Asia Spotlight: Korean singer-songwriter Gaho on emitting energy, standing out, and putting together his first album 'Fireworks'

Asia Spotlight: Korean singer-songwriter Gaho on emitting energy, standing out, and putting together his first album 'Fireworks'

Regardless of whether you realise it or not, Gaho’s an artist you’ve definitely heard of. 

Often heard soundtracking some of the most invigorating and motivating montages in the world of K-dramas, the Korean singer-songwriter’s music has been featured on shows like Itaewon Class, Start-Up, and most recently, Jirisan

If not for his soothing OSTs, then you probably stumbled upon the versatile musician during a trip down the rabbit hole of Youtube where you discovered a myriad of his genre-bending renditions of popular pop hits. 

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Joined by his band KAVE, Gaho has covered tracks like BLACKPINK’s ‘How You Like That’, BTS ‘Life Goes On’, ZAYN’s ‘Dusk Till Dawn’, Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘good 4 u’, and more. 

Gaho has been all around the music scene, often just hiding behind his popular OSTs and his exquisite pop covers; but, the singer-songwriter is now taking centre stage and carving his own place in the industry – starting with the release of his first-ever album. 

Going by the moniker ‘Gaho’ – taken from his real name Kang Daeho, the talented artist had always wanted to pursue music. 

Marvelling at the idea of making songs to share with the world, his passion grew stronger as he started learning more about the music scene and even meeting fellow artists including Villain, another member of Gaho's R&B music collective PLT. 

While we know Gaho to be the impressive indie act he is today, he initially set out to be an idol before eventually finding his true calling. 

“I didn’t get that far into my pursuit of becoming an idol (laughs). When I was younger, I thought the only way to get into K-pop was to become an idol. They were really cool and I thought that was the only way I could do music,” Gaho tells Bandwagon

“Through the years as I learned more and more, I found out that singer-songwriters were just as cool and that this was another way I could go into music. So, that’s when my plans kind of shifted.”

The ‘Pink Walk’ act officially debuted in 2018 with the single ‘Stay Here’. A calming ballad, the track was the world’s official introduction to Gaho and his talents as a singer, songwriter, and producer. 

And to say the least, the world loved it – accumulating millions of streams from all across the globe. To this day, ‘Stay Here’ is one of Gaho’s most popular tracks. 

Since then, Gaho has continued to release an array of hits and soundtrack some of today’s most popular K-dramas.

Wanting to put just as much care and thought into his OSTs as he does with his own work, the ‘Running’ hitmaker ensures to channel the right emotion and mindset into his music. 

“When the production house contacts me, they usually have some basic writing of the song already and they’d also show me a little bit of the drama. From there, I determine how to approach it and what feels right for the scene and the drama as a whole,” he says of the creative process behind his OSTs. 

“When I work on OSTs, it’s not like I can put 100% of my creative input. So, in a way, I become an actor and try to understand where the character is coming from and immerse myself in the emotions that they’re feeling to be able to deliver that in the song.”

Inspired by the likes of BTS, Imagine Dragons, and Shawn Mendes, Gaho’s music has always explored multiple realms of style and sound, from jazz to R&B to rock but there is one thing that always ties it all together.

Whether it’s his own music or drama soundtracks, the musician tries to incorporate an essential aspect of his creative process into every song he works on – energy. 

“I use and experiment with a lot of different genres but I also like to give them some sort of unity to make it my own unique sound,” he shares. 

“The biggest thing is the emittance of energy, I always try to make sure my music gives out a richness of energy to anyone who’s listening through the melody lines and the beats.”

Great examples of this are his chart-topping tracks ‘Running’ from Start-Up and ‘Start Over’ from Itaewon Class.

“Those two tracks have a sense of hopefulness and give a sense of energy to people. I remember when I was working on them, I had a similar mentality wanting to feel hopeful and energised so I think that made it into the two songs,” says Gaho.

“It eventually all goes back to wanting to give energy through my music. People would tell me that they listen to ‘Running’ before they go to work for a little pick-me-up or that they listen to ‘Start Over’ before they start their day, so I think it’s that lively energy that really resonates with them.”

Hoping to invigorate listeners with his own music, Gaho is geared up to release his first-ever record, Fireworks. Living up to its name, the album is said to be a vibrant explosion of emotions, excitement, and of course, energy. 

A year in the making, Fireworks takes on the theme of youth, detailing the many experiences and feelings you have in your adolescence told through the eyes of the 'Rush Hour' act. 

"It contains a lot of the emotions I feel, especially as someone who is young and youthful, so in a way, it’s a compilation of all of those feelings and stories I’ve experienced," says Gaho. 

"If you listen to the album from start to finish in order, you can understand and get the complete idea of who I am as a person, as well as the emotions you feel in your youth."

Beyond lyrics, Gaho has created a soundscape that captures the entire spectrum of being young, channelling bright-eyed spirits and teenage despair. 

"Speaking technically, I actually expressed the theme a lot through the melodies and musical arrangement, and in a lot of the instruments I used. If you listen to the tracks, the melodies really tie into the youthful spirit and emotions young people experience," the artist shares. 

Spanning 12 tracks, Fireworks includes two previously released singles 'Rush Hour' and 'RIDE', his lead song 'Right Now', and Gaho's personal favourite 'High'. 

"I purposely put it deep into the album so only people who really listen to the album can find it," he says. "I feel like the song really gives off an emotional high and it’s really 4-dimensional, I didn’t hold anything back while making the song and you can really hear that."

When asked about his experience putting together a full-length album for the first time, Gaho shares it's been a challenging but rewarding journey. While there were a number of bumps on the road, the final destination was all worth it. 

"I have so many great memories that I’ll always cherish but I’d say right now – the process of putting together my first album, with 12 tracks – is pretty memorable," he expresses. 

"I didn’t realise how challenging it was going to be to make a 12-track album but during this preparation process, a lot of things happened and a lot of memories were made. I think these will be the days I will look fondly back to."

Making music has always been quite the process for Gaho; particularly because of the extra care and detail that goes into his songs, wanting each melody line and lyric to transport listeners to a whole new dimension. But through the years, it's gotten easier thanks to his newfound creative freedom and his friends in KAVE. 

"I feel I have a lot more creative freedom to express myself and better at doing that through music as well, compared to when I first debuted and just started," he shares. "I also have a lot of good friends who can help and support me and that I can work together with, like everyone in KAVE."

"Before, it was like I was going over hurdles alone but now we’re going through it together."

"They also help me a lot with my songs; I used to spend a lot of time contemplating about my music but now I can just send it to them and they help me find what would work."

 
 
 
 
 
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Having been a part of the music scene in varied avenues for a while, Gaho has learned a thing or two about being an artist, beyond just making good sounding music. 

"When I first started, I just wanted to be a superstar super fast like everyone else but as I became a musician, I realised that I should walk at my own pace, keep building my track and take things step by step," he says. 

"The Korean music market is big and there’s a variety of talents out there, especially with the abundance of K-pop groups today. To stand out amongst the sea of diverse artists, you need to have something that makes you different," he adds.

"I’ve always thought about that and even considered adding things to my performance to match all these K-pop idols but I decided that I should be telling my own story the way I want to tell it – that will make me stand out. It’s not just about making yourself different but also about doing what you do well."

 
 
 
 
 
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Listen to Gaho's Fireworks here. 


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