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Songtrust Spotlight: Su Lee

Broadcasting from a 10' x 10' box room in Seoul, Korea, Su Lee writes, produces, designs, and
directs all her music and content. Her box room is where she eats, sleeps, and creates, and Su
uses every surface to build the world that exists in her imagination, far beyond the confines of
her surroundings.

Su first crashed onto the scene with her song and video for “I’ll Just Dance.” The video,
subtitled “What My Mental Breakdown Sounds Like,” shot to 30,000 upvotes on Reddit and
750,000 views on YouTube in the first month, resonating with an audience who had been stuck
inside for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the song and video were 100%
created by Su and showcase her quirky and honest style.

The buzz from “I’ll Just Dance” quickly translated to a flurry of industry interest with labels and
companies drawn to Su’s raw expression, a counterpoint to the traditional hyper-polished pop
star. This commitment to authenticity has continued to steadily attract fans, and in addition to
releasing music, she hosts her “Overthinkers Society” podcast and live streams on Twitch.

In August 2021 Su released her self-produced “Box Room Dreams” EP which traces a year of
isolation and creation from her tiny room. “Having had my career as a musician launch almost
simultaneously with the pandemic, this EP is kind of like my quarantine journal as a baby
musician," Su shares about the record. "It’s mostly a jumble of my heightened sense of
loneliness, uncertainty, and anxiety. But I also wanted to add a hint of some magical daydreams
and high hopes for the times ahead." Certainly, those high hopes aren’t unfounded with The
Guardian saying "If we could boil Gen Z internet, with all its anxieties and goofiness and creativity and openness, down into a person, the result would be Su Lee.”

Su has drawn further praise from Billboard, NYLON, Elle, and Teen Vogue and is poised to break out well past the walls of her room.


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

Joji. I absolutely love the diversity in all his projects. On one track, he would be singing about his conflicting emotions on love, and on another, he would turn 180 degrees and just spit out funny random lyrics. Joji’s work made me realize that I don’t have to commit to just one style or one genre as an artist; that I can make “imperfect” music and still make it good. That gave me the courage to dive straight into my music. 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

I would sum up my style as “WHATEVER.” Sorry haha I know this sounds like a lazy answer – but I honestly think this is the best way I could possibly describe it. I don’t like the concept of being committed to one thing. I find that trying to label my work with a particular “style” hinders my creative process and leads me to overthink everything. 

I chose to make music because I didn’t want to fit in a certain box that society has created. So as an artist, I want to be someone who doesn’t have to try too hard to BE somebody, but just make whatever I want and do whatever I want at different times.

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

I create to have fun with myself. I usually never enjoy my own company, because I always tend to overthink and overanalyze everything to the point that I stress myself out. But making music acts as a way to change my perspective on things and look at things in a more simple, succinct, and sometimes humorous way. 

And the way I would define success is to have my music reach people who are going through similar things. Nothing gives me more strength and courage than when people reach out and tell me that my songs helped them feel heard and less alone.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT?

Oh man, I really can’t pick just one person for this question. My team and some industry connections I’ve befriended have been amazingly helpful in making things happen and pushing me to try new things I would’ve been too scared to do on my own.

But there were also my family, close personal friends, and fans who were there for me during some of my lowest points regardless of my career situation – and it was their unconditional support and love that really gave me strength not to give up not just on my career but also my entire life.

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

Being aware of the fact that there are always other options.

I think it’s so easy for us to get obsessive and overly fixated when we’ve been putting our blood, sweat, and tears into this one thing (i.e. being an artist). But I think if we open up our eyes just a little bit, we can see other opportunities, options, and passions that we didn’t realize were there before. I sometimes imagine myself retiring from making music and going into studying pharmacology or becoming a counselor. And it actually makes me excited!

So knowing that I don’t need to tie myself down and that there are always other things that I feel passionate about outside of music really brings a healthy perspective to things. 

HOW DO YOU THINK THE MUSIC INDUSTRY CAN DEVELOP INTO A MORE EQUITABLE AND INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR WOMEN MUSIC CREATORS?

By shedding light on things beyond our looks. 

Don’t get me wrong – I think appearances, fashion, and looks have their own power to make a statement. But there are also so many other things that women in music do that are much more than just flashy clothes and glamorous makeup. Women creators have the power to make sounds, tell stories, and communicate in ways that bring freshness to the creative scene. And I think highlighting and nurturing this side of their craft can really help in developing more inclusivity for women in the industry.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

Get to know yourself and BE yourself! This world is saturated with people trying to be someone they’re not. And what will set you apart from others is the attitude of owning yourself with ZERO shame. It definitely needs a lot of trial and error (and frankly speaking, I’m still very much in this process myself too haha), but I truly believe this is one of the most valuable mottos to carry with as an artist.

FROM YOUR VIEW, WHAT OTHER KINDS OF MARGINALIZATION AND ERASURE DOES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY NEED TO ENSURE WE DON’T ENACT IN THE NAME OF GENDER EQUALITY?

I’m not experienced nor knowledgeable enough to speak about this with total confidence. But I think a lot of the problem often comes from over-generalization. Because conversations about gender equality usually address things either as the “Men’s Side” or the “Women’s Side”, I think it’s easy to end up viewing everything in an extremely polarized way.

Music is all about self-expression and cherishing our individuality. And so while it’s important to point out problems that stem from marginalization, I think we should also never overlook the true purpose of artists, which is to tell their own one-and-only story.

WOMEN ARE BECOMING MORE EMPOWERED, NOT ONLY IN KNOWING THEIR VALUE BUT ALSO IN SETTING BOUNDARIES, GOING AFTER WHAT THEY WANT AND DESERVE, AND LIFTING UP OTHER WOMEN IN THE PROCESS. WHAT MOTTO, AFFIRMATION, OR QUOTE EMPOWERS YOU?

I recently discovered a song called “N.E.O” by CHAI (I am currently obsessed with it and have been playing it on repeat haha), and I was blown away when I read the translation of the Japanese verses in the song. It’s about how there is no one set way of defining beauty, and true beauty is actually defined by every individual’s own quirks and physical traits that set each other apart. My heart warms up just thinking about this song because it makes me feel heard and helps me look at my physical insecurities in a more loving way.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP IN 2022?

Fun collaborative projects with other fellow artists and creators. It feels good to slowly come out of the bedroom-hermit phase of my musical journey. I’ve gotten to meet and work with other artists that have brought a lot of diversity and range to my “library of unreleased stuff”. And I can’t wait to share it all with the world!! :)

I’m also currently on my first-ever tour and I’ve been having so much fun performing and dancing and singing with the audience (although I still feel like crapping my pants before every show out of nervousness). And I’d love to build more experience doing shows moving forward. 

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