1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Hi. My name is Joseph Yun. I'm from South Korea and am now based in Los Angeles. I am a full-time musician--mainly a guitarist.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I moved here from Korea about 10 years ago and have enjoyed staying here in the US, but I am still 100% Korean; I love both countries.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Not really, but maybe yes. My father was a church minister and I grew up at church and even lived in a bunch of different churches whenever my father moved his work place since I was kid. In Korea, and most small churches have some rooms in the back so there are many pastor’s families living in the church. Anyway, I have had many chances to play some church music since I was a teenager. I used to play drums, guitar, and bass... and sometimes piano too, even though I'm not too good at it.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. So when I was 18 years old, I was still in Korea and was attending a high school. My parents went to the US for some missionary stuff, and then, a year after, I just wanted to visit my parents and since I was here I just thought this could be a good chance to visit some music colleges and maybe I could learn there. So, luckily I've had a chance to study music here in LA. I went back to Korea and graduated high school and then came here for college. I realized I was not even good at English and barely able to order food or drink. I didn’t think I could even understand things if I went to college. So, I decided to learn English first and the first school for me was the ESL academy. Also, I started to work at some music instrument shop and was able to learn English more there, but I remember being super nervous taking a phone call because I didn’t even understand what they were saying. It was fun time, and my English got better, so I went to music college called “Musicians Institute”. I enjoyed studying music there and after that I tried working as a musician--I did a bunch of live gigs, recordings, some small tours. As an Asian, it was always difficult to connect with real pro musicians since I was even super young and barely spoke in English. Good thing for all musicians is that everyone "speaks" the same language of "Music". I’m so glad I majored and played music forever, so even if I was not good at English I could have a chance to work with some Americans. These days there are lots of racism issues and of course I have experiences ignored by people in the States. However, I’m a positive guy and have nice memories here in LA--that’s why I think I‘m still here... I even got married and am looking forward to a bright future here in LA! I’m glad I play music.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I definitely feel connected with my country. There could be several reasons. 1st one, Language. When I first came to the US I was barely speaking in English and I had to make a friend who could understand my language, so early on, it was hard making friends... but after a few years, when my English got better, I had many chances to hang out with lots of musician friends and luckily I had good friends... so, they were nice to me even though I was not good at English :) I still love my country, but I love this country as well because I live here and I love connecting many different people here in the US.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? Yeah, I actually went to Music High School when I was in Korea and then I came here in the US after I graduated from high school. I studied English bit more for understanding better before I went to College and then I started to attend the Music College which was MI Hollywood. It was a great school and I had a lot fun working & learning music there. I graduated from the Guitar program with the AA degree. I think I decided to be a musician when I was 15 years, in Korea there are many music high-schools so I went to one of them and was fortunate to learn all the basic and even professional stuff when I was very young. Like I said, I grew up at church and was able to play every Sunday services and some other weekday services as well, I had to practice pretty much every day after school. I think my parents had to watch me playing 3-5 hours everyday so I guess they knew I was pretty serious in the music scene. I also was a good kid with no problems at school. I was acting like a normal student, so my parents just trusted me. They supported me and kept supporting me with the heart but not financially of course. Right after I graduated Music College I started to work in the music scene so they are still cheering me up to be a successful musician!
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects?
1) As a solo artist, I just dropped my 1st jazz instrumental album right before Covid happened. Recorded 7 songs of my original and played with wonderful jazz musicians here in LA area including Simon Phillips (Protocol), Ernest Tibbs (Allan Holdsworth), J3po (Marcus Miller), Jeff Collela (MI), Efa Etoroma (Moonchild), Chaun Horton (Kelly Clarkson), Nick Campbell (Pomplamoose), Wesley Ritenour (Lee Ritenour) Etc. I had my first Live Recording Concert as well which is up on my Youtube Channel (www.youtube.com/josephyunmusic) I was starting this album whenever I had budget for recordings so it took like 3 years to make it done. So between song and song there were different stories and playing, so I guess people can enjoy more because there is diversity. 2) I’ve also been working as a sideman guitar player and luckily I met a wonderful legendary smooth jazz pianist named “David Benoit” You might know if you are a jazz lover. I had beautiful gigs with him and his band and we also were featured from Lighthouse cafe’s 70th anniversary concert which was live broadcasted by K.Jazz which is one of my favorite gigs in my life.
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. I’m not a huge influencer, but have been fortunate to work with a few different gear companies including Strymon, Harmony Guitars, Danny Koentopp Guitars, Isaac Jang Guitars, Digico Company. They are up on Youtube so feel free to check them out if you are a gear lover :)
8. Describe to me your dream project. I think I just started to work as a full time musician. It’s only been 4 years since I quit another day job. I still need to learn and play more casual & small gigs but absolutely my dream gig is winning a grammy or even nominating. It would be an honor to do that with my own name (solo album) in the future but I will be also happy to play with other musicians as a side man guitarist.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I think it’s all about having confidence. I have a few Korean friends who are not even good at English, but they just know what to do and make a bunch of friends in the music scene without encountering many problems. Of course, there are many issues with racism, but I always see the positive side of things and there are many good people too specially in this LA area. So I would have more time making music together with good friends!
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? I can't recall names, but there are definitely cool musicians out there who work so hard ... they inspire many people.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I’m sure there are people who’s struggling in the US because they don’t meet people often. I hope this can be helpful for people who desire to share and learn knowledge and lifestyle to stand up in this country.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Be open-minded. Learn anything you are good at, like making songs building your own brand, playing different instruments, and working with producers etc. People usually tell me to be good at one specific thing, but these days you have to be good at a few different related things.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I’m a full - time guitar player but also working as a Music Videographer. I used to film myself for my music, and for my friends but started to dive in more because I love recording & filming for musicians. So I’m releasing a Youtube Channel called “Fulltime Musician” which I share fulltime musician’s lifestyle, tips, lessons, new music etc. I would like you to join when these interviews are released! Hopefully the channel will be released in May 2021!
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Oh I just mentioned it on Q.12 . I love cameras. I love technology ! I have been photographing / shooting my friends and musicians for a long time, but decided to spend more time on it when Covid happened (Covid changed many people’s lives). Also, I love watching movies, music videos, old videos and new videos from which I can draw inspiration.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? I love what you are doing; we need a community whether small or big... because especially as a musicians, we need to meet people and play together in person! So, please keep up the good work and hopefully we all can meet soon and talk about music or any fun stuff soon.
Facebook: Joseph Yun
YouTube: Joseph Yun
Spotify: Joseph Yun
Photos provided by Joseph Yun