Yoo Soo Kim is producer, songwriter, and mixing/mastering engineer whose work has been featured in NPR, Nissan, BMW, Stella Artois, Alternative Press, and BMW among others. His background as a multi-instrumentalist who's played in orchestras, rock bands, and pop groups has brought him praise for creating and shaping dynamic, engaging songs.
Yoo Soo started hitting and strumming all sorts of musical instruments since he was a kid. At 6 years old, he started with classical piano and has since picked up the guitar, bass, drums, viola, and violin. By 16, he got his first mixer and now produces, mixes, programs, and engineers all of his music.
By way of his continuous curiosity of different instruments and recording, Yoo Soo has been commended for his strength in versatility. Each genre he dives into – whether it be rock, pop, classical, or electronic – has been done with precision and quality.
With a classical background and music minor from the University of Illinois, his knowledge of music, theory, instrumentation, and recording has also brought him praise as a strong communicator. The artists he collaborates with believe that he is able to bring out their ideas into its strongest, most inspired forms.
Yoo Soo is also the singer-songwriter and guitarist for the indie rock band Hemmingbirds. He and his band have been featured in NPR, Paste Magazine, Alternative Press and charted #47 on CMJ. His work has been featured with Nissan, Stella Artois, HP, and BMW among others.
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Interview with Yoo Soo Kim
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I worked with this Assyrian-American artist KSRA. I produced, performed, and mixed an epic 120 track piece full with choir, quartet, woodwind, and spoken word section. It was the first song that empowered Assyrians during their time of political turmoil, and I helped provide that work of art for them. That was pretty awesome.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: A couple of incredible solo female R&B/soul artists. I'm creating the music and working on melodies and lyrics with them. Also working with a couple indie rock bands tracking their records and being that extra band member when needed to guide them in the right direction.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Digital. Obviously analog is awesome and there's so much amazing gear in the world. But plugins now sound pretty incredible. The benefits they provide to a faster workflow, faster recall, and turnaround outweigh the certain qualities that analog provides.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: The end result will be something that you're very proud of.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Work on music and help people achieve something that is deeply important to them in a way that makes them feel most fulfilled with the end result.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: What do you think of the song? I give them my honest answer in what I believe the song is.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That anyone can do it. Or the more gear you have, the better you are.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What's your goal with your music? What was your intent and what do you hope to achieve? What do you want it to sound like?
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: My Martin HD-28, Fender Strat, Macbook Pro, Teenage Engineering OP-1, and SM58.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Personality = super chill. My goal is to help realize an artists' vision of what they want out of a song and will adapt to whatever work style or personality they have to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible to help them achieve that goal. Musical style = modern and powerful. I can adapt to whatever genre, but generally I love things that have extremes - things that sound huge, or intimate, or immensely beautiful; basically whatever knocks it out of the park with what it's trying to accomplish.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Less is more!
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: By far my versatility and ability to listen and adapt. I play and produce a number of different instruments and genres. By knowing a variety of musical backgrounds, I can really bring out the strengths of songs. Furthermore, I really try to understand what the goal is of the artist. I want to make sure that I really help achieve that goal in a way that's very enjoyable for them.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I'm a strong listener with a small ego. My goal is to help realize the artists' goal and have it go beyond what they even expect can be possible.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I love working with artists from the ground up. They will bring a basic song to the table. Together, we'll focus on the arrangement and top line then flesh it out with instruments. From there, we'll work together to piece together the best structure and arrangement of a song. During the mixing stage, I'll focus on drums first as they usually are most crucial in driving the song. Then I'll work with the vocal to make sure that everything is being structured properly around that. Once those two are in place I'll work on guitars, keys, synths and make sure that they have a great relationship with everything that's going on. All the while I'll focus on bass to make sure it has its own space around all the other instruments and is gluing the song together. As I work through the song, I'll make sure that I'm using reverb, delay, and other effects in a way to bring life and depth to the song. Finally, I'll finish with automation of all parts to make sure that the song's energy flows with as much excitement as it should. By mastering I'll assess the song in terms of what it needs for improvement. That process includes warmth from analog, EQing, multiband compressing, dynamic EQing, stereo imaging, and various limiting to make sure it hits loud enough for today's standards but still has a lot of life and dynamics.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Steinberg Cubase, Pro Tools 11. I monitor with Barefoot Micromain45s, which have been reviewed as some of the best monitors out there. Have industry's top plugins like Waves, Soundtoys, iZotope, and Slate Digital. Legendary outboard gear - Universal Audio LA-610 and 1176. Use Antelope Orion Studio for crystal clear conversion and playback.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: So many...Kanye West, Phoenix, Bon Iver, Lorde, St Vincent, Kendrick Lamar, Vampire Weekend, Frank Ocean, Rick Rubin, Rich Costey, Rostam, Andrew Scheps, Chris Lord-Alge, Manny Marroquin, and just way too many more.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Co-writing, arrangement, performing, producing, mixing, and mastering.