Meet The Filipino Canadian Songwriter Who’s Written For BTS, EXO’s Baekhyun, And Other K-Pop Icons
K-Pop idols work with songwriters from all over the world to create great music for their fans! One songwriter, in particular, has worked with BTS, NCT DREAM, EXO‘s Baekhyun, and SHINee‘s Key on songs that are truly beloved their fans.
Meet August Rigo!
August Rigo was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he first fell in love with music when he saw Michael Jackson perform his hit “Billie Jean” on television. He loved music so much that he taught himself how to play keyboards and guitar as a teenager.
Eventually, August began to travel to the United States to meet with producers and record label executives as he pursued his dream of becoming a singer. He started writing and producing his own music so that he would have songs to show to people. His songwriting and production skills captured executives’ attention, and he ended up writing “U Smile,” “Stuck in the Moment,” and “Kiss and Tell” from Justin Bieber‘s 2010 album, My World 2.0.
Following the success of his songs for Justin Bieber, August had the opportunity to work with more artists, like One Direction. He wrote “Gotta Be You” from the group’s debut album, Up All Night.
August’s first collaboration with a K-Pop group was NCT DREAM’s “1, 2, 3,” from their 2018 album, We Go Up. He also wrote “Betcha” from EXO Baekhyun’s 2019 album, City Lights.
August wrote 2 songs from BTS’s 2020 album, Map of the Soul: 7. He worked with the group on both “Black Swan” and “On.” He once explained the process of working with them in a Variety interview and shared how the group was able to transform his English lyrics into the finished songs’ Korean lyrics.
They gave me a few references — an instrumental track, produced by their team, which I would write the melodies to. I’d actually write a whole song: concept-wise, lyrics, everything. They’d take the gist of my melodic structures and the cadence and my words and translate it. Some of my words stayed, like the easily understandable stuff in English. But that’s why you see so many writers because they might’ve taken my pre-chorus, or verse or hook, then decided ‘we need a rap part of it.’ And there are other writers which are the translators, who are key. … With BTS, their lyrical content is very important to them. They’ll ask me to write English words that are within the parameters of their rhyme scheme, but still mean the direct translation in English. It becomes difficult because you’re trying to match syllables and make the Korean lyrics read the same way in English, and also sing the same way. It becomes convoluted. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.
August was surprised to learn that both of the songs he had written for BTS ended up becoming the singles from the album. He said he had “no idea” that the songs he’d worked on had been chosen as singles until they came out.
Most recently, August has written for SHINee Key’s album, BAD LOVE. He wrote the song “Eighteen (End of My World),” which Key has described as what he would like to say to his 18-year-old self. Key liked August’s English lyrics and production for the song, and he reinterpreted and rewrote the lyrics to tell his own story through the song.
August still writes his own music, too. He released his first single “Here Comes Trouble” featuring Busta Rhymes in 2011, and he released his debut album Music of My Life in 2012. His second album, The Fall Out, was released in 2015, and it was nominated for the Juno Award for Best R&B/Soul Recording.
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