From the start, singer-songwriter-producer V was BTS’ secret weapon. His rich, deep voice is a pleasing contrast to his fellow singers’ ever-higher high notes, and he’s not afraid to delve into full-on bedroom R&B, as on the downright sultry neo-soul track “Intro: Singularity.” With a love of jazz and classical music, V began his musical life as a saxophone player, and has the most eclectic list of influences of any member of BTS, from Sammy Davis Jr. to Sam Cooke to Coldplay (BTS’ recent cover of “Fix You” was apparently his idea). Wearing a black newsboy-style hat, a zipped-up black parka, and a white mask in his label’s headquarters one morning in April, he sipped orange juice and talked about his upcoming mixtape, his Elvis Presley fandom, his favorite movies, and more.
I know yesterday you did a variety show for the first time in a long time. How was that?
It was our first appearance in five years. So I was really nervous and I was really tense. So I didn’t get a lot of sleep. But then actually when we showed up yesterday for the actual shoot, the host of the program was really kind and really accommodating. So everything went really well. I felt really comfortable. And then this morning, because of our interview, I also didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.
I’m sorry about that!
[Laughs] No, no, no, no, no.
I know you had been working very hard on your mixtape, and it’s been delayed, and I think you feel a lot of pressure to make it right. How’s it going now?
We’ve worked and made music as a group, and as a group only. So working on my own tape means that I have to do everything related to all the songs on the album. I have to take part in writing the lyrics and the melodies for all the songs and the production process. So, it is a bit of a pressure to bear all of the load that is distributed among the other members for a group album. So it is tough. But what is good about it is it gives me an opportunity to show who I am, and show the music that really has the color of Kim Taehyung, the color of V, to our ARMY. So that’s great opportunity of course, and that’s what makes creating this mixtape so much fun and fulfilling.
So, what is your current prediction for when you will put it out?
I originally thought of releasing it last year. But it turned out to be more harder and more complex than I imagined that it would be. So then I thought I would release it early this year. But again, it turned out to be a bit more tough than I thought it would be! So now I’m looking at the end of this year.
You already had the solo song “Sweet Night,” from a TV soundtrack. What did you take away from the experience of making that?
That was released as part of a soundtrack for someone I knew really well [actor and former cast-mate Park Seo-joon]. but it was actually originally made as part of my mixtape. It’s one of my personal songs. That song started out from me feeling that I really wanted a good night’s sleep.
“Blue and Gray” is a gorgeous song. You said you wrote it about a time when work was really hard for you and you weren’t happy. What was it about the work that was hard?
That was when the Covid pandemic was just really expanding and becoming serious. We had prepared really hard to show ARMY our “On” performances. And what I was finding difficult at the time was not being able to show what we practiced and prepared so hard. I was telling all ARMY on social media, “Get ready, we’re about to show you these great performances!” So that was really frustrating and difficult and it made me sad. I think there was a measure of being tired and really sort of burned out a little bit from the work as well.
Were there any good points of this year off the road?
It allowed me to really focus on something. Pre-Covid, I was so busy that I couldn’t really concentrate on one thing or really focus on something new. If I wanted to do a new thing, I was really forced to sort of be a dilettante. I couldn’t dive deep. But during the last year I had more time. In my work, I really tried to do more producing and then go more in-depth on my music. My melodies before were not that complex, or intricate, I thought. But I was able to focus more energy into it, to listen to more music, and really sort of think about more things. And that, I think, helped me to really dive into the producing aspect of making music. And I had a lot of time to come up with good melodies, and also had a lot of time to just sort of sit and vegetate. [Laughs] And that also helped me.
I know that you like many different kinds of music. Tell me about some of your musical heroes.
My musical heroes are constantly changing by the hour almost. So yesterday, you know, it was Elvis Presley. And today might be somebody else. This is sort of my personal preference, but I think I like the older Elvis Presley, the Elvis Presley of his later years. There are many famous Elvis songs, but I feel like there’s a lot of songs that are more hidden, and not as prominent in the song discography. So, what I’m trying to do, and what I want to do, is listen to every single song, even if it’s just one minute of the song. Both the big songs and even the songs that are sort of hidden among the tracks.
There’s some great 1950s ones as well, but you’re right, late-period songs like “Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds” are some of his best.
If you can recommend some must-listen Elvis Presley songs, I’ll listen to them!
I’ll get a playlist to you. So what was it like to be a “secret member” before BTS’ debut?
To be perfectly, perfectly honest, when they said I was a hidden member, I actually thought I’d been cut from the team.
So can you laugh about that now or is it still a little bit traumatic?
I can laugh about it now for sure. As long as I can sort of toss around our CEO, our label’s boss, and shake him around a little bit by his cuffs. But yes, I can laugh about it.
I’ve heard you like old movies. What are some of your favorites?
I like old movies, but also movies that are classics but not super old. Like for example, The Godfather was a movie that I really enjoyed. And Reservoir Dogs is one of my all-time favorite movies. The Godfather I actually watched recently. A friend of mine had told me, “It’s really long, I fell asleep in the middle of it.” And I thought, “Is it that boring?” And then I watched it and I was really moved by it, especially the charisma of the godfather [Marlon Brando], and all the actors and the direction and the production. And again, his charisma, and his commanding presence during the film.
You did some acting of your own in the TV drama Hwarang. Do you want to do more of that going forward?
It’s something that I’m thinking about after I turn 30.