Throughout the past year and a half, artists and creators have all coped and adapted to the pandemic in their own ways. For some, it gave them more time to experiment with their artistry in ways that they hadn’t before. But for others, it was a struggle to continue creating in a state of uncertainty, self-doubt, and isolation. For Korean-American soloist MRSHLL, he’s experienced a mix of both and is now on a healthy path of innovation, clarity, and happiness.
Besides having a voice crafted by the gods and a knack for serving looks, there are many intriguing sides to Marshall Bang. One of them includes being the first openly gay artist in Korea after publicly coming out in 2015. Since then, MRSHLL’s been a strong advocate for LGBTQIA+ representation and equality in the media and entertainment industry. EnVi spoke with the singer-songwriter on his latest projects, Clubhouse, and how he’s battled depression and anxiety.
Through the ARCHIVES
On April 18, MRSHLL released his most recent EP titled ARCHIVES 1. The six tracks are an accumulation of songs he wrote over the past four years but hadn’t released — hence, the title. “There are certain songs that I save for a proper time,” the artist said over Zoom. “I have a good 40 to 50 songs in varying stages of completion, but they didn’t make it in any of my previous albums because either they didn’t fit the concept, or it just wasn’t the right time in my career.”
It wasn’t until he came up with the idea of ARCHIVES 1 that he finally included some of those unreleased gems. “I figured this would be a gift for the fans and tide them over until my next big project,” MRSHLL said. Instead of focusing on a particular concept, the singer based his decisions on his mood and existing catalog. Although MRSHLL’s camera was turned off for the interview (he had just woken up), the excitement poured out of him as he discussed his music.
“I kind of picked songs according to how I was feeling,” he said. “So songs that either showed a different side of me or built on the styles of music that I already had out.” For example, the last track on the EP, “think about u,” was written in 2017, but he ended up re-recording it with an acoustic guitar feel. “And then with “potato,” it’s very much an upbeat Vogue-type of house beat that I love to do when I just want to get my life.”
But when it comes to his favorites of the bunch, he chose the angelic R&B vibes of tracks number four and five. “I had to put “nervous” on there because I hadn’t done an old school R&B number in a while,” he stated. “But my favorite is probably “deserve better” (smooth remix) with CHAI.”
While “deserve better” was previously released as a single in February, he and CHAI re-recorded the song to add an acoustic piano element. According to MRSHLL, the entire EP took only a week and a half to complete before it was released. “It was pretty crazy how it all came together, but I’m super proud of how it turned out.”
Early Clubhouse Cravings
Throughout the pandemic, many artists and creators suddenly found themselves with more extra time to kill in between music releases. So around late 2020 and early 2021, many—including MRSHLL—decided to hop on an app called Clubhouse. The app allows users to host and participate in any audio chat room of their choice. A single room can hold anywhere from a handful of people to thousands, discussing or listening in on a given topic.
“I joined because of my photographer friend who invited me at the tail end of January, and I was just obsessed,” MRHSLL laughed. “I started inviting all of my music friends, and that’s when the huge wave of Korean musicians and entertainers started happening.” Most Clubhouse users will agree that the peak of Clubhouse and its hype happened between the November and February window. But even though MRSHLL isn’t as active as he used to be, he’s still immensely grateful he discovered it when he did.
“I was sleeping, eating, breathing Clubhouse at all waking hours of the night,” he admitted. “But honestly, Clubhouse saved me in a way because my herniated disc and sciatic leg pain were getting really bad, and I think Clubhouse took me away from the pain and gave me an outlet to express and be with people, even if we weren’t technically with them IRL.”
In addition to socializing with friends, MRSHLL was also tapped by songwriter Danny Chung to help translate his “Inside Kpop” rooms for Korean listeners. “With all the conversations and topics we covered within a month, it just felt very poignant and fulfilling,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’ve made some new friends to where if we actually see each other in person, it would only be love.”
Navigating Mental Health Treatment & Escapism
Shortly after his exciting Clubhouse stint, MRSHLL found himself in an unsettling place in his life. The entertainer took to Twitter in May to express how down he was feeling, leaving fans and friends concerned for his well-being. However, he later informed his followers that he finally sought out professional help for his mental health and encouraged everyone to do the same. In a time where more people are vocalizing their internal struggles now more than ever, he is certainly not alone.
“After my whole mental breakdown and the sciatic pain issue, I was mentally and physically dying,” he told EnVi. “I couldn’t do the basic things or anything creative, so I was just in a terrible place.” Although MRSLL categorizes himself as a positive person, the mental burden gradually caught up with him in a way he never anticipated. “I never thought I’d have to seek out a psychiatrist and take anti-depressants for the first time, but mental health is such an essential part of anyone’s journey.”
He went on to point out the discrepancies in how physical and mental health are perceived. “We don’t think of our brain in the same way as a broken arm or a sprained ankle… what about a sprained brain, hello?” And he’s not wrong; the human body is nothing without a stable, healthy mind attached to it. When he’s not feeling quite like himself, he spends his free time investing in a few different pick-me-up activities.
“I try to meditate and go for walks through nature, usually in the middle of the night,” he said. “I’ll walk by the Han River and listen to either jazz or classical music and just zone out.” But when MRSHLL isn’t going on strolls in Korea, he’s usually found binge-watching his favorite movies and TV shows to destress and unwind. “I’ll either watch a comedy or reality show and just get immersed in that.”
Additionally, it’s worth noting MRSHLL recently discovered a love for Avatar the Last Airbender, having never seen it as a child. “I didn’t have cable growing up, but wow, it’s such a good show and I honestly teared up a few times watching it.” But with a larger-than-life franchise like Marvel, he’s already very well-versed in the superhero universe. “I’m a huge fan of Doctor Strange and just anything with powers or magic, I’ve always been obsessed with,” he smiled. “That’s why I loved WandaVision and Loki a lot more than some of the others; I’m just so excited for everything coming!”
With all these different outlets and escapes—including music and friends—MRSHLL has been able to get back to a happier and healthier place. But most importantly, he’s learned not to ignore seeking professional help when you need it. “That’s something I’m definitely pushing for on my platform; I just feel so much better, my creative juices are flowing, and I’m feeling more inspired than ever.”
Coming Soon To A Service Near You
Amid the unpredictable roller coaster called life, MRSHLL is fully prepared and ready to feel on top of his game again. Just recently, he was featured on a new song called “Talk !” by oceanfromtheblue, a friend and fellow singer-songwriter. The single is one of the nine tracks on oceanfromtheblue’s latest EP, Messages. “We shot the music video in the sweltering Korean heat in this forest in Sokcho,” MRSHLL explained. “But I love ocean, he’s a very good friend of mine in the industry and just so talented.”
Lyrically, the song is a sweet number with oceanfromtheblue asking his lover about her day and wanting to make her laugh. Since MRSHLL loved the overall vibe so much, he decided to participate, both as a writer and vocalist. “Immediately, when I heard the guitars and his voice, I was like, ‘I’m so in,’ and wrote the Korean lyrics for my part,” he said. “It’s such a cohesive song, so I’m very happy with it.”
And aside from the features, MRSHLL has many plans to deliver more music of his own by the end of the year. Those plans include everything from singles to EPs, a full-length album, and other collaborations. “On the 27th of July, I have a new dance single coming out called “show me what U got,” he said. “And then, I have another song, tentatively, at the end of September and October, and that will either be a single or EP.”
Moreover, if that news isn’t exciting enough, he also teased another project he’s been working on with a “very special and incredible” person. With a sly grin, he replied, “I can’t say exactly who it is yet, but it’s a joint EP, so stay tuned.”
Fans will be happy to know MRSHLL has conquered a mental redemption arc for himself and is ready to give his all. “I’m a more realized version of myself, currently, after going through my mental health battle,” he said. “I think the journey of self-discovery is a lifelong one, but I’m loving who I am right now; we’ll see what happens with MRSHLL five years from now.” Whoever he turns out to be down the road, one thing is for sure: Marshall Bang always keeps a couple of new tricks up his sleeve.
MRSHLL’s new single, “show me what U got” is now available on Spotify and Apple Music.
For more interviews like this, catch up on EnVi’s latest with BM of KARD and his project, The First Statement!
Thumbnail courtesy of MRSHLL.