Monday, October 14, 2013

Carpe Diem and “Nae Soneul Jaba (내 손을 잡아)”

I want to take a moment to jump back to Korea.  I've been sitting on a secret for a few months now, and I can finally tell you:  My music students partnered with new, Philadelphia-based record label, FeedbackLoop to write and release an original song.  It's out this month, obtainable only by subscription.

The sign that adorns my music students' practice space also declares the name of their band.
It’s confusing, I know - What was I, an English teacher, doing with music students? Sometimes, it hits
me all over again, and I chuckle all the harder. When I originally came to Korea from Nashville two years ago, I thought I had left the music industry behind me. But, as the old saying goes, you can take the girl out of the industry, but you can’t take the industry out of the girl.

Every day, I’d sit at my desk waiting for it. I’d dread it. I tried to love it, but it wasn’t happening. I mean, there’s only so many times a girl can take hearing Gangnam Style wafting up through the floorboards. The school cover band met every day in the room immediately below mine, and I was starting to lose my mind. Winter break came and went all too quickly, and I soon found myself back at my desk, tensing for the opening notes of Psy’s hit that I knew would inevitably come… but was greeting instead by the opening strains of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” For a couple of weeks, I listened through the floor, and then I contacted Justin.

The moment that started it all

The kids couldn’t believe what I was telling them when I explained to them that I, their English teacher, had worked in artist management before coming to Korea, and that I, their ENGLISH teacher, wanted to help them write and record a song to be put on a label in America. I’m still not convinced they believe me.

Kim (right) collaborated with another girl in the band, Ji-Hye Lee (left),
who quickly proved her musical worth as well.

Over the course of the semester, we practiced various songwriting techniques, and then we got down to business. One girl in particular, 김주향 (Ju-Hyang Kim), showed a particular interest in the project and came to me with half a song in nearly flawless English. I brought in a fellow Nashvillian-turned-English-teacher Ashley Harden to help guide her in the process (sadly, I have never been much of a lyricist) and sound engineer (also turned English teacher) Adam Thomas for engineer consultation and to direct and shoot the music video, and the rest is history.

Kim taught each player his or her part, down to the last
detail.  No chord bend or slide was there without her
having intended it to be.
Kim quickly proved her musical prowess, writing not just the lyrics but going on to also collaborate with 이지혜 (Ji-Hye Lee) in writing parts for each instrument. They made my job much easier than I thought it was going to be, leaving me with only a couple vocal coaching sessions and the recording process to do. Of course, I also had quite the job to do in refocusing the band, from time-to-time. After all, it is made entirely of 14-to-16-year-olds. The kids have exceeded every expectation I had of them, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Carpe Diem is a band comprised of and led by middle schoolers in South Korea.
Read more about what provoked my long-time friend Justin to take us on and bring you “Nae Soneul Jaba (내 손을 잡아)” - and how you can get your very own copy of it - here.

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