V Shares The Journey That Led to <em>Layover</em> - And How His BTS Members Helped Get Him There (2024)

Sure, V has achieved idol status during his decade-long career with BTS, received recognition as an actor for his supporting role in the 2016 Korean drama Hwarang, and established his own identity as a singer-songwriter. But he’s more than happy to admit that he doesn’t have it all figured out.

For the past three years, the 27-year-old musician and actor, born Kim Taehyung, has been continuously writing songs, showing them to fans in occasional video livestreams only to start over entirely. All of it has been in pursuit of finding the right direction for the debut solo album that eventually became Layover, out Friday.

While working on the project, V found himself contemplating the greater trajectory of his career. Everything came just as BTS’s identity was in flux: The group reached new global success with 2020’s “Dynamite” and 2021’s “Butter,” but the members transitioned to focusing on their solo careers in 2022. Just as V was experimenting with different genres and songwriting styles, he realized that he didn’t want to just dash furiously toward a final destination. He recognized that he was someone who needed to take detours, find new possibilities along the way, and just enjoy the journey.

“Instead of taking a direct route, you could stop somewhere and stay for a while, or take a transfer, or do a layover,” he tells Rolling Stone through an interpreter on a brutally hot summer day in Seoul. “I just felt that my life, wherever it’s headed, would not follow a direct path.”

He knew his time would come while watching his fellow members release their own solo works one by one. Slowly, V reshaped the songs that make up Layover. Through slow-burning R&B and soul-inspired pop, he luxuriates in layered moods — longing, sadness, and desire. Leaning on images of rainy days and blue night skies, he conveys the contemplative state of his everyday life. In short, he knows how to set a vibe — which, in the TikTok age, has become an essential skill.

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Layover builds on V’s previous solo tracks, which include 2019’s “Scenery” and “Winter Bear.” In 2020, he released the melancholic ballad “Blue & Grey” as part of BTS, using sparse images of flower-lined streets and snow to express his inner world of grief and loneliness. Layover is also filled with complicated feelings that surround a sense of nostalgia, with its romanticization of the past and all its regrets. These were ideas V had started exploring through his original themes for Korean dramas like “Sweet Night,” for 2020’s Itaewon Class and “Christmas Tree,” for 2021’s Our Beloved Summer. They’re also a testament to his growth as an artist since joining Big Hit Entertainment at age 15. Through BTS, he’s shown his versatility and charisma through DMX-esque hip-hop vocals, high-octane dance EDM, and fun party rap. Now, he is embarking on his own journey, setting the itinerary himself. “I’m just beginning to paint the picture that is Kim Taehyung,” V says.

While V perfected the songs on Layover, the album was executive produced by Min Hee Jin, the president of ADOR (a subsidiary label of HYBE), who has been renowned for her work on NewJeans, a group that draws on the spirit of the Nineties. Layover, however, delves further back into the past, with its palette of jazzy pianos, warm bass, and fluttering flute solos pulling from V’s love for jazz and classical music.

The project is also a showcase of V’s rich baritone, emphasizing how he’s long idolized and emulated classic artists Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. A former saxophone player who has also dabbled in learning trumpet and violin, his vocals impart a world of feeling just through slight adjustments to his inflection and rhythm. Though his tone is warm, it’s always shaded with a tint of sadness, a bit of blue. The mood is wistful, yet luminous all the same.


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Yet in conversation, V’s demeanor is the opposite of gloomy. Showing flashes of playfulness, he takes advantage of the time that the translator spends interpreting in English to draw a goofy face on the whiteboard in the HYBE meeting room. Then, he pretends not to know it exists when I ask him about it. Throughout the rest of the conversation, he’s earnest as he offers his thoughts on his songwriting process, watching his fellow BTS members release their solo work, his obsession with scenery, and how he would personally define what “romance” is.

What is the significance of this album title, Layover? What kinds of thoughts or feelings does a layover bring up for you, and how did you express that in the songs?
The title Layover came about while I was contemplating what my final destination is in my life and career and the way to get there. The intent behind naming my first solo album, Layover, is to represent a starting point ,like I’m just beginning to paint the picture that is Kim Taehyung.

I realized there’s a long way to the final destination of my life. There’s a lot of different ways to get to that final destination.Why not give yourself the time to rest, look back at myself, and create new goals? Thinking about all of that, I decided on the name Layover. I really hope that listeners of this album will also take it as an opportunity to reflect on their lives, think about their goals, and take some moments of rest wherever they need.

Last year, you mentioned in Weverse Magazine that you scrapped all the songs you made for this solo album and started fresh again. When you started over, did you want to go in an entirely new direction?
For the past three or four years, I have been continuously songwriting and making music. Throughout that time, the thing that concerned me the most was how my taste and preferences, the kind of music I wanted to make, were changing every year, every month. You could say that I was being very ambitious about this solo album. I had an attitude of, “I wanna show this, and I wanna show that,” which is why the style [of the songs] continued to evolve.

As I re-listen to the music I’ve made after some time has passed, I can see the parts that might have needed improvement, and how it’s different from where I am now. Since it’s my first solo album, I also think I was a bit shy], which is why the process took longer than expected.But because there will be more opportunities in the future to show the songs I’ve written, I thought it would be better to first introduce myself to the world as a solo artist. So the album reflects a variety of different musical styles that shows who I am. I’m still continuing to write songs now.

The music that I’m working on now is stylistically different from this album.

So for Layover, what did you want to achieve with the production style? When I listened to it, I personally felt like there were jazz and classical music influences.
As you mentioned, jazz and classical are my favorite genres, so I think I always had the desire to try making it myself. It was the music that I grew up listening to. Whenever I had free time, or when there was a break between my work, I tended to go back to those styles. I felt a sense of comfort while listening to them, so I really wanted to try to make music that also brings that feeling of consolation to the audience. While I was preparing this album, I thought, “Since this is the music that was always my source of comfort, why don’t I try to return the feeling for ARMY?”

When did you first start listening to jazz, and what about it drew you in?
I started listening to jazz when I was around 14 years old, in my first year of middle school, but it was not really by choice. I had started playing saxophone, and I had to practice for school admission exams, so I listened to jazz a lot. But I actually really hated it at the time. I thought to myself that I would never listen to it again after I was done [preparing].

But after time passed, I started to notice it again. You know, when you’re walking down the street and you just hear music in passing? I started hearing jazz songs that I recognized,like “Oh, I know this one! Oh, this is that song!”And it suddenly felt very fresh. Jazz started to have a new meaning, because it wasn’t part of my work or studies. After hearing it more naturally, I started falling in love with the genre and seeing its merits. I think it was around my early 20s that I rediscovered my love for jazz again.

Partly because of the jazz influence, this album evokes feelings of being nostalgic for the past. Do you think you’re a nostalgic person?
I think you can think of it as connected to BTS’ The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series, which showcased the theme of youth. You know, when you look back into your past and feel sentimental about those old memories. That strange feeling that comes with reflecting back on your old self, and thinking, “I wish I could go back to those good old days…” I think that overall sentiment is also reflected in this album. Particularly the song “Love Me Again” is about reminiscing and wanting to return to the past. I think those ideas are reflected in the music video as well. So in short, my youth is not over. Right?

Oh definitely. You’re still young. Like we’ve both said, I think a lot of young people these days have nostalgia for an older time and they tend to romanticize it. To you, what does the word “romance” mean?
I think I live with the word “romance” in my mouth. It’s really part of my vocabulary. I tend to really enjoy the atmosphere and the vibe in the scenes of everyday life. I think I’m the kind of person to try to find meaning in everything. So whether that means going to beautiful places or eating delicious food or looking at nice scenery, I think that’s what romance is to me. You know, it’s like they say, “Live in style, die in style.”

In this album and the past songs you’ve written, you tend to reference a lot of nature, whether it’s rain, snow, the moon, or nighttime. Is it that you want to express your feelings through these kinds of images?
Yes. Our leader RM, he’s really great at writing lyrics in a poetic way, so I’m always learning from him. So whenever I study lyrics and write them myself, I tend to gravitate toward my favorite words. “Night” comes up a lot, because it’s my favorite time of day, and it tends to be the moments of my life when I think and reflect the most. “Snow” comes up because it indicates my favorite season. “Dawn” is also really great. I can be a person who thinks one-dimensionally or simply, so I try to adorn my songs with my favorite words. One by one, I try to bring out [the beauty of these words]. I try to learn from RM in that regard.

While you were watching your fellow BTS members release their solo albums and singles this past year, did you learn or take away anything about how to release your own project?
First of all, I made sure to watch all of my members’ stage performances, one by one. I’ve never seen anyone else in this world who is as much of a fan of my fellow members as I am. I think watching my bandmates closely really did motivate me. Of course, I was proud of their achievements, but I also got teary and emotional while watching their passion onstage and how cool they were. At the same time, I started to get nervous because I knew my turn would be coming. Honestly, that’s why I asked to change a lot of the lyrics[on this album]. I thought I really should be careful and thoughtful and considerate about these songs. After seeing their material, I thought, “I should really work hard on this.”

Did any of your fellow members help you specifically with this album? Or is there any feedback they gave you when they heard the songs?
So I didn’t realize this at the time, but I really didn’t show the songs in progress with my bandmates that much. In the beginning, since J-Hope was the first to release his solo album, he listened to my songs. And Jung Kook also listened to my work-in-progress with me, and we had a lot of discussions about what the direction should be. But what I think is really interesting, especially after talking with all of them, is that all seven of us really have our own unique color when it comes to music. Our approach is completely different, and the way that we want our performances to look are different too, so I think that’s what made those discussions very fun.

Why didn’t you show your members your songs that much?
It’s just that we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to meet in person, since we were all busy with our own personal schedules. For me, at that time, I was filming the show Jinny’s Kitchen. So whenever we did have a chance to meet, we just caught up on life, and we didn’t really have a chance to discuss music.

I know that Min Hee Jin executive produced this album. Can you explain a little bit about the collaborative process with her? What kind of discussions did you have?
I was in this period of time where I was thinking about the question, “What is the final destination of my life?” So when we started working on this project, I had the opportunity to talk with Min Hee Jin, and we ended up having a very long conversation, sharing all these different ideas — even the very small ones — and trying to get on the same page. Even in areas that I overlooked, she would have an idea for every little thing. This album was the result of us combining both of our ideas, and it was a fun process.


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I think we really relate to each other on a personal level, too. I think she’s someone who really understands what my strengths and passions are. She was really great at catching all my talents and characteristics and bringing them out for this album. Following my personality, I didn’t want this album to feel like this big, all-important kind of piece of art. Instead, I wanted to feel natural and simple, like a little present for my listeners.

To ask a question about acting, I’ve read that you really want to play a villain, which feels a little unexpected. I’m wondering why that kind of role appeals to you.
I’m someone who just really loves watching movies. Whenever I do, I find myself naturally drawn more to the villain characters rather than the heroes. When you watch a film, you have to look at the big picture, or the forest for the trees. I think that villains play a very big role in making that overall picture complete; they really have to sell their own charisma to make the movie come to life. If the villain doesn’t really have depth to their character, or if there’s no chemistry between the characters, then the hero can’t really shine either. So I always end up watching the villain characters closely. I’ve told a lot of my friends and people around me that I now have this ambition to play a villain at least once.

V Shares The Journey That Led to <em>Layover</em> - And How His BTS Members Helped Get Him There (2024)


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