Dabit© Dabit

Dabit On Coming Out, His Favourite Bollywood Song And More

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Puja Talwar

“I could not survive K-pop and the people who do, you should have massive respect for them because they go through a lot,” says Korean singer-songwriter Dabit. And it’s precisely this honesty and sincerity that immediately wins you over.

An independent singer and songwriter, his recent single ‘Habit’ is an evocatively moving and heart-rending track where he opens up about the end of his eight-year-long relationship.

It was in June last year when the singer came out to the public and openly spoke about his sexual orientation. In a video on Instagram, Dabit acknowledged that, despite the long and confusing journey, he was at the stage in his life where he was comfortable with his orientation.

“I have come to terms with it and I just want to live and share my life with the people I love without any shame and that includes you guys,” he told his followers.

Born David Kim and raised in Ohio, USA, Dabit had moved to South Korea to pursue his love for music. He began his idol journey as a trainee, debuting with the boy group 24K, but within a year, he opted out. In his own words, he was not curated for the idol life.

He became independent in 2013 with the single “Whoo Whoo Whoo” and has, since then, released several singles, his voice and sound being uniquely his own.

In an exclusive interview with HELLO! India, he speaks about his journey, carving his own identity and love for Indian spices as well as music…

In Conversation With Indie K-Pop Singer Dabit

HELLO!:‘Habit’ seems like a very personal song where you have bared your soul, giving an insight into your heartbreak. Was that tough or seemingly cathartic?

Dabit: “I’ll just say the past year of my life has been a very big turn in my life and career. It’s like, one by one, I felt the curtains had been lifted, the ones I had been hiding behind and from. Also, the fact that I had always put up curated versions of myself out there, not only to my fans, but also to the people around me as well. So those curtains lifted and I started feeling a bit more comfortable in my skin. The pandemic hit me hard as it did for everyone and I also had my big breakup with my partner of eight years, and I felt I had nothing left in my life. I wrote ‘Habit’ two weeks after breaking up, and it was not meant to go out into the world. At that point. I just needed something and some kind of an outlet and get into the writing mode. I released ‘Panic’ first and then released ‘Habit’. It’s been a crazy journey, but it was a very important part of my growth as a person and an artist as well.”

H!:You did spend your initial years training in the K-pop industry, but went ahead as an independent musician. What was the reason that you decided to go solo?

D: “I am not in any way putting anyone or any one person who goes into the industry down. It is for a very specific niche and group of people. Being a K-pop idol is not for everyone. If you want to do music, be a singer, or pursue songwriting, chances are being a K-pop idol might not be the best route for you. I say this coming from my personal experience. When you are in a company, you essentially kind have to mould to their concepts and their vision for you and the group. I think what that did for me was it started to chip away at my colour, instead of enhancing my colour as an artist. But after training year after year, I felt I had lost so much of my self-identity. As an artist, I started having second doubts about my talent. The onus here is to blend, keep blending and if you are sticking out too much, blend more. I tried so hard to blend that I ended up taking away all the parts that made me unique. That’s when I found out that being part of a company, especially being an idol company was not the right environment for me to grow and thrive.”

H!:How is the mainstreaming of K-pop helping independent musicians?

D: “The great thing about K-pop in general is, that it became very mainstream through the internet. It was mostly the online community that pushed K-pop hard. I think people are interested in the music scene and K-Pop in general. Even for me, when I went into a company, the mindset was I had an idea about what the environment was, but felt it would be okay. If I was able to survive and debut, then they’ll be able to push me more, through whatever curated image that they have in mind. And then once I’m free, and finish my contract, I can start forging my path with the fan base that I’ve accrued through being in the company. That was the business logic in my head, but it’s just so much harder than you would think. I could not survive it and the people who do, you should have massive respect for them because they go through a lot. But for a sensitive singer-songwriter like me who takes everything very personally, it was not easy. But I think I’ve got a lot of opportunities through the K-pop name in general, even though I was completely 100% independent.”

H!: Embracing your individuality apart from the duality of also being Korean and American; how did you navigate that?

D: “I still feel that way a lot of the time. I think it’s difficult and even now, I’ve been living in Korea almost exclusively for the past 14 years. I moved here in 2010 and even to this day, I still feel that disconnect when I’m in a group of Korean people. When it’s one-on-one, I’m completely fine, but when it’s a group, they start talking about more cultural things that I am not able to relate to because I haven’t lived here my entire life. I still feel that and it’s something you just have to kind of accept and get over, but at the same time, it comes with benefits as well. I feel like you’re able to see the world in a much more neutral state... it also has its perks. In some ways, you have a lens that other people can’t see through. So I think that’s very important, especially as a songwriter.”

H!:What or who have been your musical influences?

D: “I think different artists had a lot of different impacts on me. For instance, there’s an artist called Holland, he was one of the first Korean artists who came out unapologetically and somewhat made a big name himself. I looked at that, and in the beginning, I was worried about how he was going to do it because no one had done this before. But, I saw his growth and in the back of my mind, I was like, maybe I could do something like this too. The same thing happened with Sam Smith, I feel like people who come from a similar background as me, who were queer, had to come out, but found the courage and an outlet and a group of people that were willing to accept them unapologetically. Seeing their journey helped give me the courage to come out and start my own. It took a breakdown for me to kind of knock down that wall. But after that, you know, it’s all free game now and I feel so much lighter. I feel like I can do so much more with my music and I’m excited to start writing music again.”

H!: Lastly, you have visited India, what appeals to you about our country?

D: “India was one of the places I most frequently visited. I fell in love with Indian food and would go to buy spices so that I could bring them back to Korea and cook. I love garam masala and chicken masala because the Indian food in Korea is a little bit watered down. The people that I’ve met in India have been some of the most outspoken, intelligent and the most heartwarming at the same time. So I think, yeah, India has always had a very special place in my heart. I also learnt ‘Janam Janam’ from Dilwale, it’s my favourite song.”