Coming from a multinational powerhouse group like GOT7, MARK TUAN proves that his prowess doesn’t stop with a team as he continues to exhibit his abilities on a global scale.

Groups in K-pop come and go but the cornerstone that keeps GOT7 standing is the fact that each member is an artist in their own right—with skills spanning from impeccable vocals to rap, music production, and all the way to acting. Separating the seven-piece isn’t an issue and this has been evident in their five years with several individual feats under their belt. Despite the impressive record, eldest member Mark Tuan is the epitome of humility. With his cadence and unassuming presence, it might be surprising for some to know that he’s in one of the biggest boy group phenomena; but the journey wasn’t a cakewalk. Coming from the other side of the globe, American-native Mark—born to Taiwanese parents—was scouted in California back in high school, having absolutely no knowledge on how the Korean entertainment industry worked. Thereafter moving to Seoul to undergo training as a performer. “I was living in a country without having the ability to speak the language and receiving lessons for things I’ve never learned prior. I often felt out of place and homesick.” This hurdle turned into what would become the very foundation for his success later on as he possessed a worldly perspective as a foreigner. “I definitely benefited from living in various countries. When it comes to my artistry, I found different ways to incorporate the cultures I grew up learning about in my music. Whether it be from the beats or the lyrics, I use a lot of my experiences,” Mark tells of his cross-cultural background.

“I don’t exactly see myself as “successful”, there’s still so much for me to achieve.”

Perhaps the fact that he was in a completely new territory put him at an advantage as he learned the ropes and developed his musical skills from ground zero. Apart from his fervor, it’s his equal dedication to his fans that make him so beloved all over the world. At this point within the Hallyu wave’s impact, even those who aren’t familiar with the scene know that its very fuel is the intense dedication and passion of its enthusiasts. “They’re my motivation to keep going,” Mark says with esteem. Our conversation is filled with reverence for them which makes it clear how he and GOT7 managed to build such a strong, solid fanbase. When it comes to talking about success, Mark retains the very same mindset he’s had since his beginnings. “There is still so much more to learn and so much more that I want to try out. I don’t exactly see myself as ‘successful’,” he shares. Their fans—dubbed ahgases—can attest that he has developed substantially overtime; having grown from timid to the fervent Mark that we see today, However, what remains is his genuine zeal; one that he has taken with him in every undertaking—be it from music to fashion.

“I’ve learned to be more bold. In the beginning of my debut, I was much more reserved and quiet. However, with the help of my members, I’ve become much more comfortable. My personality has changed a lot in the last five years.”

Having just wrapped up the era for their latest critically-acclaimed record, Present: You and their Japanese comeback, Mark now treads to new avenues; crossing over to fashion design as he collaborates with Represent for a second collection of merchandise ringing true to his own street-savvy sense of style, with the proceeds going to charity. We had a chat with the 25-year-old K-pop sensation to talk about his design ventures, collaborations, and what keeps him motivated now after five years in the spotlight.

Hi Mark, now that you’ve been on a break from touring and making music with GOT7, what have you been up to?

Since we’ve been so busy with tours and comebacks, I’m taking this time to really rest and catch up on producing music. Although we just finished our activities, I’m always excited to get back in front of our fans. They’re my main motivation to make music.

You were scouted when you were in high school in America but having no prior knowledge to how the Korean entertainment scene worked, how did you adjust to the culture of the music industry as well as the culture of Korea having moved to Seoul from the West?

The hardest part was adjusting to this new life. However, what made me persevere were the other foreign trainees. We understood each other on a level that other trainees would never have. I was also really fortunate to have Korean trainees help me along the way. Those Korean trainees would later become my members [in GOT7].

Having been an artist for five years, what are the things you’ve learned as you progressed? How have you grown from debut to the present?

Of course the most basic thing I’ve improved on is my Korean. If we’re talking as an individual, I’ve learned to be more bold. In the beginning of my debut, I was much more reserved and quiet. However, with the help of my members, I’ve become much more comfortable. I’m sure my fans would disagree with me being more open and talkative now [laughs] but I think my personality has changed a lot in the last five years.

“To think that a normal teenager was given such an amazing opportunity to travel the world and do what he loves is so humbling.”

At what point did you feel that you were truly successful? What was that defining moment?

I don’t exactly see myself as “successful”, there’s still so much for me to achieve. However, if there was a defining moment in which I was truly proud of myself, it would have to be performing in my hometown. Having friends and family watch me perform was an experience I can’t quite describe in words. While performing, I thought back to the hardest parts of my training. It was like a movie reel going through my head. To think that a normal teenager was given such an amazing opportunity to travel the world and do what he loves is so humbling.

All of you in GOT7 get to contribute a creative hand in all your records. Now that you’ve been at this for quite some time, do you tackle things more methodically now when making music? Where do you draw inspiration?

When making music, there’s never one specific method I consistently use. I draw my inspiration from those around me, movies, and my own experiences in life. I tend to produce the melody before my lyrics.

You all work together as a group but of course you still have different styles and approaches to music individually. How do you come together when making a track especially within a subunit? Taking ‘Think About It’ as an example [a subunit track in Present: You], how did you infuse your hip-hop sensibilities with JB’s and Youngjae’s more R&B-leaning sounds?

Combining different styles of genre is what makes music great. You have endless varieties if you combine different genres together. If you look at the charts, there are so many new collaborations and styles of music. Collaborations that people wouldn’t think would work together have been very successful. I think the audience has become much more open to listening to different styles.

Tell us about how your solo track on Present: You, “OMW” took form. Have you and Jackson already planned to work on something together or did this come as a spur of the moment? How is your dynamic musically especially that you seem to agree on genres?

We all decided to add our own solo tracks for our album. Jackson and I have always talked about making a song together and I thought this was the perfect time to make a song with him. I still feel like I’m lacking in some areas, so I wanted to have someone feature in my song. I feel that our similar taste in music helped me create a great song.

This is your second time collaborating with Represent and designing for your own range of clothing. How was the creation process this time? And tell us about its charity aspect.

I received [such] great feedback the first time from my fans that I was excited when I was given the offer to work with them again. I try to jump at the chance whenever given the opportunity to give back to my fans. They’re the reason I’m able to do what I love and they’re the biggest reason why I’m able to do this campaign again. Also, I was very much influenced by my parents who were always great role models while growing up. Because of this, I’m very thankful for the fans and my family so I wanted to incorporate them into the designs for this collection represented by the wings and feathers.

Other than music and fashion, what other fields do you want to dip into?

I really enjoyed designing everything [with Represent] and I hope I can have more opportunities in the future to design more clothing lines. I would also like to try acting. So I have been taking lessons and preparing for future acting opportunities.

What can we expect from you and GOT7 next?

You will be seeing me through the Represent campaign. [With GOT7], we’re always working on our music even when we’re on a break. So expect to see us soon.

What motivates you to keep going? And since you possess so many titles—such as being a rapper, dancer, and composer— what do you think is the most special thing about being an artist?

It might sound cliché but my fans keep me motivated and going. The titles aren’t what keep me motivated. There’s always going to be someone out there who is better and more skilled. However, the fact that my fans stay by my side and don’t waver is what keeps me strong. They’re always there when I’m going through a hard time. Those titles are great at the moment, but my fans are there for me all the time. It’s only because of them that I have those accolades, they make me want to improve myself and be a better version of me everyday.


Original article taken from STATUS.