In the spotlight this month is Korean/Hawaiian/German singer-songwriter, Bradley Kim.
Born and raised in a small suburb outside Seattle, he discovered his love for music in his early teens after teaching himself to play the ukulele for a ‘promposal’. The girl in question was very into music, and wanting to do something unique, he played her ‘Count on Me’ by Bruno Mars. Soon after, he set up his Instagram where he started to post his song covers to an audience largely consisting of his family and friends – but music didn’t become a serious part of his life until he started attending the United States Air Force Academy on a Division 1 Football scholarship.
Growing up, Bradley’s dream was to play football at the highest level but, as a closeted LQBTQ+ athlete, he consistently had fears that his sexuality would limit his dreams from coming to fruition. This was not the case, however, his career sadly ended two years into his attendance at the Academy following battles with severe injuries. This did not deter him, as he began to channel all his emotions of anguish, but also joy and pride of his accomplishments from his athletic success, into the words and melodies of his music.
However, music wasn’t just a backup plan, as Bradley says: “Honestly I think I would have run my body into the ground in my pursuit of becoming a professional athlete.
“I hung up the cleats at the Air Force Academy primarily because of the injuries that I sustained… but that extra little push over the edge to give up football was because I was dead set on becoming a musician, and I didn’t think I could have it both ways.
“Maybe things could have turned out differently, maybe not. I guess that’s life.”
Kim has already had some incredible successes early in his career, most notably opening for Dermot Kennedy in Indianapolis, for his 2021 Better Days tour which he describes as his “favourite performance”. This was his first time ever playing his original music live and was the largest crowd he had ever played in front of, with 7,000 people in attendance.
Bradley reminisced on the experience: “Getting to open for an artist that you have been listening to for years is such a surreal experience and feeling. Over a year later and I’m still shocked that it actually happened.
“The high I got from performing and connecting with all of those people solidified my dreams of making music and playing shows for the rest of my life. I’m incredibly grateful I got the opportunity to do that and I just think Dermot is one of the most genuine and wholesome individuals I’ve met in music.”
As for the future, Bradley hopes that in five years, he will be “signed to a label and [living] the pop star dream,” however, he notes that he is obligated to serve with the Air Force until 2026, but plans to move to LA and really focusing all his time and energy into his music career. But he expresses that above all else, he “just [wants] to enjoy making music as much as I do right now.”
“I started doing it because I enjoy it more than anything else; I never really thought I was good enough to make a living doing music when I first started, I just loved it.
“I’ve experienced a lot of turmoil recently in life and a lot of aspects of music stress me out, sometimes to the point where I think about quitting, and I fear that as years pass that I will start to see music as a job rather than my passion.”
Although most artists tend to have bizarre rituals or setups for writing and recording, Bradley prefers the more laid-back and relaxed approach. To get himself into the flow for writing, he loves to give the room a ‘vibey’ environment, which consists of a collection of different lights and candles, and the comfortable surroundings allow him to enjoy the process more.
Bradley also finds that it helps his creativity flow more if he is going through something which allows him to articulate his feelings into lyrics and melodies, but when this is not the case he tends to simply pick a topic and write what he can. Of his recording process, he says: “I usually record vocals for about 30 minutes without really caring how I sound to warm my vocals up and then get intentional with how I record. Sometimes the first few takes I do without being warm are my best so it really just depends.”
When writing his most recent release, Flowers, the writing process differed as he co-wrote the single with athlete and artist Dalton Mauldin. While co-writing, the pair were able to bounce ideas off of each other and come together to create a song which contains each of their best qualities as singer/songwriters and making up for any “shortfalls or near-sightedness” they may have when they would write alone.
Bradley graciously sings Dalton’s praises and describes him as “a very close friend of [his] who is just an amazing and genuine person who has this innate ability to put a positive spin on anything,” and of working with him, says: “[It] is just easy. He is an incredibly talented writer and singer. We complement each other well; I’d come up with an idea and he would take it and make it infinitely better whether it was melody or lyrically and occasionally I would make one of his ideas better.
“I often am either overly critical of my writing when I’m writing alone, or I don’t think twice on things that I probably should have thought twice about. Writing with Dalton has elevated my songwriting and mindset that I use to approach songwriting.”
Flowers came to fruition when Bradley had a visit from Dalton, who was travelling back to Nashville from Florida, last December. The pair randomly decided to write a breakup song that was on the more angsty and upbeat side, which people could “relate to, cry to sing to, scream to, and dance to,” which was based on a Ross and Rachel type of on again/off again relationship, which had failed countless times before and ultimately they don’t end up together. Although this did not come from personal experience as Bradley was in a relationship at the time the song was written and recorded, he describes the release as “inopportune” as he recently went through a breakup but insists the song is not about him [his ex].
The motif of flowers was chosen as it provides a perfect visualisation of how the relationship goes; they begin dating, one person hurts the other, they bring flowers to apologise and make it better, and then the cycle continues. Bradley explains how “the image [he] always kept in [his] mind was just a guy waiting at his significant other’s door dressed nicely with a bouquet of flowers and the change in his facial expression from when he was hopeful to when he realizes that it’s over for real this time.” This realisation is perfectly illustrated in the cover art, which features Bradley sadly sitting on the ground surrounded by the wasted flowers which are symbolic of the relationship as a whole – whether that is interpreted by the listener as it was a waste of time; a waste of emotion; or waste of something else entirely.
The music is a combination of elements from both 80’s dance-pop and indie-pop, which resulted in the danceable; angst-driven and sad Flowers – one of those songs which, based on your mood, your emotional reaction to it can vary heavily. This means that every listener can relate to it on a differing personal and emotional level, ergo leaving a different imprint and experience on each and every one. It is also a fantastic illustration of Bradley’s talent and range as an artist, which leaves me excited to see what musical direction he takes for his EP which he plans on releasing in early 2023.
Flowers is available now to listen to here.
Featured Image Credit: Elite Talent
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