Jaehun Kim, 29, is originally from Seoul, South Korea, but he immigrated to the United States when he was three years old. His parents wanted him to be a doctor, so Kim graduated from the University of Kansas in 2013 with a degree in microbiology. It was only a matter of time before Kim realized the medical field wasn’t for him, and soon he discovered the his true passion was music. After all, he grew up with a musical background, and started DJing in college as a hobby. More specifically, his focus is on electronic dance music (EDM). He would come home from a full-time job and dedicate hours to working on music.
Now, Kim has built his up his brand and reputation as a music producer under the name DJ Seoul Real. His first paid gig was in 2017 and ever since then, he has been playing shows in Kansas City at places like AURA, Riot Room and Prohibition Hall. In the midst of releasing new music, Kim found time to speak with us about what it’s like to be a professional DJ, and what advice he’d give to individuals who want to pursue their passions.
It has a lot of meanings for me, Seoul Real. I was born in Seoul, then you have the phrase “so real” — stay true to yourself. And that's what I try to do. Seoul also sounds like soul. I think that's also very interesting because I try to make music that touches people's souls.
I often go for certain moods. I decide what kind of mood I’m going for on a track. So my thing is that I really enjoy emotional and kind of sad music — it gives me that bittersweet feeling. I usually go into the studio with that kind of view in mind, and I will listen to some music that is similar to the feeling I want. Then I just try to recreate the mood, but I definitely don't try to recreate the song.
EDM is such a huge umbrella, there's so many subgenres, that [you're bound] find a genre of EDM that you like. It has a little bit of something for everyone.
I get very nervous. I'm just in my head, psyching myself out. It's very nerve-wracking, but once I start DJing, it almost goes away. You play your first song and you just start forgetting you're playing in front of people. You’re playing music for yourself and you're vibing to it, and it's awesome to see other people vibe to what you're playing. When you're done, it's like an adrenaline rush because you just went up there and you performed in front of people.
You get to share what you're feeling at the time with other people and stay connected through music. Whenever I produce music and release a track and people like it, it's just so awesome to feel like there are other people that feel the same way that you do about it. You're making people dance, and you're bringing a moment of joy to those people.
Besides the fact that I really enjoy it, I just want to prove something. I don't think people were put on this earth to just work all their lives and then just die. You should strive to be the best human being you can while on this earth, and you should do what you love.
One of my biggest dreams is to play at EDC once. I would literally cry on stage if that happened. Once I get to that point, that'll just be a milestone and there'll be another milestone after that.
You don’t have to destroy your dreams to be successful. It's your life. You can do whatever you want. The world says you have to go to college if you want to make the next step. College isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it isn't necessarily a good thing [either]. It is a stepping stone, and it is very important to figuring out what you want to do by forcing tough decisions on you.
You should also get yourself situated first. Get a job, pay rent and pay your bills. But after work, you have hours that you can learn to do other stuff. So when you graduate from college and you don't know what to do, get a job. It's valuable experience, but after work, do what you actually want to do.
If you find a purpose that you know in your heart is what you want to do, it's almost relieving. You might not have a lot money at the time, but once you know and you go towards that goal, you are comfortable with yourself. You're more confident in yourself and you just know what you’re meant to do.