“I Feel Like I Have No Barriers” DAWN Interviewed

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With the sphere of K-pop, the name DAWN ripples throughout. His presence is palpable, his artistry noted by many a colleague or a fan. DAWN first debuted back in 2016 with the K-pop boy-group Pentagon. The group became widely successful with their hit single ‘Shine’ still being one of the most popular K-pop songs to this day. In 2018, it was announced that DAWN would be leaving the Pentagon, and his company Cube; follows this, DAWN made his solo debut with the hypnotic single ‘Money’ in 2019 and has never looked back since. Now with the release of his latest EP ‘Narcissus’, DAWN reimages his image, conveying a greater sense of maturing through a collection of songs entangled in his recollection of love. 

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DAWN’s journey to becoming the artist he is now, has been nothing but turbulent. He has lived a lot of lives, from the fresh-faced idol that debuted with Pentagon to the brightly-dressed shimmering extraordinaire seen on tracks like, ‘Stupid Cool’ and ‘PING PONG’. However, at the beginning of the year DAWN announced he would be joining the label AT AREA. Founded by producers GrooveyRoom, the label ventures out of the K-pop realm and more into a hip-hop capacity. Speaking of the move, DAWN mentions that “I knew we were a good match because we were similar in many ways but I knew I had a lot to learn from them. The transition was very natural, and we all operate like a family.” Not long after his venture to AT AREA was reported, work on his latest EP ‘Narcissus’ began.

‘Narcissus’ is like a time capsule. Its stories and sound make up a snapshot of some of DAWN’s most intimate memories. DAWN reveals that he “wanted to talk about how ‘love’ influenced my 20s and the sound of my EP sonically made the most sense to be paired with my story. It took me some time to be open enough to experiment freely. Now I feel like I have no barriers.” This lack of barriers has paid dividends. ‘Narcissus’ is probably DAWN’s most visceral work. It weaves its way through a relationship, getting into the crevices of all its deepest emotions, unfazed by what it may uncover. 

The news of DAWN releasing ‘Narcissus’ was met with great anticipation, however at the same time there was a slight tremor that followed. In 2018 DAWN was catapulted into the K-pop forefront with the announcement of his relationship with K-pop icon Hyuna. Despite many people’s convictions, the relationship demonstrated the possibility of idol’s dating publicly and almost shunned the taboos that shrouded over the notion. The entirety of the couple’s relationship was visible online, however this did not deter DAWN from openly conversing those feelings. DAWN expresses that there was “no pressure about [talking] about it at all. It came to me naturally because I felt confident that what I wanted my fans to hear was the real me. My past relationship was a big part of my life as Hyojong and also as DAWN. It only was natural for me to five into that more and be sincere about it.” 

DAWN appeared strict in the vision he had for ‘Narcissus’. He explains that “every track feels special to me because it all symbolises a different part of my love journey.” When asked about the stark difference in sound from previous projects he conveys that “it could feel stripped back to some people, but I’d like to describe it as more natural and free. This EP and its creative process helped me discover myself even more.” This sense of intimacy that DAWN was trying to convey, made it vital for him to have an environment that felt protected. He reflects on this, saying “since coming to AT AREA, my focus has always been ‘my story’. That being the priority, it is now way easier to have consistent direction and cohesive message around all assets.”

From an outward perspective DAWN is visibly individual. He has an immense sense of self and does not adhere to certain constructs. The same can be said for his approach to music. Whilst always being in control of his lyrics, production and overall visual presentation, DAWN took it a step further by particularly digging into the conceptual side of ‘Narcissus’. When asked about how the making of ‘Narcissus’ differed from other projects he had worked on he mentions that he collaborated with TV and film writers; “they listened to each song with me and I explained which phase of my life and love that each song was inspired by. They wrote different styles of writing in essays, or a short story format.” He further explains that these stories were incorporated into the physical album design. 

What’s striking about DAWN, particularly during this phase of his life, is his reflective tenour towards love. Speaking about what he wants listeners to get out of his EP he conveys that he wants them “to feel loved, or to want to be loved… Whether that’s reminiscing back to their old memories, missing their lovers, or being so crazy in love.” He continued on to say “love is such a beautiful thing and I think we all live to love.” DAWN’s pensive approach to the unfathomable concept, makes it feel soft. It’s almost as if through the making of this EP, and mulling over his recent memories, DAWN has managed to retell the feeling through a lens of familiarity. Even when asked what was going to be next for the artist he explains: “I’m not sure what I want to talk about next, but I am currently searching”. Despite only being a simple sentence, his uncertainty gives a sense of exploration, portraying DAWN as an artist that is guided by his intuition rather than his preconceptions.  

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Dawn’s new EP ‘Narcissus’ is out now.

Words: Abbie Aitken