For the last eight years or so, we've known Mark Tuan as a K-pop star, a member of GOT7, and a quiet but fierce rapper-singer. Through all of that, he's been a happy bundle of joy for his fans, often putting forth the side of himself that's positive and energetic.
And while that's all still a very real part of who he is, there's a whole other side that rarely makes its way out into the world. Until today.
For his first solo album, Mark revisited the last decade of his life to share about the darkness that came along with being in the spotlight or what he calls the other side. From leaving home at 16 to re-learning music now as a soloist, the record tracks his journey in the most honest and vulnerable way he knew how.
"The whole album is very personal to me, simply because pretty much everything was from my experiences in Korea—be it the lonely times, the hard times, the times I felt homesick or just stuff like that. Stuff that came from a very dark place, emotions that I wanted to get rid of," Mark tells Bandwagon.
Mark has been slowly unravelling the other side for the good majority of this year with his singles 'last breath', 'my life', 'lonely', 'save me', and 'imysm'. As he fully peels back the curtain today, he hopes that his listeners can find solace in his songs and that they can offer them the same peace that he found while making them.
Bandwagon caught up with Mark to talk about the stories that went into the other side, navigating through music as a soloist, and what's coming next.
What story does ‘the other side’ tell?
The untold stories from the 10 years of my life in Korea. Stories from the 16-year-old me who packed my bags and left LA for South Korea, to the stories of the 27-year-old me brought back home to LA.
That’s not to say all 10 years were filled with dark thoughts and emotions. The happy times, the achievements, the moments I felt blessed - and there are many of those – it’s all well documented. But the darker times that the fans have not seen or heard of from me? That’s what this album is about.
What was your vision for the album?
How would you describe the music that you make, both sonically and lyrically?
I’ve seen fans deducing that the album will be dark just from the album track list! Since these are my personal stories, I paid a lot of attention to the lyrics. I wanted the lyrics to convey the emotions I was going through, but I also wanted them to be relatable, so I wrote the lyrics simply.
In terms of music, I tried various beats and sounds! Although the recurring theme is dark, I didn’t want the whole album to be slow or for the tracks to sound like a rehash of each other so there are various sounds in the album!
What impact would you like your music to have on your listeners?
Just for them to know that they’re not alone. Even if they feel alone or feel like there’s no one around them that understands them, I hope this album shows them that I’ve been through similar emotions, similar pain. And hopefully, that offers some comfort and consolation that they’re not alone in this.
Who were some artists you listened to and were inspired by while working on ‘the other side’?
I drew inspiration from various artists! Some of them include LANY, Justin Bieber, Machine Gun Kelly, and The Kid LAROI, among many others.
What is it like now working on your solo music after spending over seven years in a group?
It’s just so weird! Having to do things myself instead of being with 6 other guys takes some getting used to. In a team, we get to cover for each other’s shortcomings with our individual strengths. Working solo though, I have to fill up a 2-minute or a 3-minute song by myself and I have to fill the huge stage by myself.
The things I’m lacking in become that much more obvious and there’s so much to learn and improve on still. But working on my music solo, I’m not restricted to a certain concept or sound. I’m trying to find my own colour so I get to experiment with more genres and sounds. I like where I am. Learning and growing as I try out the things I want to do is fun!
What are some things you’ve learned during your time in GOT7 and from the K-pop industry that you’re taking forward as a soloist?
Going at my own speed. With GOT7, we didn’t climb to the top immediately. We grew bit by bit with the fans and I always feel grateful for that. That journey taught us a lot and I feel like we got to bond even more with the fans because of that.
As a soloist, I want to do things at my own speed too. I don’t want to rush things and lose sight of why I chose this path.
What are some specific goals you have for your music career?
My goal is to put out more music. This is just the beginning! I also want to tour more and meet the fans. It’s been too long since I got to see them in person so right now, my goal would be more music and more tours!
Beyond music, you also often stream on Twitch. What drew you to start streaming?
It started with my brother being interested in streaming. He wasn’t sure about it so I told him to just give it a go. He then started streaming him playing games privately, with me being the only viewer. It was fun being the audience and I wondered how it was being the streamer.
I got a taste of it myself in 2020 when I collaborated with a Chinese streaming site, playing PUBG on live stream for a couple of weeks. It was fun! I got to play games, which I love, and I got to connect with the fans at the same time so I decided to start streaming when I returned to LA.
What’s on your playlist these days?
It depends on my mood at any one time but lately, I’ve been listening to The Weeknd, Fiji Blue, Daniel Caesar, The 1975, and Lauv.
What projects do you have coming up for the year?
I’ll be touring North America for the other side. The tour begins in October and will end in early November. Then it’ll be the holiday season so I’ll spend time with family and friends! I’ll still be in the studio working on music. Oh! Maybe sit in meetings and discuss the possibilities of dropping by Asia? Haha!
Listen to Mark Tuan's the other side here.
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