Music Magic Q&A Series: Keurim Colleen Hur
I first met Keurim Colleen (aka KC) Hur on a completely different writing project. It was about sketch comedy. It was awesome. One day maybe we’ll get to tell you more. Until then – let’s talk about her brilliant lyricist skills.
MM: First things first, when did you realize you wanted to be a songwriter?
KC: I have no idea – I have all these notebooks from before I can remember filled with lyrics, so I guess always? I stopped when I got old enough to be self-conscious and didn’t start again until the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU, which I had only applied to because I thought there was a separate track for bookwriters. There wasn’t.
MM: What drew you to writing for musical theatre?
KC: I loved writing and I loved musicals, so of course I wanted to write musicals. Before I even knew it was a thing, I’d make up stories around all the albums I stole from my older brother – so to whoever’s circling the inevitable Mariah Carey jukebox musical, hit me up. I got ideas.
MM: Of all the stories you’ve been a part of creating, is there one in particular that’s closest to your heart
KC: Everything’s close to my heart in some way, right? I’m too lazy to write anything I don’t care about. (I shouldn’t say that – potential employers, I’ll write anything you want if it gets me a visa.) I might have to say that Big Deal, one of my thesis projects at NYU, was a culmination of everything I’ve ever loved growing up combined with everything that made me angry about loving the things I loved growing up. It’s an idea I had for years before starting the program, and went from a screenplay to a webshow to a musical to a musical webshow with several entire plot rehauls, mostly in the past year alone. I guess it’s grown with me the most because it’s been with me the longest.
MM: When one walks into your home, what books are permanently on your bookshelf?
KC: Terrible timing for this question, I just moved and all my books are still in storage – the only ones I brought with me were a stack of comics I had signed for my brother at NYCC and Broken Sleep by Bruce Bauman. Formanently on my shelf were Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, the complete works of Rimbaud, Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen, and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, which I actually bought as a gift but ended up keeping because I guess I’m also a bad friend. (Please be friends with me.) I’m pretty sure I have three copies of Captain America: Winter Soldier in three different states and continents, but of course I can’t find a single one now.
MM: If you were stranded on a desert island, what television shows and/or movies would you want available to you, (assuming of course you have a television and Internet connection?)
KC: Singin’ in the Rain, Hercules, Young Justice, Community, His Girl Friday, Best Worst Thing, all the Netflix Marvel shows except Iron Fist, and Citizen Kane, which I still have yet to watch – I figure sooner or later, I’d have to get around to it.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’d want to offer aspiring lyricists (and composers)?
KC: All the best advice is the advice I hate getting: write every day, even if you hate it, because practice is the only way you’ll get any better. I actually don’t know about the better part, but I do think it gets easier the more you convince yourself it’s a thing that’s possible. The other thing I wish more people did is to go out and see as many musicals and listen to as many cast recordings and read through as many scores as you can. I know so many musical theatre writers who say they hate musicals and I’m like, first of all how, and second of all why? You can’t create in a bubble. Or maybe you can, but I certainly can’t. And listen to music that isn’t from musicals, I guess. This is one I need to work on.
MM: What sound do you love? What sound do you hate?
KC: “The Bells of Notre Dame” modulating into D major might be my favorite thing in the world, full stop. I hate the sound of whatever’s waking me up in the morning. I once made the mistake of using my favorite song as my alarm because I thought I’d mind it less. Now I can’t hear the intro without dry heaving.
MM: What literary or musical theatre character is most like your personality? Least like your personality?
KC: Do musical theatre characters based on historical figures count? I’ve always identified with John Adams because I’m obnoxious and disliked, and also short – so I guess the polar opposite of that would be Adam in The Mad Ones. I can’t drive, so it does seem appropriate.
MM: Time for shameless self promotion! Tell our readers what you want to brag about, what you’re excited about in your career at the moment.
KC: A few months ago I posed a challenge to the musical theatre writers who had the misfortune of knowing me on Facebook: write a duet for two women that isn’t about loving the same man. It was kind of a joke but kind of not, and enough people took me up on it that we decided to turn it into a concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below. It’s on February 9th at 11:30 pm, featuring some of my favorite composers and performers, and I still can’t entirely believe it’s real – maybe once I finally see the videos on YouTube, it might sink in.
MM: In today’s economic state, arts education programs are being cut. What reasons would you give to a school board or politician for preserving arts education programming in schools?
KC: I could quote all the stats you’ve already heard about how studying music makes you better at math or whatever, but there shouldn’t have to be an excuse for preserving arts education. The arts are valuable for being what they are. They’re something to love and care about and be good at and find joy in. I can’t tell you how many times I stuck out an entire day in high school because I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to show up to play rehearsal if I’d skipped a class. The arts make life worth living. I think that’s something worth teaching everyone.
MM: Who is/was your greatest teacher? (Can absolutely be more than one)
KC: Both my parents are professors, so I can’t get away with not naming them as my favorites. I weaseled my way into a class outside my concentration with Chris Becker at Notre Dame, which changed the way I think about everything I think about. Cassandra Morgan was my high school choir director and she not only made me feel like I was finally good at something, she made me want to be good at something so badly I put everything I had into it. Jennifer Tepper gave me my first paid internship in the city (THEY DO EXIST!!!) and I learn more scrolling through her Twitter feed on a given day than pretty much anywhere else – not just about theatre history, but about being a generous and supportive artist who loves sincerely and wholeheartedly.
Who can I not forget? Bruce Bauman, Jon Wagner, Steve Erickson, Mindi Dickstein, Rachel Sheinkin, Randall Eng, Bill Finn, Kirsten Childs, and I’m not going to name names and because this is going to get weird and embarrassing, but one time I had a teacher who was so supportive and patient and wise and let me be an insecure whiny mess all over them, and I loved them desperately and wanted to make them proud and I asked them for recommendations for years until it suddenly hit me one day that they actually didn’t like me at all, they were just doing their job, and I was so sorry and humiliated that I stopped applying to things. (Don’t stop applying to things.)
Thank you, KC! Write Teacher(s) Readers – catch her music at Feisntein’s/54 Below on March 2. Tickets and additional information are available here.Live, Love, Learn,