Rebel of a songwriter

South Korean songwriter Dean.
South Korean songwriter Dean.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC

South Korean songwriter Dean emerged in March from behind the scenes to release his first album, 130 Mood: TRBL.

Says the 23-year-old, who was behind boyband Exo's Black Pearl (2013) and South Korean singer Lee Hi's World Tour (2016): "As a producer, I tailor the music to suit the vocal colours and abilities of the singers. Now as an artist, it's important to do what I want."

Dean, whose real name is Kwon Hyuk, spoke to The Straits Times briefly before his album's showcase in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, in March.

The boyish singer declares that he has no intention of conforming to the K-popster mould.

"Instead of making myself fit into the industry, I would like to introduce listeners to my music. It's like how a famous restaurant attracts customers with its good food. Likewise, I hope people will gather to listen to my music," he says.

The self-taught composer is part of the songwriting team at California-based Joombas Music Group, which has produced songs for Exo's catchy hit Growl (2013) and Canadian superstar Justin Bieber's One Less Lonely Girl (2009).

Dean took steps towards the spotlight when he released the English- language singles I'm Not Sorry in 2014 and Put My Hands On You last year.

His album 130 Mood: TRBL debuted at No. 3 spot on Billboard's World Albums chart last month.

The way he says it, he is no mindless K-pop drone.

"A rebellious spirit is something that I want to keep with me," he says in an interview with Korea Herald, referring to his show business moniker, which is inspired by American actor James Dean, who was best known for playing the title role in Rebel Without A Cause (1955).

The late actor's influence extends to Dean's album title, specifically the number 130.

The Korean singer says: "The number 130 was always plastered on the cars that James Dean drove. James Dean was an avid car lover, he kept remodelling cars with an experimental mind. I made this album with a similar mind."

To feel the emotions of his songs, Dean looks within himself.

He says: "I'm more sensitive to emotions than the average person. I'm very emotional. I can translate those feelings into my songs.

"I make up a scenario in my head, imagine I'm the star of a play and experience the emotions."

•130 Mood: TRBL is available at CD-Rama outlets and digital platform such as KKBOX and Singtel AMPed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Rebel of a songwriter'. Print Edition | Subscribe