Last year was pretty quiet for Crush. The Korean R&B singer, born Shin Hyo-seob, rose to prominence in 2015 with the hit duet “Just” with Zion. T. That year and the next saw hit after hit, but 2017 saw only a handful songs from the 25-year-old.
As he went into SXSW’s Korea Spotlight on March 16, Crush had little new material to perform for the Stateside crowd, his first solo performance in the country since KCON 2016 NY. But it’ll be far from his last according to the artist, who tells Billboard that 2017 was a respite before what he hopes to be a whirlwind a 2018.
“Last year I spent the time working on new music, getting ready for the next step,” Crush says before taking the stage at the Belmont. “Everything’s ready for 2018. I’m going to have a U.S. tour and new music. Last year was basically just preparing all that. I’m going to release an English, internationally-aimed album here in the U.S. Basically, it’s a new challenge for me to sing in English, to reach a broader audience outside the Korean market.”
No release date has been announced for Crush’s upcoming music, English or Korean, but the R&B singer says he’ll continue to show new sides to himself through his music: “I’m always trying to try out new things and for this album I have a lot different genres that I’ll be exploring. Some it is even country, alternative, and jazzy.”
Crush has gained fame in Korea not only for his music but also his relaxed mindset: he won the 2016 Han River Space-Out contest after he spent an hour and a half doing nothing. Effusing a sense mellowness in both his music and his life, the artist veers towards smooth alt R&B melodies such as his latest song, the jazzy “be by my side.” Written for fans, it’s a sleek nu soul tune that samples Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Brazilian Rhyme,” which Crush featured during many performances throughout his career, one which is featured at the end the track.
“I sampled that for ‘be by my side’ as a nod to the fans that have supported me for a long time; it was my way giving a gift to them,” Crush says. “The melody and rhythm ‘Brazilian Rhyme’ really called to me. It has a popular chord that’s my favorite part. It was my favorite song growing up. I really liked the basic rhythm when I was young. I listened to a lot bossa nova and Latin American music in general. I wanted to keep that in my music.”
Much Crush’s career has been about his interaction with other artists, and he’s released only a handful tracks that weren’t collaborative. He's worked with several artists frequently, such as Zion.T, Gray, Zico, Dean, and Loco, and more collaborations are in the works, both for his upcoming Korean and English albums.
“I try to connect with the artists I’d like to work with first before working together,” he explains. “I think about the souls the artists, and how ours will work with one another, before working together. When I find an artist that I like, when I listen to their music or look at his or her lifestyle, I try to approach him or her and try to work with them. For the English album, there are a lot tracks I made with other artists but I can’t say who yet.”
Though he’s working with a lot other artists from different industries and genres, Crush isn’t really putting himself out there to sell anything other than his authentic sense self, something most people don't think when they think Korean music considering the prevalence K-pop and its fantasticality. “I try to show myself as honestly as possible on my tracks,” he says. “The first and foremost goal for me is to reach as large an audience as possible. I do hear about everybody in the world tuning into K-pop and all that, but my own success internationally isn’t necessarily my first goal. I just want to reach out to be heard and challenge myself musically. I just want to make good music.”