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Over the past five years, singer/songwriter David Choi has wooed millions with his lulling voice and charming lyrics. And he's mostly done so while sitting with his guitar in his bedroom in Fullerton. Now, the 25-year-old YouTube star is flipping off the camera switch and performing (in person!) on his Forever & Ever Tour, singing tunes from his third album of the same name. Remember to put on pants for this one.
OC Weekly: You're often referred to as a "YouTube sensation." How do you feel about that descriptor?
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David Choi: People need to call me something, so I guess I'm okay with it. Though I'd rather not be confined in that little box. People don't take YouTube artists as seriously as major-label artists, but in reality, many are even more serious and playing for a lot more fans. I'd like it if people just listened to the music.
How is performing on tour different from performing in your bedroom?
It's a completely different vibe. There's more adrenalin. I get to meet everyone who has been watching me from behind the computer screen and feel their energy or lack of. It's still hard to release my emotions onstage. It's a really vulnerable thing for me because I get shy in front of people in general. But it's fun to get out of my box, out of my comfort zone. It molds me into a more well-rounded person.
You recently posted on Facebook, "I just wrote a really sad song. I almost made myself cry." Can you tell us more about it?
It has to do with a relationship; that's all I'll say. Whenever I write a song, I wait, like, a year before I release it so the people I've written it about don't know it's about them.
When and where does inspiration for your songs typically strike?
In the car, in the shower, on the toilet, anywhere. It usually comes at night when I'm really, really tired and about to fall asleep. That recently happened, so I got up and wrote and didn't go back to sleep until 6 a.m.
On one hand, SOPA is about protecting copyrights, which makes sense to me. But the trade-off is definitely not worth it. It shouldn't be at the expense of freedom. If someone wants to pirate my music, they'll find a way. The people who'll support me will support me. Yes, this is my living, and that's important, but what's more important to me is sharing my music.
Musical talent runs in your family. Your father recently won the Super Bowl of authoharp, the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship in Pennsylvania.
I'm definitely proud of him. It's a big deal, especially considering he's Asian and the autoharp is even folkier than a banjo. It's kind of funny at the same time.
You're known for your melancholy songs and somber expressions. Are we going to get to see you smile at your show?
[Laughs] Yes, I smile in person all the time.
This article appeared in print as "Beyond the 'Tube: David Choi leaves the Interwebz and steps into the real world."