Singer-songwriter and self-taught producer hongjoin transitions from heartbroken to hopeless romantic in his sophomore album KOMOREBI. “Komorebi” ( 木漏れ日 ) is a Japanese word that means “sunlight filtered through the leaves of trees.” hongjoin’s latest album encapsulates this feeling through its soft pop mixed with R&B and indie melodies that invoke hope and positivity. Sitting in a warmly lit room, hongjoin connected with EnVi on a video call from his home in Singapore to talk about love, cherishing life, and collaborating with others on KOMOREBI

Turning a New Page in Love

hongjoin is no stranger to writing heartbreak indie songs like the ones on his previous album F(OOL). Though the 22-year-old singer joked about the challenge of transitioning from a “super sad-sounding” EP to a happy one in just a year, hongjoin was ready to show his “hopeless romantic” persona in KOMOREBI. hongjoin mentioned in an Instagram post that “Komorebi” is his “favorite person’s favorite word.” Later he confirmed with EnVi that the album was inspired by his long-distance girlfriend. “It mainly focuses on love, long-distance relationships, taking a leap of faith, and just trusting the process,” hongjoin said.

Love By Design” is a song hongjoin loves because it’s his girlfriend’s favorite, he shared with EnVi. The acoustic song has a soothing melody that oozes reassurance. “I just wanted that song to be a conversation with someone who you’re very far away from, but feel close to,” hongjoin expressed. “Love By Design” is a perfect expression of love and just one of the nine songs that will make your heart melt. 

KOMOREBI

Influenced by Asian and Western elements, hongjoin fused his two cultures — being Singaporean with ties to Taiwan and Japan and living in Boston — to create this album’s unique sound. hongjoin spent a year planning and creating KOMOREBI in hopes of showing his growing talent as a rising artist. It was important for him to create something cohesive with a story to tell, rather than just “a viral song or hit single,” he conveyed. As someone who performs at a lot of shows, stage presence is another thing he considered during the creation process. “Just having these songs released and in my setlist would be a more accurate representation of what I can do on stage,” hongjoin said.

The title track, which shares the name of the album, flutters with yearning, love, and the feeling of being seen in a subtle shaft of light. Thanks to his friends at NYTE WORKS, hongjoin graced listeners with an appealing music video that captures feel good moments alongside the song’s 80s slow jam beat. “I feel like my music would not be complete without them adding so much visuals for the listener to fully engross themselves in the world that I’m trying to make,” the singer said. “I just hope it makes people feel something.” The light guitar strums accompanied by a steady drum beat melt together with hongjoin’s vocals and creates the mood he wishes for listeners to feel. 

Cherishing Life and Youth

In the album’s intro track, hongjoin’s grandfather opens the listening experience with a recording of a profound moment from a conversation. “[Not a direct translation but he said,] ‘I am super envious of you because you’re young and pursuing this. I have a lot of hope for you and you should keep doing what you’re doing and be proud of yourself.’ That voice memo meant a lot to me, so I just wanted to engrave that in my music because to me, this music thing is going to follow me for the rest of my life. I also wanted him to live in my music for the rest of my life,” he fondly recounted.

Through collaboration and friendships with various kinds of people, hongjoin was able to execute his vision for the album, learn new things about music, and tap into “youthfulness.” NYTE WORKS played a big role in the process for him. This creative production group, which hongjoin has been friends with for a year, lent a great hand at working on the music videos and promotional photos for the album. “[Music] should be about celebrating life and that is the main motif of this album,” he said with a smile. “I think a lot of people have taught me that music does not have to be a lonely thing and there’s always joy to be found no matter which part of the music making process you’re in.”

Turning from the sentimental and heartfelt feeling of “Komorebi,” hongjoin dove into playful and lighthearted tones with “Second Gear” and “Enough for Me.” Watching their respective music videos inspires the sense of being carefree while being young. According to hongjoin, it took a village and impromptu plans to film both videos. The singer mentioned inviting all his friends over to his apartment in Boston for a party in order to get footage for “Second Gear.” And for “Enough for Me,” he and his friends shot in Florida to escape the cold Boston snow. For hongjoin, these experiences were the most candid and “goofy” to film, since they were not thought about as deeply. “It’s a lot about just simplicity in life and just doing things that you want to do — like confessing your love or just telling someone that you loved them. So I didn’t want to bombard anyone with deep motifs and stuff like that,” hongjoin clarified. 

“And because we’re still kids,” hongjoin paused and laughed before he continued. “Okay, not kids, but we’re still young. So we just want to go out there and film roles and have fun on set.” 

No-Skip Album

Listeners may be able to pick up on the smooth flow of each song, which is something hongjoin did on purpose — he wanted his nine-track album to be a “no-skip” album. To achieve this, hongjoin made transitions between songs seamless. He then demonstrated how he imagined the energy level of the album to follow the outline of a mountain with his finger: gradually building up then descending.

“The main point of the album is for you to sit through it and experience the whole thing in one sitting, and then just think about life as you go,” hongjoin noted. “I made sure the intro goes to the next track and then the outro track which is ‘Anomaly’ went back to the first one.”

Take a listen to KOMOREBI during a quiet moment or a stroll to feel the effect of the subtle flow that these tracks have to offer.

What’s Next?

hongjoin has a lot in store for this year. He recently finished opening for Ricky Montgomery during his show in Singapore and proudly headlined at Esplanade Annexe on June 9. He will be making his way back to Boston and working with his team to continue booking shows as an opening artist. Further collaboration with others is something he looks forward to doing more when continuing to create music. Lastly, hongjoin expressed endless gratitude for his supporters and tight-knit community which he continues to foster on social media.

You can listen to KOMOREBI on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. Make sure to check out hongjoin’s Instagram, TikTok, and Website for upcoming events and updates!

Interested in diving more into this crossover? Check out our exclusive interview with Ricky Montgomery here!