Interview: K-Pop Singer Lisa Talks to moonROK About Her Work, Idols in Musicals, and Her NYC Concert

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief


With 3 full-length albums, 12 digital singles, 17 features on collaborations, 7 OSTs, and 8 musicals under her belt with a 9th on the way this coming winter, Lisa is no rookie in the K-pop scene. Though she is known for her ballads as a solo artists, she has also collaborated with the likes of Dynamic Duo, Verbal Jint, and Epik High, and starred in musicals with Key of SHINee, Yunho of TVXQ!, Yoseop of B2ST, and G.O and Seungho of MBLAQ.

On June 21st, concert management company 7000Miles hosted Lisa’s first ever concert in New York City. When asked about the concert, Lisa told moonROK that the goal was to perform the songs as she had never performed them before – “I want them to sound…different,” she stated on Wednesday when we sat down with her.

Arranged by Big Yuki and performed by some of the best session players in New York, Lisa’s music indeed had a completely different sound than the Korean ballads and OSTs that we are used to her doing. Moving fluidly between R&B, bossa nova, soul, and jazz, Lisa performed her hits to raucous applause at Rockwood Music Hall on June 22nd

Lisa performs at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City

A few days before her performance, moonROK visited Lisa in the studio to talk about her gig in New York, what it was like to work with idols, and her upcoming projects, check out our interview with her below.


Welcome to New York! How are you enjoying the city?

It’s great! I’ve just been enjoying hanging out with my friends, shopping, and seeing Broadway musicals.


What musicals have you seen so far?

First I saw Aladdin (proceeds to break into “I Can Show You the World”). And then I saw If/Then with Idina Menzel – she was great, she’s my favorite. Then I saw Rocky and you know what, I wasn’t planning to watch it, but a friend recommended it to me because there’s this scene in the end that’s a must-see, and I ended up really liking it. I really liked how they staged the fighting scenes, it was really enjoyable. After that I saw Kinky Boots, and I went to that one because it’s being staged in Korea this year. The last one I saw was Pippin, which was good, but I think that If/Then was definitely my favorite – I really like that style of musical.


What do you think is the biggest difference between musicals in Korea and on Broadway in New York?

In Korea, the audience really wants a lot from the musical in every way – we do lots of shouting, the orchestration is really grand, and the stages are very big and flashy – they want to get everything out of it when they go to the show. Here, they’re a little less intense than in Korea. The musical actors here seem to have more control over the show with their vocals and their expressions, but in Korea, you have to go-all out for the audience to feel everything.


Musicals are starting to get really popular in Korea, and a lot of that is due to the fact that a lot of idols are starting to take on roles as musical actors – can you talk about some of the idols that you’ve worked with?

I’ve worked with G.O and Seungho from MBLAQ – we were in Gwanghwamun Sonata together, and they were great. They worked really hard. With most idols, you expect them to only come in late or not come at all because they’re schedules are so buys. So they just practice two or three times with the cast before the show because they’re so busy going all around the world. But these guys that I’ve worked with were really wonderful – they came to practice every day, they worked really hard. So those two were great.

I’ve also worked with Yoseop from B2ST. He is one of my favorites; he sings well, he dances well, and he has total control over his life even though he is so young.

From Lisa’s Twitter

I also worked with Key for Bonnie and Clyde and he was also really hard worker. He couldn’t come to the rehearsals that much because he was so busy recording his album at that point, but he would rehearse with me through kakaotalk. We were a couple in the show, so we would run the lines with each other through texting. All of the idols that I’ve worked with really exceeded my expectations.

From Lisa’s Twitter

There is an interesting conflict surrounding idols in musicals – on the one hand, having them in musicals brings in massive audiences which is great, but on the other hand, a lot of people worry that the audiences are not there to appreciate the art of musicals and the talent of professional musical actors, but instead to see their favorite idols perform. What is your take on this as a musical actress?

Having idols in musicals is sort of the trend right now, so we can’t really ignore it, because it is working. I did once feel a little bit awkward about it though. We took Gwanghwamun Sorrow to Japan and brought all of the idols with us because it was our first time taking the show to another country, so they wanted to make sure that we were able to fill the audience.

We had Yunho from TVXQ! play one of the main characters, and that day was basically just a concert. They didn’t care about how the show was, or what the music was like, or anything – they were just screaming every time he came on stage. They even brought those glowing light sticks and were chanting “Yunho! Yunho!” while pumping them in the air. It was really weird for all of the musical actors and actresses there.

I was in another musical recently called Frankenstein and it was an original Korean musical, and we didn’t have any idols – we only had musical actors and actresses – and it worked out really well. It did even better than Wicked did in Korea. Everyone was so surprised that it worked out without idols, so I guess it just proves that it can be done.


What is your favorite role that you have performed thus far?

I’ve really liked all of the characters that I’ve played, but if I had to pick one, I think playing Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde was my favorite. A lot of people really liked me being Bonnie, I think that the songs were really great and I think that they fit me well. Frank Wilden wrote the songs, so they had a really pop feel to them which suited me well and resonated with the audience. He also wrote Dracula which I will be in this Winter.


In addition to being a musical actress, you are also a pop singer. How are the two positions different?

As a singer, I only have to be aware of myself and how I would look on TV and how I would perform – I only have to think about me. But in musicals, you can’t do that. You have to learn how to work with others, and you have to get to know them offstage so that you can be natural with them onstage because if you’re not, the audience can sense it. The cast always tries to go on a big trip together right before every show so that we can get really close as friends, and then we’re are naturally very comfortable together onstage.


You’ve also done a lot of collaborations – Dynamic Duo, Verbal Jint, Epik High, Miryo of Brown Eyed Girls, etc. – how do these collaborations come about and how does the songwriting process go?

Usually we just sort of meet up, talk, and end up being like “We should do something together!” and then we just get in the studio and do it. It’s a very natural process.

With Dynamic Duo and Kim Jin Pyo, they were my first featuring guests on my new album, and we reached out to them if they were willing to collaborate and they were glad to do it. Then on their next albums they asked me to come and feature, so it really just works both ways.


Speaking of collaborations, if you collaborate with any artist in the world, living or dead, who would it be?

Alive or dead?? That’s too hard!!!


Okay, okay: alive.

Then I’d have to say Maxwell. I really like his stuff. A few years ago when I was in New York, he had a concert and I didn’t make it, so I was like crying. But I really like all his stuff – I would be so grateful to work with him one day.


What about a Korean artist?

Maybe Insooni? She’s incredible.


When it comes to your songs how involved are you in the songwriting process? Do you write the music or lyrics?

I kind of do a little bit of everything. For my title songs, I usually shop demos from all of the famous Korean songwriters and producers along with my company. We listen to a ton of them and then choose the one that we think is best for the title song.

I really want to try something experimental now though. Since I moved into a company that focuses more on my musical career, I can be a little more free with my solo career. For example, this New York show has nothing to do with my company – it was something that I decided to do myself because I wanted to, so here I am.

I really want to try something new while I’m here because everything I do in Korea is great, but it’s very K-pop. I want to do something crazy and new.


Speaking of the show, can you tell us a little bit about your gig this weekend?

I’m playing with Big Yuki and all of the session players that he has gathered for the concert. It’s a one-hour show so we’re playing eight songs. Two songs haven’t been released yet, but the other six are from past albums. The songs are going to sound very different than the original versions – it won’t sound K-pop – we’re going for a sort of Jill Scott and Amy Winehouse style.

Lisa and composer Big Yuki

Lisa and the band perform at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on Saturday, June 22nd.


Lastly, what are your plans for the future? Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have a solo concert called “Lisa’s Musical Juice” on July 12, so I have to go back to Korea and rehearse for that. Then rehearsals start for my next musical, Rebekah. It’s a European musical and it’s been a huge hit in Korea. This is the third time that they’re putting it on and I’m going to be playing the same part with Ok Juhyun and Jin Youngsoo. Then I’m not sure, but I want to come back to New York!!


moonROK would like to sincerely thank Lisa for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. To find out more about her follow Lisa on Twitter, and don’t forget to stay tuned to moonROK for more exclusives like these.

Images courtesy of 7000Miles Entertainment
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