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For a Korean singer, Psy’s single “Gangnam Style” has gone viral and YouTube is flooded with his videos, especially in Korea. However, despite the invasion of videos of Psy, there is one video which takes a stand firm, attracting about 550,000 viewers, since it was uploaded on September 30. The video is about Greg Priester, an American citizen living in Korea, singing a Korean ballad song at the singing contest JeonGook NoRaeJaRang, which can be translated into the National Singing Contest.
The singing contest, which was first on air in 1908, is one of the well-known TV show in Korea, and it held special contest for expats to celebrate Korean Thanks Giving Day, Chuseok. Greg Priester was one of the contestants.
At the contest, Greg sang the ballad “For you” by Korean singer Lim Jae-bum with his exquisite voice, impressing lots of Korean people. He became the runner up in the contest.
After the show, his video has been spreading quickly among YouTube viewers and blog users, and many people have started to question, “who is this guy?”
Toonari Post recently had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Greg Priester in Korea.
Toonari Post (TP): Tell us about your background; why do you want to be a singer?
Greg Priester (GP): My name is Greg Priester and I was born in Aiken, South Carolina, USA. I attended college in Indiana. After graduating I followed my dream and starting teaching high school English in Indiana. I realized from doing community service work in high school that I had a passion for teaching, then eventually ventured on another dream, teaching abroad. In the past few years here, I’ve discovered I have a similar love for singing. I enjoy the feeling, and I especially love sharing that with an audience.
TP: Your video from the singing contest is drawing public attention these days. How does it feel? What do you think about it?
GP: It’s quite shocking but it feels fantastic! I didn’t expect the video to be posted at all, but it was online the next day after airing on TV. There were hundreds of positive comments and thousands of views within the first day. After reading many of the comments, I found that many people I didn’t know were watching and really loved my voice. It is an amazing feeling to get that sort of feedback from around the world and especially from Korean viewers. It really gives me hope that I have a chance to be a popular singer if I continue to give it my best effort.
TP: As an American citizen, it would be easier for you to pursue your dream in the U.S. instead of Korea. What brought you here?
GP: Honestly, I came to South Korea to experience a new culture and teach in a new environment. I never planned to pursue singing. It definitely wasn’t my reason for coming to South Korea! My desire to sing started from a trip to a karaoke with friends. I was a bit reluctant to sing and sat quietly, but my friends pushed me to sing a song. Afterward, they were really shocked and loved my voice, so they pushed me to sing more. From that point, I was asked to sing at a friend’s wedding then many other local events and concerts. With each performance my confidence grew and made me feel a real love for singing! But pursuing a singing career in Korea is not easy, especially with my limited speaking ability. I take it as part of the challenge to achieve my dream but overall I don’t care where or what I sing, I simply want to do it wholeheartedly!
TP: Tell us about your music experience or achievement so far.
GP: I’ve performed at more than 50 weddings in South Korea in the last two years. I sang on TBSeFM for the show, KPopular, which is hosted by “As One.” Also I joined a few small singing competitions this year like: Global Super Idol, Siheung Migrants’ Singing Competition (1st place), Changwon Migrants’ Arirang (3rd place), and KBS national singing contest (2nd place).
TP: How is your life in Korea? What are the difficulties, and what things do you enjoy?
GP: My life in South Korea is quite simple. I stay very busy with teaching and singing. I guess my main difficulty is being so far away from my family and friends in the US. There are sometimes cultural differences which are a bit difficult and also language barriers that come up on occasion but nothing life-threatening. I really enjoy Korean culture in most regards and absolutely love the food! Healthy and tasty is an unbeatable combination for me. I’ve actually lost over 20kg since coming to Korea.
TP: What do you think about K-Pop and Psy?
GP: I have a great appreciation for K-Pop because it’s SO energetic. Although my personal singing style is more focused on vocals, I really like the effort that Korean artists are putting into their artistry and all the elements of their performances. The passion is evident in each show and Korean audiences definitely seem to feed off of that! As for Psy, what can I say? He’s created the biggest song/dance craze of this generation. It’s amazing that people around the world can join in on the fun that this song brings! I think he’s taken a huge step for South Korea that will help other Korean artists crossover to foreign markets and also raise international interest about South Korea. Congratulations, Psy! I’m jealous, and hope to one day have an international hit song like you!
TP: What is your future goal?
GP: My short-term goal is to continue building my song repertoire and perform at all the events and weddings I can handle without burning out. Another goal is to continue learning and practicing Korean as often as I can. The big short-term goal is to join a large singing audition program within the next year, whether it be in South Korea or America. The long-term goals are to become an internationally known singer, continue to push for better education around the world, and live a happy life. I want to be known as an effective, powerful vocalist but also a fun and approachable performer. It will always be my ultimate goal for the audience to have strong feelings during my singing but also to leave the show with a fulfilled feeling. Also I want my fans to know me as a person, not just as a CD seller.
TP: Please say something for people who love your music and voice.
GP: Thank you so much for your kindness and support. The reason I love singing is because of you! You’ve strengthened my joy and desire for singing by the love you’ve shown me. I can only ask that you all continue to be there for me during this journey and I’ll do my best to give you the greatest singing I can.