25-year-old Gallant has always loved Asian culture. “I’ve always been a Japanophile,” he tells EW. “The music really captivated me. It was these cheesy chord progressions with this wild, lyrical depth, which I don’t think any other style of pop music does. And after a while, it started to get even weirder.” In college, he discovered K-pop and his fandom extended across the Sea of Japan. “It was hard to look away. The Wonder Girls had just come up and you had Sistar, and all these groups making all of this incredible, glossy, high-budget onslaughts of entertainment.”
As the singer’s own career has taken off, he’s collaborated with Korean artists on multiple occasions — like his 2017 team-up with Tablo and Eric Nam — and now, he’s dug into the local R&B scene in the mini-doc Seoul Music: The Rise of Korean R&B, which is streaming via Red Bull Sound Select. Across the clip, Gallant chats about the rise of the genre in conversations with DJ Soulscape and Jinbo the SuperFreak, quickly chronicling its bubbling over into the mainstream market.
Below, EW caught up with Gallant to discuss his fandom, what he found, and when fans can expect a follow-up to his excellent debut, Ology.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the originating conversation for this project?
GALLANT: I’ve worked with Red Bull since way before I even thought about making an album. We were having a conversation about how my last group of shows for [last] year were going to be in Seoul and I brought up how I thought it was fascinating that there was this kind of alternative R&B, or that kind of counter-culture scene, was starting to make a really big splash. I was saying I thought that was interesting given the historical context of how R&B music came up in the United States and then traveled over there and evolved on a separate timeline.
What was the most surprising thing you found out in the process?
Listening to some old records really opened my eyes. I was born in ’91 so I kind of operate from [a place] where you assume that you have everything at your fingertips. But I realized that’s not true. I never would have heard these albums if I hadn’t been there. It was a mini-revelation that I have only scratched the surface of this entire volcano of really inspiring and interesting content.
You’re also working on your second album. How is that going?
It’s going a lot better than I expected. [Laughs] I’m making the music that I’ve always wanted to make. I really hope people feel the same way about it as I do. And it’s one of those things where someone will hear it and if they’re familiar with the stuff I had made before, I think they’ll be surprised that it’s the same guy.
Seoul Music is streaming above.