With his new single, enemy, dropping this February 24, eaJ is ready for his new musical journey.
Getting known worldwide as part of a K-band to striking it out on your own is not the easiest of transitions. It gets even harder when that move is brought about by personal reasons. That’s the scenario Jae, who now goes by the stage name of eaJ, had to deal with when he left Day6 and JYPE in early 2022. From being a member of Day6 to going solo in the last year, eaJ has been using the new chapter of his career to explore and hone what exactly he wants to say in his music.
That’s a shift seen with his recently released EP, smiling in insomnia!, a body of work that doesn’t shy away from discussing alcoholism and mental health. “I think the next couple of projects would be a better definition of where my music is leading to,” says the former K-pop star. The EP has been a long-time coming for his fans, as well as a personal one for the musician.
Interviewed live from his California abode, eaJ opened up on his new era, staying close to his faith, and more.
NEW MUSIC ERA
You would think that a project like a first EP would receive extensive promotion. But that wasn’t the case for eaJ. Writing all the songs for smiling in insomnia! didn’t pressure eaJ into worrying about getting this project promoted. “At the end of the day, the music is for the people who want to listen to it,” he says. What was on the agenda for eaJ was taking his time to make the music he wants. Getting to work with LA writers and producers for this EP and upcoming projects has been a breeze for him. “I set no goals for this EP, and I’m so sorry. But I hope everyone enjoys listening to it,” the 30-year-old reveals.
With that being said, that doesn’t mean he didn’t take the opportunity to meet his fans. One of his most high-profile performances in 2022 was his appearance in the Head In The Clouds festival series, which took him to Los Angeles, Jakarta, and Manila. eaJ even performed some of the songs on the EP in his set such as Traveler, a typical story, and castle in the sky. “For singers, the humidity is optimal weather, because it keeps your throat from being dry,” he says in reference to his Manila appearance, but admits he kept eating the fried chicken and burger steak repeatedly from Jollibee when he was in the country.
That didn’t stop him though from delivering what arguably was one of the highlights of the two-day festival, which included a heartfelt speech on finding that spark and shouting out artists who weren’t able to perform that day. “The turnout in the HITC Manila show was so sick, and you could hear people shouting my name,” he says through his beaming smile.
A SENSE OF FAITH
To know eaJ is to know that he has an eclectic sense of humor. His unserious, jokester personality isn’t news particularly to fans. And that was seen during the interview. “It was the perfume, a sweet smell of my first girlfriend,” reveals eaJ when asked about a nostalgic smell that reminds him of his childhood. As he thought it was a crazy question to ask, eaJ confesses that he can never forget it. “That smell I can’t forget because it was like first love, like puppy love. Looking back on it, I wanna forget the relationship because I was such a cringe and weird person,” he says, closing his eyes trying not to laugh.
This sense of humor though hasn’t always worked in his favor. Last year, he landed in hot water when, during one of his livestreams, he said some unsavory comments about one of his fellow Korean musicians. eaJ acknowledges that he was wrong and is actively learning to move forward to be a better person. One key tool in helping him get there is his Christian faith, a force that has guided him through the good and bad times.
In eaJ’s social media bios, they all have the quote “All glory to Him who has given all I have.” When asked about the significance of this quote, he shares, “I would have nothing without Him, because he allows me to have what I have.” He has gone back and forth with his faith but believes God has looked out for him throughout his life. Instead of praying when he needs something nowadays, eaJ says, “I try to pray before meals before I sleep, and it rests my conscience.”
FREEDOM TO BE
It’s safe to say then that the eaJ we first met as part of Day6 is not the eaJ we know now. He’s a multi-faceted man who isn’t afraid to get real and find inspiration where he can. Outside of the music realm, eaJ is an avid reader. His favorite novel is Perks of Being a Wallflower and even has a tattoo inspired by it.
This tattoo proved to be a profound one for eaJ as it bears the same name as one of his smiling in insomnia! EP songs titled wallflower. The tattoo is from the scene where Sam has her hands up in the air while Patrick drives through the tunnel. In that tunnel, Charlie says, “I feel infinite.” Feeling infinite resonates with eaJ because he has the freedom to be himself and do whatever he wants, such as getting more tattoos.
“One day, I just snapped and started to get tattoos like every day for two months.” As a former member of a Korean pop-rock band, he felt like there was a certain image he had to follow. “I was told what to do or what to say for the last decade of my life,” eaJ shares, scratching his head, trying to find the words for it. Most of the tattoos he got more of are inked on his left arm. Not all have meaning, but most of them represent his admiration for classical Korean artists from the Joseon Dynasty era.
Only a year into returning home to his stomping grounds in California, eaJ did some self-reflection. Apologizing for his actions and growing closer to his faith, eaJ is making progress on being the good person he already is. He is still the witty artist that his fans know him for, but is making music that speaks to a deeper sense. The outpouring of support he receives from his fans continues to give him the strength to make more music and especially take care of himself. He gracefully says, “I’m here for the long run, so let’s do this thing.”