On June 16, Jo Kwon and other artists from Cube Entertainment came together to perform in a joint concert called “2018 UNITED CUBE -ONE-.” In an interview with Ten Asia before the concert, Jo Kwon said, “Although everything about my environment feels new because it hasn’t been long since I moved labels, I’m going to put on a performance that is possible because I’m Jo Kwon.” Staying true to his word, Jo Kwon gave a striking performance of his 2012 solo single “Animal” that captured the eyes of the audience. Even though he was in a new environment, his talent shone. Jo Kwon said, “I was given a chance to put on a solo performance, and since it’s not an opportunity that comes around often, I wanted to put on an eye-catching performance.“ He added, “In the future, I want to make music that makes me happy. I want to put on performances that only Jo Kwon can.” Perhaps this is why we’re excited about seeing Jo Kwon spreading his new wings in a new nest.

10. It was your first time getting on stage with your labelmates from Cube Entertainment since you changed labels.
Jo Kwon: I prepared a lot for the concert with the goal of showing a new and improved me. Since it hasn’t been long since I moved to Cube Entertainment, everything still feels very new. There are things that are still awkward and unfamiliar to me (laughs).

10. At the beginning of the year, you released “Lonely,” which was your first solo single in two years and the first to be released since changing labels. Were you satisfied with how the single performed? 
Jo Kwon: There probably isn’t a single musical artist that doesn’t want their music to perform well. With “Lonely,” I placed significance on the fact that it was the first single I was releasing with my new label. That’s why I wanted to stick with an emotional ballad that my fans identify 2AM and me with and portray a natural image.

10. You must have felt some pressure with the release.
Jo Kwon:
 I did feel a little bit of pressure. I didn’t know that I would be the first batter up for my label this year. I released my first single faster than I thought I would, and I think any time you take your first step with something, there’s pressure involved. It’s a temporary feeling though. I feel it temporarily when buzz for the new album is first being created or when I read articles, but when I actually start the promotional activities for the album, the pressure disappears.

10. What’s the image you want to show with your next album?
Jo Kwon:
 This year marks the 10th year since my debut. I think I’ve shown as much emotion as I possibly can through ballads over the years. I’ve done performances that highlighted my vocal ability. That’s why for my next album, I’m thinking of making music that I want to make. I always feel so thankful when my fans tell me that my music made them happy and gave them comfort. But when I thought about whether I’ve ever felt happy or comforted while making music, I couldn’t think of a time when I felt that way. That’s why I want to make music that gives me joy and makes me happy (laughs).

10. Last year, you made your first foray into business when you decided to take over Midnight in Seoul, a cereal cafe. How is that going for you?
Jo Kwon:
I had never considered running a cereal cafe at first. I went to the UK with a couple of other acquaintances and Yoon Kye-sang to shoot a pictorial, and the four of us ended up at a cereal bar. The cafe got started when we saw how charming the cereal bar was and how much the people were enjoying themselves there. We thought that if a cafe like that opened in Korea, the people in Korea would feel that it was new and different. The very idea of a cereal cafe is new and unfamiliar in Korea. When people think of cereal, they think of an energetic tiger (laughs). I was getting ready to open a dog cafe, and the cereal cafe also happened to be a dog friendly one. So when I was offered the chance to run the cafe, I decided to take it over and run the main shop. I really like cereal. There are a lot of times when substitute my meals with cereal. I think that’s one of the things that made it a good fit for me. More than anything else, I wanted to create a space of my own. A space where friends and fans can easily get to see Jo Kwon (laughs).
10. On the menu, I can see you offer a lot of different cereal options, and customers can also select the type of milk and toppings they want. Could you recommend a combination for us that is your favorite?
Jo Kwon:
 I like having mine with yogurt rather than milk. We have both plain and Greek yogurt, but I normally go with Greek yogurt. I really like Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt doesn’t really have a strong flavor, but it isn’t that sweet and the texture is similar to jam (laughs). I mix in some granola cereal, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, and then drizzle in some syrup on top. That’s my favorite combination. That’s Midnight in Seoul’s Jo Kwon special (laughs).

10. I’ve heard that your pet dogs have played a role in creating some buzz for the cafe.
Jo Kwon:
 It’s true. Gaga and Bieber are more popular than I am. They’re really well-behaved, and they don’t smell. They’re both Italian Greyhounds, and they wouldn’t smell even if you never gave them a bath. They’re clean and such good dogs. People also often tell me that they look like me. Since they’re skinny and have long necks, whenever I take them on walks around my neighborhood, I often have ladies asking me if I’m raising elks (laughs). The only downside is that I have to take them out for a walk every day. That’s why no matter how busy I am, I take time out of my schedule to take my dogs out for a walk. I also often take them to the cafe. The customers love them. Gaga and Bieber have been promoting the business (laughs).

10. Do you have plans to grow your cereal business?
Jo Kwon:
 My role is to diligently promote the cafe. When it comes to running the actual business, other guys take care of everything. Later on if the cafe does well, I’d like to expand it so that more people can visit.

10. When singers aren’t promoting an album, they say they’re on a “break.” Do you feel like you’re on a break right now?
Jo Kwon:
 I don’t think so. I’m actually busier now that I’m not actively promoting an album. I have a lot of things that I have to take care of. I’ve been so active lately that my friends have been telling me to take a day off where I just loaf around at home without even taking a shower. Even on my days off, once I’ve done some singing practice, worked out, and gone to the cafe to help out, I find that my day has just flown by.

10. When does it feel like you’re really getting some rest?
Jo Kwon:
 When I’m on a trip abroad. When I go abroad for pleasure and not for business, I become removed from my worries and work in Korea, which naturally takes my mind off my troubles. When I’m lounging around on a pool chair in a hot country or taking a relaxing nap, I feel like I’m really on vacation. Of course, right now I can’t even remember the last time I did that (laughs).

10. Where was the last place overseas that you went for vacation?
Jo Kwon:
 The last time I went abroad for vacation was when I went to Thailand at the beginning of last year. I was able to get around comfortably because I have a local friend that lives there. It was nice to go on water excursions and get inexpensive massages. I think the best part was feeling like I was really taking a break since I was staying at a hotel instead of at home.

10. What are your plans for this summer?
Jo Kwon:
 I don’t have any yet. I don’t think I’ll be able to take a trip abroad this year because I don’t have any free time. I think I’ll probably go to Gapyeong with my friends and try out some water sports. I think that’ll be about it for this summer.

10. What are some plans and goals you have this year as a musical artist?
Jo Kwon:
 I don’t have any grand plans or goals. A singer has to prepare a lot of things in order to release a new album. We have to write songs, and we have to play a lot to get inspiration (laughs). I don’t think it’s a waste of time to enjoy yourself because I think you get much better ideas and inspiration by doing so. I want to gradually plan things out for this year while I work hard and play hard.
10. What kind of artist to you want to be remembered as in the minds of the public?
Jo Kwon:
 Although there are a lot of people who show me love and support now, my biggest goal is to be someone who’s influential. The character of “Kkab Kwon” that people loved me for in the past was a character that was created from variety programs, and so it was a character that was able to give people joy. In the future, I want to be an artist that can give people courage, one that people can lean on, and one that can influence people to believe in themselves. I’m going to show people who I am by doing the things that Jo Kwon can do and by doing the type of music and performances that only Jo Kwon can do.

Photography: Jang-Han (Studio Sun in Jang)
Hair and Makeup: Jihyun and Han Hyunjae (ALUU)
Stylist: Lee Jin-kyu

Translated by Jennifer Earwood