“My dad had a big influence in shaping what some of my tastes would become. He was into a lot of R&B and soul, but also American rock. There would be some random Korean radio stations on and so I was listening to a lot of early 90’s and late 80’s Kpop. It was influenced by European dance music and pop at the time. He also loved Elton John and I think that was a reason for my early love and appreciation of melody.
When listening to the music of SOHMI, only one thing is clear. The rising Korean American producer does not conform to any one genre. Her compositions are unique without being too leftfield, melodic while remaining club-ready, and she consistently is pushing boundaries. A plethora of influences and skills allows SOHMI to straddle these gray areas and has pushed her into the spotlight only two years since her first release.
“The idea of music as a place to escape started pretty young. I studied classical piano my whole life growing up. I didn’t love it until I was actually really good at it. That helped me find an escape. I would just be overwhelmed by school, life, parents, I would get upset and sit down at the piano and just play melancholy music and bathe in the emotion of it all. It wasn’t until getting into dance music and production that I felt like I could express myself. Being able to tell my personal story through music production was what helped me most.”
SOHMI has spoken often about her own mental health, and how music was and is a way to express herself and to release emotions when there are no other outlets. Despite music playing a big role in her life, her introduction to modern house and techno, the music that inspires her now, did not happen until quite recently. She first underground sounds five years ago when she attended her first-ever festival, the legendary Coachella. Seeing a combination of underground artists like Mano Le Tough, and more mainstream melodic like Rufus Du Sol helped SOHMI decide to turn her musical talents into a pursuit of electronic music.
Her first release came in the form of a remix, and she quickly followed with ‘Somebody Like You’ and a breakout EP titled, ‘Again.’ “Pop and R&B were some of my early and major influences. As well as classical piano. Very different ends of the spectrum but each had a big impact on me. A track like ‘Runaway’ was the very first production I ever did. I really didn’t use a ton of the production stems that I was given. I was feeling ambitious since it was my first track. I mostly programmed it from scratch. The ‘Again EP’ was very influenced by R&B. I had ‘Me and You’ by Cassie in my mind when I made it.”
As if a wide range of musical influences, and having classical training in piano wasn’t enough SOHMI is also a talented vocalist. Her parents told her she was singing as early as one year old. “There was something in me that was inclined to express myself vocally. I always loved singing, it came even before I played piano. I grew up in musical theater and singing choir. It feels like a natural way for me to tell a story. I try to bring some of my experience from acting/being in musicals into my vocal performances. I try to create a character who’s singing a story for the song.”
These abilities have led SOHMI to approach music production from a different angle than most electronic music producers would. She starts a track as a vocal concept in her head and then builds the melodies around that. Whether it’s a more club-ready four on the floor track, or a melodic vocal-heavy track, her own ability to sing gives her a unique approach to creation.
After putting out the ‘Again EP,’ SOHMI began receiving high-level recognition. Her next releases came on iconic labels such as Astralwerks, Nothing Else Matters (Danny Howard's label), Odd One Out by Yotto, and most recently, a single with Booka Shade. For SOHMI this recognition was surreal. “I hope that feeling never goes away. I want to stay on my toes and stay appreciative of everything that’s happening for me. There are not too many people like me, Korean women, in this space. You can practically list them off on one hand so for me to be able to join the path of those that have done it and have the opportunity to make the music I make is amazing. I operate within the framework of familiar dance music but I’m trying to put my own stamp on it, vocally driven with R&B and Kpop influences.”
The future is bright for SOHMI. She has a clear vision of a beautiful live performance once it makes sense for her career-wise. She has plenty of music coming out this year and will be playing all over the country for a wide range of audiences. “As someone who appreciates that minimal sound in dance music, I’ve always wanted something stagewise that reflects that as well. Dreamy, inviting, inclusive. Lights that play against space and shadow and create a three-dimensional effect. I still feel like I need to master the decks but I definitely have interest in crafting a version of a live performance at some point.”
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