“The one thing that I always try to preserve is authenticity. I don’t know where my music will go, but I know I will be staying authentic and honest. And whatever that self might be at the moment, that’s what I’ll be sharing with people,” Roman told EnVi, sharing his stance on his music. Establishing a distinct color and sound within the alternative indie-pop scene, Korean singer-songwriter Roman Kayz denies all methodical systems in the industry and aims to carve his own path in the music scene.

Ahead of the release of Roman Kayz’s upcoming debut EP, EnVi chatted with the soulful lyricist on Zoom about the ending to the trilogy, navigating individuality, and discovering his voice through sound.

The Beginning After the End

One of Roman’s most sentimental pieces to date was released over five months in 2023. Inspired by Roman’s first serious relationship, the trilogy traces the heartbreak and emotional turmoil experienced throughout this life-altering event. First dropped in January of 2023, Roman’s single “like you said you would” revolves around his breakup during a hiatus from his music career. Going beyond the emotions of missing a past lover, the song focuses on the sense of loss of who you were before splitting. Traveling back in time, the sequel “how do i make you stay?” followed the beginnings of the relationship’s fallout. Roman dropped the series’ closure with his single “i can’t afford to love you,” a tear-jerking resolution and acceptance of the painful inevitable, on May 23 last year. 

the trilogy not only embraced Roman’s internal reality through a distressing relationship, but also acted as a source of comfort and self-growth. Having completed his sentimental project, Roman said he couldn’t be happier to finally start a new chapter and show the world what’s next. “It’s very satisfying, in the sense that there’s an end to something that I was working on. I’m more excited about what’s to come and this [trilogy] coming to a conclusion,” Roman exclaimed. “This was a prologue to a bigger story and I just wanted to introduce my sound before getting into the real thing. It was important for me to write the trilogy and show my artistry. But now my focus is more on moving forward.”

Roman’s incoming debut EP will not only be his first body of work, but also solidify his sound and voice as an artist. While the trilogy showcased his ideal sound, the upcoming project is Roman finally living it. “If you look at my discography, I’ve only been releasing singles to showcase what I’m capable of, but I think it’s time for the real deal,” Roman announced, further explaining the record’s new themes. “Ever since the trilogy, I’ve gained a lot of new experiences and perspectives, so that’s [what] you’ll be hearing. If the trilogy was about a boy, I think my debut EP is about a boy that’s trying to man up.”

This Is Where It All Started

Roman began creating music while attending an international school in Thailand. Surrounded by cultural and ethnic diversity, Roman absorbed various influences throughout his upbringing. With friends listening to different types of music, Roman was naturally exposed to a pool of sounds and artists across genres. Despite the positives, the young artist confessed that he slowly lost himself in the “melting pot” and felt disoriented by his own identity. Roman expressed that from this dilemma came his venture into songwriting. “Music was a way to express myself. I was able to overcome the identity crisis that I was going through at the time [and] it really helped me define and put a finger on who I am as a person. When you have to write songs, you have to look back at your life experiences and your values. So I think that [moment] was really important for me.”

With music as his newfound creative outlet, Roman employed his multicultural background to guide himself in the art of lyricism. Through that independent experience, Roman developed the courage to explore styles that piqued his interest. “I’m quite adventurous when it comes to creating music… and having that phase was a very necessary step for me to write better. You have to write a lot of bad music to write good music that can be shared with people, and I think I went through a good amount of bad songs that I was not scared to write whatever [I wanted],” he explained.

Reflecting on his unique upbringing, the lyricist credits his past as the source of the raw sentiments in his music. For Roman, writing music to share with the world, means ensuring that there is an element of relatability. “It’s about keeping a balance between keeping [the music] raw and unique, but also giving it space for people to draw connections on and relate to,” he explained. Showing loyalty to his personal belief, Roman continues to captivate the public with his conversational narratives and affectionate melodies.

Roman paid special attention to public perception of him as a Korean artist, rather than “just an artist”. The singer confessed to choosing an ethnically ambiguous stage name because of the preconceived notions that accompany a public-facing Korean identity. He felt limited at the start of his career and noticed the subliminal expectations forced on him as a Korean artist, even as he began to curate his own artistic identity. “I think that’s what a lot of artists still go through nowadays,” he said. “But after a while it’s like you don’t want to be a ‘Korean artist’ anymore. You just want to be an artist — but people don’t see that and I think that was really something I had to overcome.” 

Taking a Look Behind the Mic

Living as a self-producing artist means being the captain of your own ship. Having full creative control and ownership of his voice allows Roman to freely express himself. Exercising creative authority over his projects, Roman preserves authenticity and consistency in each body of work. “Since I don’t have any investors or labels behind me there’s no money on the line. So it’s my music, not contaminated with the different intentions of different parties,” Roman noted. “I think it’s very nice that there is only one source and one intention, which is me.”

When it comes to songwriting, Roman doesn’t establish a start or finish line — a song can come from a word he’s attracted to or arrive in bursts of inspiration from personal life events or others’ stories. “I think it’s really the inspiration of not knowing where it’s gonna end up [that] makes me so passionate about making music,” Roman revealed to EnVi. “Sometimes I like to start with the chord progression, a riff, a melody line, or sometimes even a phrase. It all starts from this one small ingredient.” 

Roman conveyed his excitement over the fluid process, emphasizing the special charm of composing lyric-oriented pieces. “Even if it’s something that I can’t share with people, the fact that I can create these pieces of music from one small, insignificant idea is really fascinating to me.” In regard to visuals and filming, the young lyricist entrusts artistic license to fellow visionaries to transform his odes into visual narratives. “I felt like a movie star after all the editing and stuff,” Roman said, laughing at his own thoughts.

Throughout our call, Roman readily voiced his gratitude for the amount of support thrust upon his artistry. Although the attention initially brought a strange wave of emotions, Roman confessed to using the love he’s received as a source of motivation. “I never started music with the thought of wanting to be a successful musician, I just wrote the stuff that was on my mind and released it. I think people found me because of my storytelling and authenticity,” he said. “I’m just so grateful that people see me even as a figure that they can relate to or agree with. I’m just a guy who makes music and it’s very fascinating to me that people see me as someone who they can look up to.”

Going Beyond the Genre

As Roman dabbled in numerous genres, he adopted multiple personas as he uncovered his musical identity. From pop-punk and hip-hop to R&B and musical code-switching, each decision has shifted the Korean singer’s sound and led him to uncover his truth: to be authentic to himself and to those who listen. To Roman, genres are pointless when it comes to the creative side of things — he views them as a way to easily categorize music and artists with words.

While he agrees that genres help the listener differentiate styles, Roman described the concept of genres as more harmful than beneficial for artists. “For the listener and the creative, [genres] really serve no meaning at all. A lot of the artists that I look up to are usually categorized by one or two genres that they ‘mainly do,’ but if you really dive into their works, there is just so much more than that,” he clarified. “I think it can be toxic to try to box an artist into one genre and nowadays music is becoming so genreless and so genre-bending that it doesn’t even make sense [to use labels] anymore.”

Roman went into further detail on the importance of authenticity for a creative: raising yourself as an artist during a new wave of music requires a compromise between authenticity and desire for profit. “I think nowadays, there are a lot of artists that make music for validation, for the audience, and to please the audience. At that point, music becomes a commodity and you’re creating a product to meet the demand — but I think great artists should be able to do both at the same time,” Roman explained. “If you’re an artist, you need to have a thesis and you need to have something to say. It may not resonate with everyone or it may not be agreeable, but at least you’re saying something and stand by what you’re saying. A lot of artists nowadays make music to please the audience, but a great artist is always in charge. They’re the leader, they’re taking the people on their journey, they make this work of art, and they’re giving it to the people telling them, ‘This is me.’”

Listen to Roman Kayz’s most recent single “i can’t afford to love you” on Spotify and Apple Music!

Can’t afford to miss out on Roman’s next release? Make sure to follow their social media accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube for the latest announcements.

Interested in discovering more up-and-coming talent like Roman Kayz? Read about rising Taiwanese R&B-pop artist Max Aiden here!