By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
When you've been a member of one of the country's longest-running boy bands for nearly a decade, it would be tempting to sit back and enjoy your success. But not if you're Lee Min-woo
who is not just known as member of the popular group Shinhwa, but also a solo singer, music producer, songwriter, actor and businessman.
This year, Lee started his own company M Rising Entertainment, released a third solo album, held successful solo concerts in Korea and Japan and produced songs for several artists.
In an interview with The Korea Times at his office in southern Seoul, Lee said he established his own company so he can produce the music that he wants to do and develop new talent. "It was a kind of independence for me. I wanted to do more music and have more concerts, and produce (music) for other singers", he said.
Lee appears to be following in the footsteps of former pop-stars-turned-entertainment-moguls such as Park Jin-young
and Yang Hyun-suk (a member of popular Seo Taiji
and Boys) who have built their own companies JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment
"I used to envy Rain
because they had Park Jin-young
and Yang Hyun-suk, who are both great music producers. They both had great musical influences behind them. But later, I changed my mind. Now I want to raise another artist like them (Rain and Se7en
). I am now a producer and I want to produce another good singer", he said.
Lee is also involved in producing songs for other artists such as fellow Shinhwa member Jun Jin
and Wonder Girls. The song he wrote for Wonder Girls impressed Park Jin-young
so much that he asked Lee to write and produce a track for his upcoming solo album.
In the future, Lee would want to try and make it in the American music industry, not as a solo singer but as a music producer. "I want to produce songs for American artists. The U.S. is the biggest market now. All the music I like is coming from the U.S. I would like to take part in the American music scene but there are still a lot of prejudices that exist. Someday I would like to break in the U.S. Maybe not next year but in the future", he said.
M the Singer
Lee, who is more popularly known as M, showed a mature, sophisticated sound in his third album "Explore". He produced nine out of the 12 tracks on the album, including collaborations with hip-hop stars Tablo
of Epik High (they acted together in the MBC sitcom "New Non-Stop 5") and Drunken Tiger's Tiger JK
The charismatic 28-year old singer said he tried to make "Explore" different from Shinhwa's albums, and the solo albums by fellow Shinhwa members Shin Hye-sung and Kim Dong-wan
, which were released almost at the same time.
"I tried really hard for this album. I was excited to finally do the music that I wanted to do", he said. "I tried to make it different from Shinhwa. When I write songs, I focus on the trends and try to make it catchy so many people will like my songs".
His album will be released in Japan in November. Lee said he will re-record two or three songs in Japanese.
Lee is quite proud of the quality of his solo concerts, especially since he gives particular attention to every detail. He is planning to hold concerts around Korea later this year, and around Asia next year.
"Come to my concert and your thoughts about me will totally change. I'm very confident about my concerts. It is worth the price of the ticket", he said.
Despite his busy solo activities, Lee does not forget about Shinhwa. It has been nine years since Shinhwa made their debut with SM Entertainment.
When asked what he thinks is the reason for Shinhwa's continued popularity, Lee believes it is the group's charisma and personality both on and off-stage. "When all six members go on stage, I feel like we all have the same objective and we are working toward the same goal. Shinhwa means `myth' and as we get older, we want to really become a legend", Lee said.
Just how strong is Lee's love for Shinhwa? "If I have to choose between Shinhwa and the woman I love, I would choose Shinhwa. Shinhwa is the biggest part of my life", he smiled.
Shinhwa is scheduled to release a single in December, and to hold a concert in Shanghai, China on Dec. 15. The group is also planning to release a new album in March, to coincide with Shinhwa's 10th anniversary.