice. The lyrics aren’t too obvious so you can listen to it and interpret the song in your way.
Who are your musical influences?
I am influenced by bands such as The Beatles, Radiohead and Portishead, just to name a few.
Kpop is known for its high production value when it comes to content – what was it like shooting a music video with SM Entertainment?
It was very special. We got picked up by a driver at the hotell and we drove to this really beautiful location about two hours away by car from Seoul. They had about twenty professional actors for the video and a whole group of camera men and directors and producers etc. We started to shoot the video early in the morning, just as the sun came up, and didn’t finish until the sun went down. We all worked really hard and it turned out great. I couldn’t be more happy with how the day turned out. I really enjoyed the experience since it was my first big music video shoot.
Was the concept for the music video your idea? Or was it more of a collaborative effort between you and SM? Did you find that you had artistic control over the direction of the music video, or had everything already been prepped and storyboarded for you?
I got the honour of working with a great music video producer and his team. They have worked with a lot of big artists in Korea before. They had prepared a storyline for the video and they briefed it to me when I arrived there, and I really liked the idea. They had prepped with storyboards and a lot of reference images and had found the inspiration in my lyrics.
What did you think of Korea (the people, culture, food, etc.)?
I came to Seoul with my manager Sanna Wettergren from RoastingHouse to record the single and the music video. I had never been that far away from home before. It was very different from Sweden, much bigger and faster. The people we met were really friendly and we felt most welcomed. The food was very different to what I’m used to, and being a vegetarian in Korea seemed almost impossible. We even had the word “vegetarian” and “no meat” translated to Korean on our phones to get understood, but that was a challenge. Another big difference was the coffee. In Sweden we like our coffee hot and really strong, but in Korea we found that everyone drank ice coffee. So I always asked to get my coffee extra strong and hot. But over all my visit to Seoul was terrific and I’m really happy with how it all turned out.
Did you know much about Kpop before you became a “Station” artist?
I haven’t listened much to Kpop, however when I started working with RoastingHouse and started to write towards the international market I got to hear a lot of music from Asia. I got to learn more about great artists in other parts of the world.
What made you want to participate in the “SM Station” series?
It was such a big opportunity for me to show more people my music and it was an honour to be invited by SM for a collaboration.
Have you found that your audience reach has increased much after releasing a single under SM? Do you think you benefitted from participating in the “Station” series?
Yes. I’ve gotten new followers and subscribers in all my social medias and I am so grateful for all the beautiful feedback and comments I have received I think this was a great way to display my music and make it more available for people that maybe wouldn’t have found my music otherwise.
Your “New Beginning” music video currently has over 2,500 comments on it – did you read any of them? Did Kpop fans have the reaction you expected on the release?
I have read some of the comments on the single, and most of them are really nice. People seem to appreciate my single and the video and that makes me so happy. Although, a lot of the listeners are surprised to see a western artist on SM Station since it’s usually Kpop artists only.
Your music is very different from the usual Kpop sound – were you worried about collaborating with a Kpop company for “New Beginning”?
My music is very different from the Kpop sound since it’s more of a western ballad, but SM Entertainment is a great established company and they liked my song as it was. I knew that SM wanted my song to remain the same as when I played it for them acoustic in my studio, so I wasn’t worried at all and as they really though it was a great song for SM station and I trust them on that.
The “SM Station” series is an innovative new series from SM Entertainment that encourages collaboration between Kpop artists and foreign artists – if you could work with one Kpop artist in the future who would it be?
I haven’t thought about this before but it might be really fun to do some kind of collaboration in the future. It would definitely be a challenge since my music is very different from Kpop.
Do you have any plans to continue releasing music in Korea after “New Beginning”?
As for this release we were only talking about one song through SM Station but i am working on a great album and aiming to release it worldwide!
What else should fans of “New Beginning” be listening to by Astrid Holiday?
I have a few videos out on my YouTube channel and got great respons on my songs “We Know” and “ I Can’t Go on Like This”. I plan to release more music in the near future, so stay tuned.
Anything you’d like to say to all of the Kpop fans out there who were introduced to your music thanks to “SM Station”?
Thank you to everyone who has supported me. I can’t even explain how much this means to me. This has been an incredible experience and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to do this. I am so grateful for all the support and wonderful feedback I’ve received. And I really hope to return to Seoul again soon and play my music there for all the wonderful people that supported me.
For more information about Astrid and to follow her career, be sure to check out her official Facebook Page and Instagram as well, and be sure to stick around moonROK for more Kpop exclusives like this one.