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Paul Kim

This A-Profiler we bring you Paul Kim, singer and songwriter, whom many will remember from American Idol season 6. Find out how Paul got his start in music, what projects he's working on currently, why his favorite NBA team frustrates him, and what is his surprising guilty pleasure.

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Many people remember you as a contestant on American Idol. I actually remember hearing you for the first time with the Bay Area group Repatua. What are your fondest memories of Repatua? †At what age you start developing your passion for singing?
Wow! Repatua is a throwback! I joined them during my junior year of high school. I was the baby of the group, and those guys taught me all about harmonies and performing in front of crowds, which prepared me for everything that has followed in my musical career. Shout out to my boys from Repatua: Sergio, Jerome, Greg, and Justin.

One interesting tidbit is that when Justin went away to college, he joined the group At Last/Tatum Jones, which when on to fame with their appearance on Americaís Got Talent.

I got my start in music while singing in a Christian choir. As a child I attended a private Christian academy, and we were all required to try out for the choir. I didnít even know I could sing until the director told me he wanted me in his choir. We had a lot of fun traveling up and down the state in that old bus, competing in events.

Were your parents supportive of your choice to sing or did they see it as something more of hobby?
I have to admit that at times my parents have believed in me more than I have. I couldnít have done any of this without them. When I got offered my first record deal with EMI Asia, I turned it down. I wanted to finish college before even considering a career in music, but my folks let me know that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took it. I got lucky by having such supportive parents. Being Asian, youíd assume theyíd push me to become a doctor or a lawyer, but they were pretty adamant about me pursuing my dream of becoming a musician.

What projects are you currently working on and when can we expect to see a Paul Kim album released?†Tell us about the album.
I recently signed a pub deal with the Universal Music Publishing Group of Asia. My first placement just dropped with Pony Canyon Records in Japan, with recording artist Van Ness. I wrote the song Sail Away on the album.

Iím slated to be writing for several other artists in Asia this year, so please keep a lookout for my upcoming projects.

Iím also currently making the rounds as a songwriter here in the States, working alongside the major labels, their producers along with their artists.

The album has actually been pretty much complete for a while now. The only things that need to be worked out are the politics involved with releasing a project, and sorting out things like features. I wanted to wait until I had built up a decent enough resumť in the industry, before pursuing my own record. Iíve been blessed enough to be able to ask some of my favorite producers and artists to contribute to the project.

I also need time to grow as a writer. I firmly believe that one cannot consider themselves a songwriter until theyíve lived. I just needed to go out there and experience the ups and downs of life and love, before I could pen my thought and feeling, and then turn them into music.

The single and video will be out by early summer, and I hope for the entire album to be ready for release by late summer. The direction of the album has changed a few times during the process of creating this thing. Iíve written and recorded well over 100 songs, more than enough for 10 albums, but Iím constantly growing as an artist, and coming up with material that was better than the last.

Although there are some heavy hitters on the album, most of the tracks will be produced by my good friend John the XVI. Weíve basically just locked ourselves in the studio and come up with material I am very proud of. I wanted this to be a concept album where all the songs are tied in together somehow, as opposed to just slapping 14 singles together. I believe an album should have a theme, and be an experience, where the listener will play it from track #1, and let it run all the way through to the end... Thatís what this album will be; an experience. Love, sex, pain, life...

Paul KimWho are some of your greatest musical influences? †What artist is currently played the most on your music player?
Good question. The music Iíve immersed myself in, has shaped the artist Iíve become. There are literally dozens of artists I admire, but my most influential are the likes of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Michael Jackson, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, India Arie, John Legend, and Alicia Keys.

Donny Hathaway is definitely my most played artist on my iTunes. His voice never gets old. The pure emotion and inflections in his voice still gives me goosebumps. I wish I could have seen him perform live.

You've collaborated with some singers in Asia. What was that like and do you find that you have even greater popularity overseas? †Are you looking at more collaborations in the future?
At times, my two and a half years in Asia were a struggle. The sheer culture shock was a difficult transition for me. But it was an amazing experience, which allowed me the opportunity to work with some incredible artists throughout the region. Even though the album with EMI was never officially released, I was able to write for and vocally produce nearly every artist on their roster. Were it not for my time in Asia, I would have never learned to write or arrange a song.

I was also able to discover my roots, and see firsthand the beauty of Asia. The people, the culture, the cuisine. What a wonderful place. My writing ability recently took me to Hong Kong, and Iíll be going to Taiwan shortly. I am grateful to still be able to work so closely in the region.

You've moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. Have you gotten used to LA life? †What do you miss most about the Bay Area?
Itís been a little over a year since my transition from the Bay to LA. It took a while to get accustomed to LA, but I thoroughly enjoy the weather, the food, and nightlife. That being said, my heart will forever reside in the Bay, most specifically San Jose. Thereís no place like home!

What I miss the most are the people. I believe the Bay Area has the most intelligent, open minded, and socially conscious people in the world. It has shaped the man I am today, and I will take those lessons with me wherever my adventures take me.

As a big Golden State Warriors fan, what do you think of all of the turmoil the team is going through this season? †Do you think they can ever get back on a playoff track? †What would you change if you were the General Manager?
I am a diehard Warriors fan. Iíve religiously followed the team since the late 80ís, but management is a joke. Until Chris Cohan sells the team, they will never compete for a championship. They have the best fans in the world, and they continue to sell out the arena, regardless of the inferior product that gets trotted out onto that court every night. The Warriors have made the playoffs just one time since Cohan took over as owner, more than 16 years ago. We deserve better.

If I were GM, Iíd dump all the hefty contracts of Maggette, Biedrins, and Ellis, and go with a proper rebuild. Build through the draft and refuse to be a mid level team. Go for the homerun, which something management refuses to do. They do just enough to keep fans in the seats, but never taste victory.

As a person who traditionally hasn't been into technology much, you've become more and more active in the online world via Facebook and Twitter. Have you found the social networking aspects a good way to keep your fans in touch with what you are working on and have a more direct line of communications with you?
I was the anti-technology man! I would literally check my email once every 6 months. I adamantly refrained from joining any social media networks until my friends started a myspace music page for me while I was on Idol. And I apologize to the fans that sent me messages, and never got a response from me back then. I just never checked my site, as I had friends running the sites.

But Iíve learned that it is a great way to let the fans into my world, and connect with them on a personal level. Thatís whatís great about sites like Twitter and Facebook. My fans can see what Iím up to, and I enjoy communicating with them. Their constant support and positive vibes are what keep me going.

There is not a single piece of fan mail that I do not respond to. I want everyone to know that they can hit me up anytime, and I am more than happy to spend some time chatting with my fans. I promise to never become one of those twitter douches that never responds to people that hit them up.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you aren't making music? †Any guilty pleasures?
I love playing basketball. It was my first love as a child, and although I never realized my dream of being the first Asian in the NBA, I still love the game.

I also spend any free moment traveling to exotic locales. Iíve been to the randomest 3rd world countries in search of adventure. Iíve slept in tree houses, huts, under nets, backpacking through rainforests, spear fishing, rounding up pigs and chickens for food, etc...

My embarrassing hobby is probably gardening. I love cultivating tropical plants, and LA is the perfect place to do it. My garden is full of exotic plants like plumeria, heliconia, ginger, orchids, palms, bananas, etc... I find joy in watching something most people think wouldnít be able to grow away from the equator, and seeing it thrive in my garden.

And finally, what advice do you have for other aspiring singers out there?
Hone your craft! Talent is only 30% of the battle. There are millions of amazing musicians out there. The ones that make it are the ones that stay humble, constantly try and improve, and never give up. The music industry can be a shady and cruel place. But if you stay true to yourself, and surround yourself with honest, positive people, you can make your dreams come true.

Iím always willing to help out other singers in any way I can, so donít be afraid to ask. You must stay informed with the business aspect of the game as well. Simply being able to sing is not enough. There will always be someone better, more hungry, so you must keep up.

Shout out to Nelson for the wonderful site he has kept up through all these years. No one supports Asian American artists like Nelson and AArisings. Much love!

Paul Kim

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This issue of A-Profiler is brought to you by Nelson Wong.
Special thanks to Paul Kim.

Photos used with permission.
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