Justin Park on His Korean Roots, Music, and His Love for Chicken Bowls

Aug 15, 2021 | AA, Korea, POP, US

Photographer: Johnson Diep

Looking for a new artist to be obsessed with? Don’t fret because we’ve found the perfect voice for you to fall in love with – Justin Park. Keep on reading to find out more about this up-and-coming artist and his creative process.

Having worked with producers of big names in the industry like Beyonce, Boyz II Men, and Eminem, there’s no mistaking Justin Park is going places. The singer boasts not only chiseled features and the boy-next-door looks but also unmistakable talent.

Considering his achievements, it’s hard to believe Park’s journey in the music industry only started in 2017, with the release of his song “Dates in LA,” and “Places Like Home,” an album five years in the making.

Currently, he is signed with MRMG as a writer and 5A Label as an artist. The Los Angeles native’s signature smooth vocals and melodic R&B sound has captured the attention of thousands of fans all over the globe.

Park is not only training his voice but also working on his moves. He has trained with Kinjaz, one of the best dance trainers in the world. He also boasts collaborations and tours with K-Pop singers such as Amber Liu from f(X).

Although Justin mostly sings in English, he sprinkles Asian elements when necessary – perhaps to honor his roots, or maybe for an added poetic vibe. Whatever the case is, his songs and covers are immensely personal and heavily influenced by his experience. Park’s songs are mostly R&B, but there is still a hint of soul littered into it. This is impressive considering he pens most of his songs.

“I’ve always struggled with my identity as a Korean-American. What I can say is that music always led and helped guide me to who I thought I should be,” he shared.

According to Justin, he doesn’t relate to the term k-pop artist because none of his songs are Korean.

“I do plan on making a little something-something for my Korean fans though.”

We talked to the upcoming artist to find out his journey to stardom, what inspires him, and his dream collaborations.

Can you describe how you started in the music industry?

I started in the music industry as a high schooler with no knowledge and a dream. I think what separated me from most kids at my age was my work ethic and drive, two things that I had adopted as a student athlete.

At age 17, while still in school, I would take the metro all the way from Pasadena to Sunset and Vine Hollywood at 1AM, after writing all day and finishing studio recordings. All this was for a demo album for Disney that soon fell through the cracks because of some internal Drama, and now here I am with 5A. A Place I can truly call home.

Can you tell us about your multi-cultural upbringing? How did it influence your music?

Growing up in LA, and having two older cousins, one 6 years, and the other 12 years older than myself; I had no shortage of explicative music. The oldest introduced me to artists such as Tupac and Nas, and the younger introduced me to bands like CKY, and Led Zeppelin. That was the beginning of my love for music.

Always before school I’d download a bunch of songs that I could listen to and brag about at school; which would later on turn into me freestyle rapping with friends and writing songs for myself at home.

What experiences do Asian American artists like you have when trying to break into the U.S. music industry?

The first thing that they assume is how your music will sound. I’m not too sure why but when people hear my music they’re almost dumbfounded, as if they can’t believe what they’re hearing is me. Most often than not, I take it as a good sign, and not one of malice. Many times, if not all the time, people fall in love with the music and the fact that it’s me who’s behind all the creation.

I think people need to see more “different” and “unheard of” because that’s what makes music captivating. Let’s keep creating my brothers and sisters, I have high hopes.

On Increasing visibility for Asian Americans, can you tell us more about your ideal “enough” representation for Asian American artists in R&B?

I don’t think there is such a thing as ideal enough, especially with me. I think if someone is going to represent, it’s going to be 100% the right way. What I mean is that, Asians representing something they had no hand in creating is already a touchy subject. We are not here to take R&B, but to add to the pot. If someone is going to represent, it’s someone who knows the culture through and through, and is someone so talented that they will captivate the hearts of those listening.

What’s the inspiration behind your EP I Can See the Stars From Here?

“I Can See the Stars From Here” is inspired by, in most part, my crazy experiences here in LA these last few years. With so much going on in the world, so much going on in the streets of LA, I thought what better breath of hope than I Can See the Stars From Here where I perch.

“You Don’t Know” is a very emotional song. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this and what you hope to share with your fans through this song?

With “You Don’t Know” I hope to appeal to the fans who have felt a similar emotion where they’ve been a part of or stuck in a blind love. Where efforts may be unseen or taken for granted. I struggle with the answer to an unrequited love. But, hopefully with this song I can incite an emotion in my listeners that may bring them to a way, or a conclusion.

What’s your creative process behind the upcoming music video for “You Don’t Know?”

The creative process behind the music video to “You Don’t Know” was simple. We had been in Joshua Tree writing for a part of the album, when we had come across the idea to just video record what we were doing, and out came the video for “You Don’t Know.”

You’ve immersed yourself creatively through your music. Is art something you want to pursue in the future?

All I want to do in life is create art. I don’t think I’ll ever depart from it. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t stop myself from creating. I’ve always prided myself in my work so much that without it I wouldn’t know who I am.

If you could choose any artist in the world to collaborate with for a song or project, who would it be? What’s the most memorable one in the past?

I’d probably say J Balvin, or Kehlani at the moment.

Your fans love your song covers, what criteria in those songs made you choose them?

I think for me it was always about how I felt when I listened to a song that would lead me to covering it. Most of the songs I’ve covered are probably also songs I wish I would’ve created myself, and that’s the reason why I’ve rerecorded them and flipped them to how I hear them in my head.

Do you plan on releasing predominantly Korean music in the future?

Yes, I do. But I don’t want to give too much away. Nothing more than the fact that it IS coming.

What is your favorite food go-to food/snacks while working/traveling?

It depends on where in the world I am. But in America I love to eat chicken bowls, it doesn’t matter which country it originates from, chicken bowls always excite me. I also love chips, but I gotta try and stay away from them, or it’ll be the death of me.

When in Korea, I eat canned tuna from the store mixed with microwavable rice, also from the store. A super cheap and healthy meal that I always enjoyed while roaming the streets. But my all-time favorite snack is this little triangularly shaped rice, wrapped in seaweed, and stuffed with proteins.

Justin Park is clearly a one-of-a-kind talent. Considering his growth in the industry, he still has so much to offer. This is just the beginning.