We had a chat with independent Korean-American artist serin oh following her stellar run of initial releases
Having emerged in 2020 and still with only four releases under her belt, serin oh has truly established herself as a force in alternative pop, packing a unique and exciting sound that looks set to take her far. Gaining traction with her initial releases, such as ‘other woman’, ‘mm+i’ and ‘icarus?’, this truly feels like just the beginning for an artist with an accessible and fun, razor sharp sound that is stacked full on quirky sonic moments and the artist’s infectious personality and energy.
The independent singer-songwriter’s unique sound comes her wide palette of music taste and her cultural diversity as a Korean-American, resulting in a sound that is distinctively hers, and one that we can’t get enough of. We had a chat with serin oh to find out some more about her journey, her latest releases and what else she has in store for us.
Who TF is serin oh?
My first name “Serin” translates roughly from Korean to “Friend of the World” and this has really been symbolic of my journey to becoming an independent singer-songwriter. Some of my favorite things are the color pink, all things Magritte, and dishes made with any combination of potato and cheese. During my time at Berklee College of Music, I dove into my passion for jazz and r&b, whilst also rediscovering my Korean roots through the lens of K-Pop. This led me on a search for a sound that would allow me to express the duality of my identity through my music. I’ve been on this journey as an artist for about a year now alongside my partner, Luke, and my hope is to uplift third culture kids in the creative world through my music, especially fellow second-gen Asians and secret outcasts.
How long have you been making music?
During my time in college, I probably annoyed a lot of my friends with my habit of turning random phrases into acapella songs or composing impromptu mouth EDM drops with mock beat-boxing whenever we were hanging out. On a more serious note, I have been singing since I was a little kid and went to music school for my undergrad, but I only really started crafting songs of my own about two years ago.
Why do you make music?
Growing up as a third culture kid, I was encouraged to really cultivate an interior world that I vibed with, because the day-to-day reality I was living in didn’t really resonate with me. Music allows me to express and understand things that happen within me and process the things that happen outside of me in a way that nothing else does. I think music is the most abstract storytelling medium, and this makes it a really powerful tool to speak into the lives of others. It leaves a lot of spaces that the listener fills with their own experiences and emotion, and allows them to become the main character of the stories we are telling. That’s all to say, I make music that tries to present questions to listeners and suggests potential realities they have yet to consider :).
What are your biggest influences?
In terms of musical influences, I grew up on a diet of KPop, early 2000s female icons, gospel music, and jazz. More recently, two British-Asian artists, Griff and Rina Swayama have been huge inspos of mine. Songwriting wise, I truly admire Billie Eilish and Finneas’ work dynamic, Noga Erez and Ori Rousso’s craft, and the delicacy of early Tori Kelly’s lyricism. I would say tho my biggest influence in songwriting is one of the oldest songwriters of all time – King David, like from the Bible. Reading Psalms helped me learn to express myself in ways that might not necessarily be pleasant but will always reflect honesty.
What would you say has been your best moment so far?
There hasn’t been a singular moment but more of a continuous growth that started upon the release of mm+i. It’s been interacting, connecting and communicating with people who are resonating with my music. And it’s even cooler to see that they’re fellow third culture humans and secret outcasts. As an emotional creature, I am just filled with gratitude after every message that’s like “OMG I feel exactly the same way” or “your music makes me feel seen”.
How would you describe your sound to somebody unfamiliar with it?
If hyperpop and film music had a baby that was nannied by an acoustic storyteller who would occasionally send you off to be nursed by the mainstream auntie, that baby would be my music.
What’s your dream “I’ve made it” moment?
An international tour and finally getting to meet the people who have been here with me since day 1 of this journey. Even thinking about it is giving me them buTteRfLieS.
We love your latest releases ‘icarus?’ and ‘mm+i’, what more can you tell us about them?
Thank you so much! Both of those songs are reminders for myself to keep on pursuing this musical path. With mm+i, it was first conceived in a jam session with my band in Spain. Then we sat on the song for a long time and began to rewrite sections to better articulate the sentiment – namely becoming more and more of oneself and taking control of the narrative or “voices” that were previously ruling the way I thought about the people around me, and especially myself. For icarus?, my producer and music partner Luke and I went into writing this song with a much clearer vision of the message. It was a direct reflection of the sentiment that we were both feeling, as two musicians who recently graduated college in their 20’s. It felt like this phase in our life was going to be pivotal in deciding whether we end up taking the classic 9-5 path that all our friends were following, or risking a fall in order to fly. Our hopes for both of these tunes were to have the listeners really start thinking about these questions that we’ve raised, like “Why not? Why shouldn’t you pursue the reality that you’ve always hoped exists?”
What else do you have planned for the near future?
We have a bigger project coming up that I am SOSOSO excited to share with the world. Especially with the current success of the Netflix show Squid Games, and the subjects that show explores, I am so curious to see how people will react to our next release!
And finally, who is your biggest fan right now?
Oh geez, my grandparents and parents are defo up there. My partner Luke is so encouraging and he is my continuous support when I have those moments of doubt. Also so much support from his family. I would say that the intimate group of “fans” I have right now are actually the best. I want to give a massive shout out to my fav South American boys – Rafael from Mexico, Pedro from Brazil, and Juan from Argentina for their continuous support in my music throughout this past year <3.