In November last year, Mark Tuan officiated a new chapter with his first solo release ‘Last Breath’. An emotional harbinger to the GOT7 member’s musical memoir, a full-length English album titled The Other Side. Unravelling his personal experiences since moving to South Korea to debut as a K-pop idol, away from his homeland in Los Angeles, the tracks in the album bear a heavier, vulnerable undercurrent, in contrast to the bright and cheery persona that fans often see in Tuan.
This other side, coincides with where the singer is at right now in his career. Since the group parted ways with JYP Entertainment, while still remaining as GOT7, Tuan moved home to LA, in two minds about his future in music. “We were continuing as GOT7 for sure, but that aside, I didn’t know if doing solo music was something I really wanted to do. I spent time with my family and friends and a music manager reached out to me. When I headed back into the studio, it felt fun. It made me want to continue,” recalls Tuan.
And it seems like independence agrees with the artist in Tuan. In early 2021, he set up his own label DNA with his close friends while taking the year to put the team together—a considered move to establish doing things his own way. “The advantage of starting as friends rather than joining a more established agency is that we are very agile in making changes that work. We have come a long way in establishing a model that allows us to listen and adapt to fans. This allows us to continually improve, while still having fun along the way.”
After spending a bulk of his adult years in a foreign land, the singer found an invigorating release of his past experiences and pent-up emotions through the medium of music—hence culminating in The Other Side. It’s a deep, raw place Tuan is giving room to, especially for his longtime supporters; a refreshing glance into the personal space that we don’t get to see in most K-pop idols.
Below, the star speaks to Vogue Singapore on his first album, his desire to relate to his fans and why he feels happier these days.
What does The Other Side mean to you and how do you feel about its release?
I’m excited and really looking forward to the release. I’ve been working on this album for more than a year now. I am a little worried since this is my first full length solo album but I’m happy to be able to finally share this with all the fans.
Spending 10 years away from home and in the public eye, naturally there were parts of myself that I didn’t show to everyone, either by choice or by circumstances. In those 10 years, a lot has happened and as it is with everything in life, there are ups and downs. The highs are celebrated but the lows are hidden away so I wanted this album to chronicle the lows in those 10 years. I wanted this story to be mine to tell; stories from a regular guy named Mark. You can see the album as a collection of stories made up from my experiences, the emotions I had, the lessons I learnt. It’s the cleansing that I needed in order to move forward.
We assume in this album, we would be seeing a different side of Mark Tuan. What were the songs inspired by and what do you hope your fans can take away from this?
It all came from the dark memories and emotions I had in those years. Since love is a universal language, the songs are tweaked and made to sound like love songs but the foundation and the theme of the album were from my personal experiences. I feel like it’s easy to forget that musicians are just normal people like everyone else. We have good days and we have bad days. There are days when nothing feels right. I hope that the fans, or anyone, listening to my album comes to a realisation that you’re not alone. Everyone goes through the same kind of emotions, only to a different depth and degree, shaped by different events. Maybe you feel like there isn’t anyone around you who understands you but if you could relate to any of the songs on the album, then to some degree both you and I have faced something similar, so I hope you know that you’re not alone.
Is there a particular song that holds a special place in your heart?
This is really hard to choose. They all hold special places in my heart. If I really had to choose though, it’ll be ‘Last Breath’. It was the first song I released, and it marks the first chapter of the story I wanted to tell to the fans.
This is your first solo album, where you were involved in—from lyrics, to production. What was the whole experience like for you?
It’s just fascinating. In the past, we had different divisions in the company work on different aspects of the album. For this album though, I was involved right from the beginning in all the different areas so there was, and there still is, a learning curve. It’s fun and rewarding to see all our hard work come together into one album and it has given me added motivation to do even better for the next one.
Since leaving South Korea, how do you think you’ve grown as an artist? Whether it be professionally or personally.
Professionally, it’s given me a lot more insight into how things work. Learning all the different things that used to be managed by the company has given me more knowledge. It has also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and I find myself getting more ambitious about wanting to try various things.
Personally, just being able to walk down the streets and take time for myself has made me happier. I get to disconnect when I find the need to and I feel it’s made me healthier physically and mentally.
What’s happening next for Mark Tuan? Apart from your tour in the US, do you have any plans to head to Asia/Singapore?
Right now, my focus is on completing the US tour well! I’m also always working on songs that could go into the next album. I would love to return to Asia—Singapore included. We were supposed to go to Singapore in 2020 for a GOT7 concert but that got cancelled due to the pandemic. I’ve been wanting to return and it’s been too long since I’ve met everyone. Let’s hope it’s sooner than later?
Listen to Mark Tuan’s The Other Side here.