Interview: Eric Nam talks about Koalas, Growing with Fans, and Surreal ‘aha’ Moments ahead of Australian Tour

2018 was a tremendous year for the continued global expansion of Korean Pop; here, singer-songwriter, entertainer, and entrepreneur Eric Nam definitely made his indelible mark.

The April release of his EP ‘Honestly’, featuring his signature mix of K-Pop and R&B, garnered tremendous international success as it debuted at #6 on the Billboard World Album Charts. This was followed by a 15 city tour across North America, which quickly became the best-selling tour of all time by a solo K-Pop artist.

Fortunately for Australian fans, now it is our turn! Eric recently announced his long-awaited return to southern shores with a run of headline shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in March. We spoke with Eric ahead of his shows down-under where we talked about travelling to Istanbul, his motivations to perform, musical influences, and what he has been listening to on repeat!

We’re little more than a couple of weeks away from your Australian tour – first you will be taking Brisbane, then Sydney, and then finally making your way to Melbourne – what are you most looking forward to with these Australian shows? What can we expect? Any more TWICE covers like the ones we saw from you Seoul concerts?

Yeah! (laughs) I am really excited. I haven’t been back to Australia in a really long while. I think because it is my first time back in a really long time, there is going to be a lot of great music, and a lot of high energy. I did do the cover section in my recent solo concert, and I am debating whether we should put it into the tour or not – I am not 100% sure on that one yet. We’ll see, we’ll see!

Of course, we do have a few days off between the shows to explore. I don’t really know what to do. What I do know, however, is that I still have never seen a Koala. I have seen plenty of Kangaroos, and Wallabies and all sorts of animals, but I still have not seen a Koala. I think that is one thing that I have to do.

If anyone has any other recommendations, let me know! I am excited!

And of course, Australia is just a part of this larger tour that you’re doing. You’re actually travelling to quite a few places; Thailand, Japan, and you recently announced your European tour, too. Where is one place that you dream of performing in the future?

Wow, oh gosh! You know, I think there are always those times, for example my recent US tour last year – we had 16 shows in 15 cities and we had a lot of fun. I think it’s fun to kind of go to these smaller size venues, and then grow with fans.

There are cities that I would absolutely love to go back to, but I think it’s really about the venues. In Atlanta, for example, my hometown, it was like a small 500-600 venue about two years ago. And then we upgraded that to a 1,600 seater. So to grow like that, it’s a lot more meaningful, rather than thinking of specific locations. The more and more people come to the shows and be engaged with my music, that’s the most exciting part.

To go back to your actual question, I think one place I would like to go to is probably much more personal, you know. I want to go to Turkey. I want to go to Istanbul. I just really want to go to this place. I am just fascinated by the place. I think it’s just such an interesting country. Even if it is not to perform, I just want to go there.

You were talking before about the growth that you’ve seen with your fans. Has there been a particular moment in your career where you’ve thought, “Wow, this is amazing”?

Oh, I think I have those moments a lot. I mean, every time I am on stage honestly. Realising that people are paying money and spending their time to come hang out with me. Every show I feel that way. They could be doing anything, anywhere, watching any other movie or show, or whatever, but they’re choosing, they’re opting to spend that time, watching me perform.

Every time I perform I am so thankful and blown away by that understanding, and I think that really drives me to put on a a great show every night. Every show, itself, is very, very rewarding.

What you are saying reminds me of the speech that Drake gave last week at the Grammys, where he was talking about how you’ve already won when people are singing your songs word for word or spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to see you. I can’t imagine how that must feel and it’s great to hear that’s such a positive thing for you.

Yeah, I know! I was watching the Grammys too and when he said that, and I thought “Yeah, I completely agree with him”. It was very much one of those ‘aha’ or ‘I’m not the only one’ moments. It was really cool.

On top of that, though, I think one of the most ‘wow’ shows that I’ve had was in Minneapolis last year at First Avenue. First Avenue is where Prince shot ‘Purple Rain’. It’s also painted with stars of people that have performed at the venue. That venue has not only Prince, but artists like Coldplay, and Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and like crazy, crazy legendary acts. And I think I was the first Asian act to ever perform and sell that place out, and so it was a really surreal moment for me last year.

Talking about the likes of Nirvana, Prince, and Coldplay, who are your musical influences?

I mean, musically, I am always listening for new things. It’s always changing. The music landscape changes so fast these days. You know, I listen to a big variety of things. For me, what I have come to understand about myself and my music is that I just really like ‘Pop’ music.

I think about the people I grew up listening to, you know like a lot of Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, John Legend, John Mayer. I really feel like those people are some very influential figures for me growing up. Bruno Mars, for example, has always been such a great showman. I’ve never seen him live, myself, but to be able to sing and dance and really perform the way he does, I don’t think there are a lot of people who do that right now on that level.

And what are you currently listening to now?

I just started listening to this guy called Jeremy Zucker. He has a pretty big following, but I just came across his music. He has thing song called, ‘All The Kids Are Depressed’ and the melody is just very simple.

And then I recently came across this other guy called Black Rose. He has a song called ‘Lost’. These are names I found just browsing on Spotify. Oh! And then there’s this other guy called Pink Sweat$. He has this song called ‘Honesty’, and all the other songs on that album are really great too. They are a few artists that I find myself listening to a lot.

I am going to have to check them out after this! Thank you once again so much for your time. All the best for your Aussie tour.

Thank you so much! I’ll see you in Melbourne!

We’ll get you a cuddle with a Koala!

Haha! See you there! I am so excited.

This will be Australia’s only chance to catch a glimpse of Eric Nam in such an intimate setting and definitely not one to be missed. For complete tour, ticket and VIP Experiences information, visit: livenation.com.au.