When Sorn received the demo to her debut solo single, “Run,” she felt inspired. The producer, Candace Sosa (who worked with BTS, Armin van Buuren, and others), first intended it to be a love song, but for Sorn, it encompassed even greater feelings. “The way I interpreted it was totally not in a love song way. I felt the positive energy, and I wanted my listeners to feel the same. I thought this song had really good lyrics,” she tells Contrast over a video call from Seoul.
“Run,” released March 23rd, is a breezy track that portrays one of Sorn’s essential traits: movement. “Stuck here, waiting for what / What’s here, but a whole lotta nothing / So why don’t we, why don’t we run / Do all the things that we want, yeah,” she sings in the chorus — a fitting parallel to her own journey. Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Sorn moved alone to South Korea when she was only 15, after winning tvN’s survival show, K-Pop Star Hunt. She became a trainee under Cube Entertainment, and debuted in 2015 as a member of girl group CLC.
Now at 24, Sorn also carved her own path as a content producer on her YouTube channel, Produsorn, and on TikTok, where she currently holds 2 million followers. Recently, she also launched Rise, a jewelry collection, and Don’t Waste My Time, a makeup line. Releasing a solo song was one of her dreams. “It’s really surreal. I never thought that I would be able to release [it], and the views keep going up, I’m now in charts that I didn’t even imagine myself getting into, and all of my fans love this song so much. I’m just so happy at this moment,” she grins.
With her platinum blonde hair cascading over a classic leather jacket, Sorn is a bright light in an otherwise grey conference room. A fluent English speaker, she explains in detail how “Run” came to be. “Because I’ve been with [CLC] for so long, I know exactly what happens upfront and behind the scenes, so I used all that knowledge to make this project,” she says. “I try to do everything myself. I did all the job that normally would require at least 20 to 30 people. I feel like if I didn’t learn all of that [with CLC], then this song would have never come out to the world.”
She reveals that the project was brainstormed last year, but had to be delayed because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, it took three to four months to fully come alive. “Candace [Sosa] was in LA and she couldn’t come here, so I was like, ‘How am I supposed to record it?’, and the time difference was huge, too. We were sending the song back and forth, [the process] took out the whole day,” she recalls. “And then I had to build up this whole team, contact everyone, and [decide] how to go to the island [of Jeju] to film a music video when COVID-19 was not getting any better. It was a lot of planning.”
But the challenges led to perfect timing. Sorn believes that, because she focused so much on social media throughout 2020 and gained a myriad of new fans, releasing “Run” now means more people will be able to listen to it. “I just thought, ‘I have to release it now, because if I don’t, then I’ll never do it.’ Luckily, Cube [Entertainment] was on the same page as me. They said, ‘If you want to do it, just run free,’ so I was able to accomplish this.”
Sorn’s go-getting, self-reliant energy is part of what inspires so many of her fans, known as Cheshires. “I’m very personal with my fans,” she says. “I tell them, ‘Hey guys, I wanna be your friend, I want you to feel like I’m not just an artist, but your sister, your neighbor, your childhood friend who you grew up with. If you have anything you’re struggling with, you can just DM me, and if there’s anything I can do to inspire you, I would definitely love to do that.’”
But most of all, Sorn wants Cheshires to be themselves. “I was just a girl who loved singing. I wasn’t born an artist. I just want to tell them that they can also be like me,” she says. “You just have to work hard, know what you want, know yourself, your strengths, and just go for it.” She also acknowledges that many fans have unsupportive people around them, to which she advises, “At the end of the day, it’s your life and you control it. It doesn’t matter what other people tell you to do. Just do what makes you happy, what makes you comfortable, and if you put in the hard work and don’t give up throughout the way, you will make it someday.”
Her long-winding path is evidence of that, although she is surprised that so many people still want to become K-pop idols nowadays. “I feel so old. I’ve been here for almost 10 years, so I thought that [this dream of being an idol], this culture, would kinda die down,” she reflects. “But I realized that there’s still so many people who want to stand where I’m standing right now.”
Because she knows firsthand how it feels to be one of them, Sorn is able to break right through the veneer of stardom. Her honesty and sense of humor — she also wonders how to make that pose, and the frustration of being left on read by her bestie — have made her one of the most approachable, relatable idols in the industry. While she didn’t plan to become a social media sensation, there is a deep sense of accomplishment in her achievements. “Because of TikTok, a lot of people are discovering who CLC is, and I’m able to educate them about K-pop music and about who I am,” she says. “Even if they don’t really watch my things, I don’t care, I just have so much fun on this platform. Nothing can stop me now.”
With that statement, “Run” matches Sorn’s life once again. “No fear, taking control,” say the lyrics in another verse. To Sorn, independence means freedom, and she loves being free. “When you ask people for help, you have to constantly wait for them, and if they don’t move, you can’t move with your project. I hate that, so I always have to feel like I’m in control of everything,” she affirms.
That way of thinking stems from her arrival as a young teenager in Korea, where she had to “figure out a way to survive.” Sorn believes the experience made her a stronger person. “I had to educate myself and be smart with what I do, because there was no one around to teach me all these things.”
Her autonomous, proactive mentality is also how she navigates the multiple cultures that shape her world. Sorn says that living in Korea “is an obstacle until today,” and that there are many things she still needs to understand about Korean culture. “I respect that,” she says, mindful that her work with CLC and her presence on social media made her very aware of cultural differences. “I try to educate myself, I’m always updated on what’s going on in the world, and I have a really good support system. I read a lot of things that my fans say to me. I just want to make sure I don’t step on anyone’s feet or disrespect their culture, or religion, or anything,” she says.
Part of her support system, aside from Cheshires and the members of CLC, is K-pop’s Thai-line — composed of idols such as GOT7’s BamBam, Blackpink’s Lisa, (G)I-DLE’s Minnie, and NCT’s Ten. Sorn, who considers herself “very private” with her projects, says that the surprise news of her solo caused a commotion in their group chat. “But everyone was really supportive, same with my [CLC] members too,” she laughs.
Sorn also mentions that she met up with Minnie before “Run” came out so she could give it a listen. “Because she writes music herself — you know, a multi talented queen, I love Minnie — she has a different ear than me,” Sorn recalls. “I really respect her comments because she knows more about music than I do. If Minnie says the song is good, then the song is good!”
Minnie said the song was perfect for Sorn. But even if it wasn’t, and her friends weren’t supportive, and Cheshires didn’t exist, Sorn would find a way to keep running. “I know a lot of people who have talent, but they just don’t know how to distribute it or how to start,” she says. “But for me, I thought that I was just going to sing. I didn’t know that I was going to speak all these languages, play guitar, draw this well, edit videos, entertain people on TikTok. I discovered all that because I was courageous, and because I was not scared to start and learn, and put in the hard work. That’s the most important thing about my personality.”