Music

An Underground Musician’s Journey, Featuring RIPPY

“Several days after High school graduation, I took a gap year and moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Las Vegas alone, for my music dream.”

With a stage name as RIPPY, Jason, a 19-year-old young man, stepped on a path destined to be circuitous but rewarding: pursue his music dream as a solo artist. By publishing two songs on SoundCloud as a startup level K-Pop musician, he has started to gain some notice and carefully built up his connections in the music industry. Around the date of his second song Love Chantz ’s publication, I scheduled an interview with RIPPY and stayed curious to listen to his journey of becoming an underground musician in the US. 

RIPPY in Boston Massachusetts

Q1: Please tell me something about yourself; what made you immigrate to the US? 

Born in Busan as an orphan, RIPPY was adopted by an American couple, who brought him back to Massachusetts when he was 2 years old. “I was raised in an American family and immersed in the American culture. But my big brother ensured that I go to Korean classes, learn the language and maintain the culture,” said RIPPY.

Q2: When did you first get in touch with music? How did it become a part of your life?

“When I was 5, my mom bought me the first drum set, and I played it almost every day.” Thanks to his parents who enjoy playing music to him and offer unconditional support to his music dream, he has been passionate about music since early childhood. “They said that they wanted me to grow up in a world with music because music brings up the spirit and makes life happier.”

Unlike many solo musicians who prefer to learn music theories from professional institutions, RIPPY was 100% self-taught. From musical instruments to voice development, and even music composition, he masters all of them by himself. 

Q3: How would you compare the music landscape of the USA and South Korea?

“I actually headed back to Korea and joined the idol training program for half a year at SM entertainment company, but I didn’t enjoy it,” said RIPPY. “There were too many guidelines I needed to follow, and they only work on K-pop.”

He prefers the freedom of composing music in the US and believes that it will be much more difficult to become popular in South Korea than in the US. Many solo and indie musicians have been able to thrive in the US, as they are granted with more freedom and the music market in the country is very diverse. Yet the advantages of Korean company’s systematic approaches in “manufacturing” idols and groups remain obvious – K-pop and Korean idols are still one of the most influential cultural outputs in Asia.

Q4: Where do you get inspiration? After all, the effort one puts into music usually isn’t all about skills and talent, but genuine feelings as well.

“I write from my personal experiences, which come from somewhere deep inside of me. When I put spontaneous emotions into the music I’m creating, the lyrics and the melody together form the best work,” said RIPPY.

The same rule applies to his second song: Love Chantz. “It’s about a girl I met after I arrived at Las Vegas,” said RIPPY, “This song was about me getting through to one of the girls I met in one of the parties. Though she ended up moving to California, it was a nice bittersweet experience.”

Cover image of the song “Love Chantz” on SoundCloud

Q5: Could you please tell me about your journey and life in Vegas?

With a bit of saving and an admission letter from the University of Nevada, RIPPY moved to Las Vegas in June 2018. “I’m all by myself here in Vegas at first. With a part-time job at a sneaker shop to pay rents and buy food, I got my friend as my manager and went to a lot of parties, to meet people,” said RIPPY, “I kept myself motivated and tried to write a different song every day.”

At the same time, RIPPY co-runs a Child ministry in a local community since he is a faithful believer in God. He has used his music to benefit more people around him and he even taught children music.

Q6: Besides your passion for music, what are some other motivations that keep you on the track?

“I would love to be a solo artist in the future, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working in a team environment. There’s more freedom when I work alone, yet I feel more inspired with people around me,” said RIPPY.

The dream to become a solo artist has rooted in his mind since childhood and thrived as he wished to be as successful as his big brother.

“I’ve been living in the shadows of his achievements –––– a straight-A student who just graduated from Harvard this year,” said RIPPY, as he described his older brother. Instead of drowning in jealousy, he chose to devote himself to another path –––– music. “I’m not trying to surpass him, it’s just, I’d like myself to be on the same level with him.” For RIPPY, it’s fortunate to have a role model who stands in the front; even it means that he’d be after him, chasing. 

Casual photo of RIPPY and his friend

Q7: Is there anything you want to tell everyone?

“I would like to send out a call to those who love the music to join me as an underground artist. The music collective I’m working on by now is PG13; check it out if you share the same interests (It’s on Sound Cloud),” said RIPPY.

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Featured image provided by RIPPY

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