Well-known as a member of the K-pop band GOT7, Mark Tuan is ready to show fans another side of himself. The Los Angeles native was scouted in 2010 by South Korean Entertainment company, JYP Entertainment, and after a successful audition, he relocated to Seoul with the sole focus of being part of the next big K-pop group. Alongside the other members (Jay B, Jackson Wang, Jinyoung, Youngjae, BamBam, and Yugyeom), Tuan became a star in his own right. The next 10 years of his life were a whirlwind of performances, rehearsals, and press dependent on the cohesiveness of seven members to move in tandem as one all-embracing unit. Unlike North American artists (bands have become non-existent in most genres), the structure of K-pop bands doesn’t allow for improvisation or individuality simply because it throws everything off if all members are not on the same page. Shows are theatrical with synchronized choreography and well-timed solo verses which make for an exuberant and charming performance but the connection to separate members is limited. When the group’s contract with JYP Entertainment expired in 2021, the decision to not renew allowed Tuan to venture off on his own creative endeavors and return to his hometown of LA.
After years of creating music with the input and voices of others in mind, Tuan realized he had a lot to say on his own. It was out of this introspective journey, reflecting on his last 10 years in the spotlight, that the other side solo album was born and his longtime fans couldn’t be happier. One of Tuan’s endearing qualities is his care and consideration for those that support him. His fans are always top of mind whether he’s engaging with them during a Twitch livestream or granting their backflip requests onstage at a recent tour stop in Minneapolis. As one of the more recluse members of GOT7, his debut album offers a window into the intimate thoughts and emotions he’s experienced but never been able to share before. He communicates through music and creative mediums—perhaps best proven by his personal style. While currently on the road for the other side tour, Tuan has been giving fans plenty of stylish looks to praise and discuss amongst themselves (cc: this immaculate cropped pink sweater and white jean combo).
Ahead of Tuan’s Vancouver show on November 1st at the Vogue Theatre (tickets are available here), he took a moment to catch up with me about the benefits and challenges of working as a solo artist, his biggest takeaway from years of performing with GOT7, what’s different about his solo tour, and the connection between music and mental health.
What’s the meaning behind your debut album’s ‘the other side’ title?
It’s just to shine a light on the other side of me that I was unable to show for the past ten years. Everyone has good days and bad days and experiences highs and lows in their life. I wanted my fans to know that I’m just like them and that I go through bad times too.
Sonically, what is different about this solo album from your previous GOT7 ones?
With GOT7, our music focuses on showing the group’s color and our combined strength. With my solo album, I get to put out music that is wholly me.
How was it different working on an album by yourself? What are the benefits of having complete creative control over your sound and lyrics?
It’s very different. First of all, the whole song is filled by me and that alone brings forth a certain kind of pressure. But by working on an album by myself, I get to put out music that I want to. I get to write the song to fit the message I want it to have. These songs are my own stories to tell and I get complete control on telling them my way.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome while working on this album?
It’s the first physical album our team is putting out so there was a lot to learn. We had to learn aspects of production that I didn’t have a hand in previously so it was challenging, but also very rewarding.
Is there a song on the album that is most personal or meaningful and why?
This is gonna be super hard! I can’t pick! All the songs on the album were stuff I wrote to reflect emotions I felt during those ten years. I felt those emotions and got through them to be where I am today. I can’t choose one over the other.
What did you learn from your first tour with GOT7 and how have you changed as a performer since then?
To focus on having fun! In the beginning, since it was our very first tour, we wanted to make sure we did things right. All of that messes with your head since you forget to have fun. The fans, well our fans at least, don’t care if you forget a move or things like that. They have the most fun when we’re also enjoying ourselves on stage.
What do you love about touring solo? How did you adjust to doing a full performance by yourself?
Being able to be in the moment. Since I’m performing by myself, I can choose to walk to a certain section during a song or skip a dance move to interact with the audience. I can’t do that with the group since I’ll mess up the dance and formation! I’ve done a couple of performances by myself before this tour so it’s not too foreign for me. I always make it a point to interact with the fans so they feel like they’re part of the show.
What is the relationship between music and mental health for you?
I’m not a talker so I find it hard to express my thoughts and emotions through words. With music though, it’s easier. It’s my outlet to express things I find difficult, which helps me release emotions and thoughts that would otherwise remain bottled up. Even listening to music that I can relate to from other people helps. Without music, my mental health would definitely have taken a dip.
Are you involved in the creative direction of your music videos? How do you translate the emotions in your music to the visuals?
Yes, I always have a certain direction for my music videos. I’m very specific [about] how I want the music video to look so we sit down and have a lot of discussions. Then it comes down to the production set and when filming the music video, I focus on getting into character. I also monitor the shots we’ve filmed so we can make the necessary changes needed to bring our vision to life. When all the filming is done, the rest of the team works their magic in post-production so the music video conveys exactly what we want it to.
You left LA when you were 16 for South Korea and you stayed for 10 years, did Korea become your home and how was it adjusting to life in LA after that?
Yeah, I spent much of my adult years in Korea so naturally, it became a second home. I returned earlier this year and although I’ve been away for a while, nothing felt weird. It was just like returning home. Adjusting life to LA wasn’t too hard. Only the first month felt a little weird since I kept feeling like I had to return to Korea but being surrounded by family and friends, I settled in pretty quickly.
What is something about you that your fans don’t know and would surprise them?
They pretty much know everything! I recently revealed that I had a tattoo done on the inner part of my lower lip about 4 years ago. I have nothing else to share! For now at least, haha.
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