Cover Justin Park talks about his new single, Mi Vida and reacting to BTS' Jungkook (Photo: 5A Label)

The R&B singer-songwriter tells Tatler how he almost had a heart attack when BTS vocalist Jungkook shared his song on Instagram—and what we can expect from his brand new single Mi Vida

When rising Korean American singer-songwriter Justin Park released his single On The Low in 2018, he never thought that it’d eventually land on the radar of Jungkook, of pop behemoth BTS.

“This song is so good,” wrote Jungkook in an Instagram story in December 2021, where he shared Park’s track with his 33.6 million followers.  

Almost overnight, Park found himself with thousands of new followers, who scrambled to listen to his three-year-old song. On the Low swiftly topped music charts in South Korea.

That’s not to say Park was an unknown before his track was given the BTS stamp of approval. On the Low is part of the Los Angeles native’s debut album Places Like Home. It features 14 R&B tracks, all written by Park—the tracks explore the emotions that come with relationships. His 2019 cover of US R&B and soul singer-songwriter Pink Sweat$’s critically acclaimed Honesty gained traction and now has 1.8 million views on YouTube. Meanwhile, he’s also toured with the likes of Amber Liu of K-pop girl group f(x) and Korean rapper BwehY. 

This month, he released new single Mi Vida. With a combination of English and Spanish lyrics, the song—the name of which means “my life” in English—pays tribute to his hometown and the Hispanic community, whom Park credits with supporting him throughout his life. 

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What was your reaction when Jungkook shared your song on his Instagram?

I felt like my world was about to explode. I didn’t think the news was real at first, and when I found out it was, I almost went into cardiac arrest. I called everyone. Then I stayed up the whole night sharing it on my socials.

When BTS first came out, I was one of their first fans. If Jungkook or BTS wanted to do a song with me, I would take the chance in a heartbeat.

Why did you decide to mix English and Spanish in Mi Vida?

Initially, we wrote the song with the intention of it being in an English, Reggaeton and summer-bop record. But because I had been hanging out with my hairstylist Edna Lugo and her Mexican friends, I was inspired to pursue having Spanish in the record.

I was a bit fearful that people might have negative opinions about an Asian artist singing in Spanish, but my approach is a homage and in total appreciation of the culture and everything they’ve done for me. I’m from Los Angeles—you can’t help but learn so much from the Latin and Hispanic communities.

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Can you tell us more about that?

I’ve had a complicated life early on and moved around LA quite a bit. But one of the things that were constant was the presence of Mexican and Salvadorian communities wherever I went. I appreciated them because they treated me as their own.

I’m thankful and joyful that I’m able to learn and share my life with such amazing individuals and communities. This is my way of appreciating who they are to me.

What’s the story behind Mi Vida’s name?

Mi Vida is something I coined together with Edna. The process was pretty simple. I just told Edna that I wanted to have something along the lines of “mi corazon” [my heart] or “mi amor” [my love]—and “mi vida” is what we settled on.

You’ve worked with a lot of people for this song. Tell us more about who they are.

Mi Vida is special because it allowed me to work with two people whom I looked up to very highly, Dirk Pate and Fish Herring. If it weren’t for these two, this record wouldn’t be the same. [Music producer] Dirk Pate is an amazing writer who I worked with on two songs so far, Mi Vida and You Don’t Know. He’s just so talented, accomplished and a blast to work with. I can’t wait to make more records with him.

[Composer, songwriter and guitarist] Fish Herring is just a GOAT (greatest of all time) when it comes to guitar production and performing. Fish is so accomplished that it’s insane. They are the reason why Mi Vida is so different from anything I’ve done so and I hope my fans enjoy it.

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How have you evolved as an artist since your 2018 debut album?

I’ve grown so much as a person. I’m more well-rounded, and whatever I wasn’t ready for back then, I’m totally ready for now. And I think, in turn, it influences the music as well.

What are your plans for your upcoming Korean-language album?

I can’t say much as of now. But sides making new tracks, I’m going to tell you that if I translate any of the existing English songs I have into Korean, we would make a killing.

What do hope listeners can get out of listening to Mi Vida?

I just want them to have fun and dance to the record. I want them to be reminded of what it is like to smile and be jovial.

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Listen to Justin Park’s “Mi Vida” on Spotify here

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