When we left off in our interview with Luna Lee, we were just getting into the emotional weight she puts into all of her performances. She’s an artist who relies heavily on the emotional impact of a song to get a feel for her own music, and she shares that same spirit and open candor with us as we continue our conversation
Collaborations & Food Combinations
With her unique approach to her instrument, there have to be artists she’s interested in working with. Any collaboration with her is sure to be something truly magnificent, something nobody’s ever seen and will never forget.
“Is there somebody you really want to collaborate with?”
“Yes!” Her enthusiasm is really a marvel. All the artists we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing have all had their own moments of heightened excitement when talking about aspects of their craft. Luna is no exception, her excitement injecting the room with some of the positive energy that dissipated when we were talking about Prince. Not surprising, most of the artists she’s collaborated with are Korean, even with K-pop artists. But her reach extends beyond South Korea, if her invitation to SXSW is any indication. “From Germany there’s a band called Tierra Negra. There are few videos on my YouTube channel. Their emotion is very lovely, and their technique is perfect, and they’re famous and worldwide musicians. I had a tour with them in Germany. Actually they are one my favorite musician friend,” she reveals with a smile. “We are very close. So every time I visit in Germany, we make a collaboration stage.”
Luna then cheekily points to her keyboardist and says, “She’s my best musician friend. Okay, so there are two musician friends.” We share a laugh as she let’s get a peek of her sense of humor. Before the laughter can truly fade, she continues, “It’s okay, guys. I have a lot of music friends.”
That atmosphere is loose, and we’ve all become rather comfortable around each other. It’s so easy to embrace Luna’s spirit, her bubbly energy. As we slowly reach the end of our time together, we realize that as far as the music goes, she’s answered all our questions, humored us all our rambling stories and requests for deeper insight into what it is that makes her the musician that she is. In the end she prompts us with a question she probably would be asked if she were the K-pop star South Korea confused her for in the first place.
“How about what’s your favorite food?” she says, a huge smile and a chuckle at her throat. How can we not laugh at this. But since we’re on the subject…. I mean, she is in Austin, Texas, after all. The capital of BBQ. So what is her favorite food?
“Unfortunately, there was not enough time to try Austin food,” she laments. But she reveals that she and her crew cooked in their hotel room. “So we went to the market Whole Foods. So my favorite food is Whole Foods.” Again we erupt in raucous laughter. “Their meat and vegetables are amazing! It’s funny, but it’s true.”
Sun-hee then asks us if we have anything to recommend, and without even a moment’s hesitation all of us at Rock N’ Seoul bellow, “Chuey’s!”
Rebecca elaborates after our echoes die down, “If you want Mexican food, a place called Chuey’s.” She then adds, “Texas is known for BBQ, brisket, so everyone says Franklin’s BBQ is the best.”
“Actually we ate brisket,” Sun-hee says. “But Luna says brisket is very similar to jangjorim (beef braised in soy sauce). So she loved it.”
With this line of conversation, we start delving into the glories of Korean food from everywhere outside of Korea. Mirella adds, We have a huge K-Town, I believe it’s the biggest. This is what the Korean artists say whenever they come LA: we have better Korean food than in Korea.”
Cue the oohs and aahs, from the peanut gallery. But even Luna has something to add to the debate .”When I had a tour in LA three years ago, I called a taxi, and the taxi driver was Korean. So when he introduced K-Town, he said there two things that K-Town doesn’t have that Korea has. There are only two things. Do you know?” We all stare blankly, having no idea what those two things could be. “He said gaegogi (dog meat) and yeontan (briquettes for barbecuing). He meant there’s nothing that K-Town doesn’t have.”
Well, it seems if I never make it to South Korea itself, I can fly over and visit Mirella and experience the country, or at least its food, without having to cross any oceans. However, if I do manage to get my funds together, I wanted to know what food I should definitely try while I’m there. Luna starts by asking me if I like meat. I can’t eat beef or pork (so right away I know my options are limited). But as soon as I say I love chicken, both she and Sun-hee exclaim, “Okay! Chimaek! Chicken and beer!”
“In Korea there are various chickens, so you can choose,” Sun-hee elaborates.
At this point the only person at our table who hasn’t had Korean fried chicken is me. Rebecca adds, “Fried chicken in the US, we’re not doing it right.”
“Do you drink beer?” Luna asks
Personally, I’m fonder of harder liquor. Luna gets quite a shock from that, her eyes going wide and her mouth agape for a moment.
Mirella gets in on the fun and adds, “My favorite is magkoli with soju.” And again Luna gets a shock.
Sun-hee is also a bit in awe. “Wow,” she says. “She’s very strong.:
Of course, we have to ask, “Have you tried it.”
Without having to even think about it, Luna lets out an emphatic, “No!” shaking her hands and head.
We get into a conversation about our favorite flavored sojus and types of magkoli. Personally, I’m a fan of whiskey, but I’m always in the mood to try something new.
Of course since we’re on the subject, we have to find out if Luna herself partakes in libations. Most of the artists we’ve interviewed say they use a little liquid courage before they get on stage to wow their audiences. However, Luna does drink at all. “For me I don’t drink beer at all, so I drink chilsung. Do know what that means? Chicken plus cider!”
Well if it’s an option between the two, cider is definitely my poison of choice, though that’s not exactly what she’s talking about. In Korea, cider is more akin to Sprite in the States. “The cider we have is alcoholic cider. It’s like Sprite, but grown-up Sprite!”
Embracing the Audience
After sharing a few more laughs, our time together really has come to an end. Perhaps the most important question we’ve saved for last. “What would you like to tell new people coming to see your music? What would you like them to know about you?”
“There are two things,” she begins. “I’m working very hard because my instrument is unstable to make my music the way I want. I need to develop various things, so sometimes it makes me disappointed. But my fans cheer me on, they send encouraging messages. That is the best thing to cheer me up, encouraging messages, comments. It makes me work harder and bring my best.”
She turns to Sun-hee and begins to speak in Korean. It’s clear she wants to get her feelings out as honestly and thoroughly as she can. Sun-hee tells us, “It makes her have energy.”
“It’s very important to me,” Luna continues. “Even though they’re very short comments, they make me happy and more hard working. That’s the first thing. The second thing. Every time I play music I say something. I experience some kind of feeling in the message, and so I hope I can give them my message.” Again she looks to Sun-hee to convey her emotions.
“She hopes that what she says goes to the audience. They can listen to what she says.”
“So on the stage when I play the connection between us is the most important thing, I think in my opinion. So those are the two things.
Sun-hee elaborates, “She always wants to play to the audience, so she tries to connect with them.”
“So I hope the audience and me can share the same feeling, share the experience. It’s a very exciting thing. It makes us a little more closer on the stage. I hope so.”
She ends there with a definitive nod. Her conviction is so strong, her desire to connect her soul to that of every member of the audience is clear. Not only in her words, but also in the way she plays her instrument, practically singing through the strings.
Before we part, Rebecca asks, “Did you know there’s a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn here?”
“Yeah! I already saw it!” Of course! What were we thinking? “I already went there the other day, and I’m going there again soon to take a picture.” She lowers her voice a bit, conspiratorially as if she’s letting us in on a scheme she’s been cooking up. “I know the size is extra size, so maybe I can play jam.”
After extracting a promise of a picture, we say our final good-byes, hugs and pictures abound.
I mentioned to her that watching her play I was reminded of my favorite artist: Stevie Wonder. There’s something about the way he plays harmonica. He doesn’t simply blow air into that little tin box. He makes that harp sing. And just like Stevie. Luna makes her gayageum sing, reach out with it’s nimble fingers and hug every person watching her transform tradition into magic.
Visit the websites below to find out more about Luna Lee and how she makes her magic and gifts it to the world: