A little late posting this but check out this interview Drew did with Asia Pacific Arts back in Novemeber at Kcon where he performed with David Lehre and spoke on the “Making a Hit” panel. Drew speaks with APA about how he got started in songwriting, differences between American and Korean pop music and more.
The interview gives some interesting insight into Drew’s creative process, which he never really talks about. You can Read the interview below the cut if you prefer not to watch it.
Better Late than never!
Interviewed by: Mai Nguyen
Camera by: Brian Lam
Video edit by: Tianqi Liang
APA: How did you get into songwriting?
Drew Ryan Scott: When I was a kid, I used to want to sing songs. Elvis Presley was a huge inspiration to me. I listened to his music, and I was like: how does he have all these cool concepts like “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t be Cruel” and “Blue Suede Shoes?” I would try to change his melodies a little bit when I was a kid and say, “Look, I made my own song!” [laughs]
So I started like that, and I just wrote more and more. Then, I had my band Varsity Fanclub, we got signed to Capitol Records, and I started doing songs for the band, which then led me to doing songs for other artists in America, Korea, UK, South America, Canada — just about everywhere.
APA: How do you go about writing songs geared for different countries?
DRS: Writing a song basically requires three things. You got the chord progressions, the melodies and the concept. You start with the chord progressions. Major chords are the best, and most hit records have been written in C Major. You write that, then you sing over it and make the melodies. It can be a catchy melody that you repeat over and over again, or it could be a really nice big melody. Put that together with a great concept, and you can get something like Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” It’s got a great concept about love. You’re basically telling your version of the story that has been told a million times. So, it has to be something fresh, something different, something that hasn’t been heard before, which is why “Umbrella” was so successful: “I love you, so you can stand under my umbrella.” I use that example, ’cause it’s a great reference song.
APA: People say K-Pop is very structured and follows a formula, do you agree with that?
DRS: It is very structured. You have to have an intro for every song. There’s an intro, first verse, pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus, re-intro of music into second verse, second verse, second pre-chorus, second chorus, second post-chorus bridge, chorus, and finally post-chorus. There’s a whole formula to every song, and that’s basically what the format is in Korea, always.
In Korea, they like dance breaks, which we don’t do that much in America anymore. They like to have every part different: the pre-chorus is completely different from the chorus. The chord progressions always change, but in America a lot of our songs nowadays stay the same chord progression the whole song.
And their style is amazing. They will go over the top and they will wear whatever. They have fur everywhere, leather, skin showing, tight tight pants, crazy accessories and it’s okay. In America, if a guy were to wear some of the things they wear in Korea, we’d just get made fun of. We would be hated on. In Korea, you have more freedom, you can kind of do whatever and I think it’s amazing. Hopefully we adapt that here in America soon.
APA: Despite the formula, you mention how free and versatile K-pop can be. How have you felt free when writing music in Korea?
DRS: I’ve been working on Kim Hyunjoong’s album. I did his single “Kiss Kiss” and numerous other songs for him on his new album coming out. “Kiss Kiss” is a really feel good pop song. [sings] The song he just released in Japan is a rock song with a Lifehouse type of vibe, so it’s totally different, and now we’re doing something for his upcoming Korean release, something more hip hop and urban-meets-pop. So, the cool thing is that you can experiment in Korea too. You can switch from genres, and it’s okay. In America if you switch, people get confused and they go, “Oh, who is he trying to be?”
APA: What’s your view on the Hallyu wave?
DRS: I really hope that K-Pop is slowly spreading everywhere. There’s a big buzz in America; K-Pop is reaching a place that Western music doesn’t go anymore. There’s a big disconnect in America, but K-pop is still selling albums, and people still want to buy their music. People still like what they have to give because it’s a product. I think in America, we’re ripping off fans. I feel like we’re not giving as much. What happened to music videos? They used to be so good, but now they just aren’t; now we rush through everything in America, but in K-pop, everything is so precise and accurate.
So, I think people are slowly starting to see that and it’s amazing. With “Gangnam Style” being huge over here, I think that’s a big crossover, so hopefully slowly K-Pop will take over. I want to see K-Pop be in the top Billboard Charts in America. I feel like they’ll start releasing more English version songs since they already do Japanese versions. I’ve had a couple artists who do my original English version and their Korean version of my songs, so I know it happens. I feel if they do it more often and do some music videos in English, they can break the market. I know the SM Entertainment movie is coming out and I think that’ll help bridge the gap there too. K-pop. Takeover.
APA: You’ve had the opportunity to work with so many top K-pop artists. Who would you like to work with next?
DRS: I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff for SHINee coming up, like “Dazzling Girl,” and I have their next single coming out. Can’t say what it is, but it’s a really good song; I’m excited about that.
I’m in a band called After Romeo. We’re working on our album right now and are signed on a major deal. Hopefully, going on tour in January or February. We’re setting up right now, so we’re really excited. We’re doing some amazing songs, shooting some awesome music videos, and fun behind the scenes footage. You can check us out on Twitter and YouTube.
Some stuff coming up on EXO too. I love them; I think they’re so good on stage. I try to stay up on everything, but for some reason, I hadn’t heard EXO, and when I finally saw them, they were amazing. I’ve literally focused on doing so many songs for them. That’s like my goal, to work more with EXO.
I also sing on Glee, but I sing off camera for a lot of the songs there. I write and produce for American X Factor. Lately, I’ve been working a lot with Ryan Beatty, New Kids on the Block for their new album, as well as Haley Reinhart from American Idol. Just a lot of stuff going on. I keep very busy. It’s all good. I like it that way.