[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Meet TE.O: The Rising R&B Star Who Graced the 2022 FIFA World Cup
South Korean artist, TE.O, has an ear for R&B, a jazzy voice made of soul, and great taste in ice cream!
TE.O is on the unevitable rise to fame with his distinct style in music and star factor.
Last year, he made waves in more directions than one. From his hit single, "Bomb", to his performance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, TE.O was busy putting his name on the music industry map.
This year the grind to the top continues, as the hybrid R&B and jazz singer released a brand new bop titled "Payphone".
PopMachine caught up with TE.O to chat about the inspiration behind "Payphone", his multi-lingual song covers, his mantra in life, and time machines.
★POPMACHINE: Congratulations on the release of "Payphone"! Can you talk to us about the main message of this song?
TE.O: "Payphone" is a jazz R&B genre and is denied cell phone reception due to parting with a lover. It's a song about calling a public phone and catching a lover who left again.
★POPMACHINE: "Payphone" has such a relaxed, retro beat. What inspired you to go for this type of concept?
TE.O: My co-producer Siu suggested to me an idea that make the retro feeling song. I also thought it's really nice and agreed it.
★POPMACHINE: Speaking of retro, the song comes with a matching music video that radiates even more retro energy, but with a touch of modern day flair during the back and forth transition from black&white to color. What does this represent for you?
TE.O: It doesn't stand for anything.
Nothing was intended.
★POPMACHINE: What was the best off-cam part of bringing "Payphone" to life?
TE.O: Umm.. I'm not sure lol. I didn't think about it yet.
★POPMACHINE: We heard that you play a big role in the lyricism and production of your music. Which line in "Payphone" would you turn into your Instagram bio?
TE.O: “멈춰진 듯한 내 떨림 심장 뛰는 다이얼 calling”
This part, I like this part the most.
★POPMACHINE: In "Payphone", you sing about someone who is trying to get their ex-girlfriend back via a payphone call. What was the inspiration behind this storyline?
TE.O: My cell phone was broken before, so I need to use payphone. Using payphone is not normal situation in Korea, So I thought it can be a good idea for my song.
★POPMACHINE: Your repertoire is already filled with many great songs. Which one would you say best represents your artistry?
TE.O: "I personally think that the songs that represent my artistic style well are 'Dawn Moon' and 'Paint Over'."
★POPMACHINE: Aside from releasing original music, you also have a talent for covering songs. Which song cover is your favorite, so far?
TE.O: I'm not planning, but I'm thinking about languages I haven't tried.
★POPMACHINE: Your song covers come in various languages, such as Thai and Spanish, which is an awesome skill. What other languages do you plan on singing in?
TE.O: I haven't thought about which language to speak yet. I think I'll choose a song first and do it accordingly.
★POPMACHINE: You've performed on numerous stages, such as the 2022 World Cup stage. What did it feel like to represent South Korea and root for your home team?
TE.O: It was very proud. It was an honor to sing on behalf of Korea.
★POPMACHINE: Aside from the amazing shows you have already performed on, what is your ultimate dream stage?
TE.O: My dream stage is the Grammy Awards stage.
★POPMACHINE: You have created brilliant songs with Producer Siu. What is the best thing about working with him?
TE.O: First of all, we have good communication and working with Siu makes my music color more vivid.
★POPMACHINE: Are there any other producers or singers that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
TE.O: I don't have any specific artists in mind. If given the opportunity and if our interests align well, I would like to collaborate with any domestic or international artists.
★POPMACHINE: Given that your new song features a jazzy, retro vibe, let's talk time machines. If you discovered an old payphone that turned into a time machine, which 3 retro artists from the '40s, '50s, '60s, or any other retro era would you call? And what would you talk about?
TE.O: My maternal grandfather. I'd like to call my maternal grandfather, who died early when I was a kid. I want to talk about the time when my maternal grandfather rode a motorcycle and had fun with me. I want to say that I want to tell you that I miss you.
★POPMACHINE: Let's revisit the theme of "Payphone". What would you do if you were in a similar situation?
TE.O: I think I will go to her house and ask for forgiveness.
★POPMACHINE: In a battle of phone calls versus text messages, which one do you prefer, and why?
TE.O: I prefer texting. I just like texting better than calling.
★POPMACHINE: Do you have any concerts, tours, or fan meetings coming up soon?
TE.O: No, unfortunately, there's nothing planned yet.
★POPMACHINE: Aside from vibing to the beat of "Payphone", what can your fans expect from you this year?
TE.O: I'm going to prepare a new album and cover song.
★POPMACHINE: When the time comes that you go on your first world tour, which country would you like to visit first?
TE.O: My first overseas concert and trip was Turkiye, so I was thinking of Turkiye first. But it hurts me so much when I think about the situation in Turkiye now. They are eager to return to their daily lives as soon as possible.
★POPMACHINE: Imagine that you are stranded on a desert island. You are given a payphone with only one call. Who are you calling to rescue you?
TE.O: However, I think my family should know about this, so I am planning to call one of my family members.
★POPMACHINE: What is the latest thing you added to cart for online shopping?
TE.O: I ordered lactic acid bacteria. Human intestinal health is very important.
★POPMACHINE: If your music were turned into an ice cream flavor, which flavor would it be?
TE.O: That's a tough question. I like the Almond Bonbon flavor of Baskin Robbins 31 and I'll choose this one.
★POPMACHINE: Do you have any hidden talents?
TE.O: I am planning to show you in the future. Haha.
★POPMACHINE: Looking back on debut era TE.O and the TE.O of today, what would you say changed? And what are the things that stayed the same?
TE.O: I feel like I've grown a bit both internally and musically. However, I think my personality, tendencies, and temperament remain largely unchanged.
★POPMACHINE: What is your motto or mantra in life?
TE.O: I've never really thought about a personal motto or a mantra, but as time goes by, I find myself feeling more and more that I should live each day to the fullest and cherish every moment.
★POPMACHINE: What's your advice for aspiring artists?
TE.O: I'm not sure if I'm in a position to give advice, but personally, I believe that it's most important to keep searching for what you want and to keep trying.
★POPMACHINE: We had so much fun chatting with you! Before we bring this interview to a close, do you have a message for your fans and the PopMachine readers?
TE.O: Thank you,
Please give me a lot of attention and love.
I have been TE.O so far! Have a great day!
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