The Korean YouTube sensation is marking his decade-long career soon and he’s not even 20 yet.
The audience hushed as a young man in plain white shirt assumed his place on stage. The spotlight – hues of purple, pale yellow and cerulean blue – illuminated the planes of his face. Keeping his eyes downcast, the 19-year-old started plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar, filling the theatre with romantic melodies in upbeat tempo amid amorous cheers and squeals.
The young performer is Sungha Jung from South Korea. While he’s just about to turn 20, he’s already a globally recognized guitar virtuoso who’s drawn close to 4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel over the past 10 years. The first video of a pre-puberty Jung covering Japanese solo guitarist Kotaro Oshio’s Splash was uploaded in September 2006.
He’s since built an illustrious repertoire comprising covers of Billboard hits, movie soundtracks, evergreen hits as well as his original compositions. Altogether, his works have chalked up more than 1.2 billion views to date.
Check out the milestones of Sungha Jung’s 10 years so far in the video below:
The UrbanWire caught up with the raw talent when he’s in town to promote his 6th album “L’atalier” ahead of the 10-year anniversary of his music career.
UrbanWire: It’s been 10 years since you made your YouTube debut. How have things changed over the years?
Jung: It’s been a blast really. I became a full time recording artiste with 6 solo and 1 compilation studio albums at the end of the 10 years… I also have global concert tours in many different countries every year. I am able to meet all my musical inspirations and heroes as well. Now I have become friends with them. We play together and work together. The YouTube part has waned a bit compared to the early years, but my offline engagements are more active these days.
UrbanWire: You’ve said you’d prefer to be known as the “guitarist” as opposed to the ‘guitar prodigy’ or the ‘August Rush’ of Korea. After a decade, would you say with confidence that you’ve accomplished this?
Jung: Yes. Those tags definitely helped my career to take off when I was younger. But now I have my full length albums, and I tour for my solo concerts and festivals every year. So I think I definitely have more to present to my fans now compared to earlier years, when I played mostly covers.
UrbanWire: Your new album “L’Atelier” features 9 brand new tunes and just 1 cover (“Take Five” by Dave Brubeck). How do you get inspirations for your original compositions?
Jung: I had lots of ideas for original songs when I planned to have this new album. And I took a short music course in Seoul last year, which turned out to be very helpful… I also had several original duet/trio tunes that I composed a few years back, so I included them in my track list this time.
UrbanWire: Are you currently studying in Berklee College of Music in Boston, US (the world’s largest college of contemporary music)? You’ve mentioned that you’d like to enroll there.
Jung: No, I am not. I first planned to enroll there after I finished a 1-year jazz course, but I decided to keep building my career and making more original music as a professional musician. School is a place that I can return to anytime I want.
UrbanWire: You’re well known for your guitar skills but you also took vocal lessons. Are you planning to make singing a part of your repertoire?
Jung: I have been singing at my overseas shows for about 2 years by now. Just one song. It’s nothing serious. It’s just kind of a surprise present for my concert audience.
Jung delivered the surprise to his Singapore audience in Kallang Theatre too. He concluded the showcase with his own vocal rendition of John Mayer’s “St Patrick’s Day”.
Besides, he also covered “Remember”, a top Mandopop hit by Singaporean singer-songwriter JJ Lin.
“We’ve been here for 3 days just for him [Sungha Jung],” 14-year-old Jennifer told UrbanWire. She travelled here from Indonesia with another teenage friend to see Jung in the flesh. “It was worth it. I fell in love with him and his music all over again.”