This veteran of the St. John's bar scene never imagined he'd be winning Korean Music Awards

·3 min read
Brad Wheeler says he 'never in a million years' would have guessed where his career would take him in South Korea. (Brad Wheeler/Instagram - image credit)
Brad Wheeler says he 'never in a million years' would have guessed where his career would take him in South Korea. (Brad Wheeler/Instagram - image credit)
Brad Wheeler/Instagram
Brad Wheeler/Instagram

When Brad Wheeler of St. John's visited Seoul in 2007, he never imagined he'd end up running a professional recording studio and winning Korean Music Awards.

"Never in a million years," said Wheeler, speaking by phone to CBC's Weekend AM in late May. "I think if I came here with this idea that I'm going to do this, I don't think it ever would have happened."

Wheeler (who also uses the name "B.A. Wheeler") said two of his former bandmates in St. John's group Margarita's Calling were living in Korea at the time. Wheeler said he hadn't planned on settling there but he met other musicians and started playing in Seoul nightclubs. He rented an apartment and started doing some home recording and then making records for other people.

Wheeler said there's a greater need for professional studios in Korea because of the lack of what he called "sound privacy."

"Most people are living in giant apartment complexes. So it's not like you can play drums in your house, you know, where in Newfoundland it's quite different — like, anybody can do that for the most part," he said.

After a few years he opened Union Studios.

"I just kept doing records for other people and then, you know, the hobby — or something I was doing kind of part time — turned into a full-time job."

Korean Music Awards

In 2014, Wheeler won two Korean Music Awards — pop song of the year and album of the year — for his work on Sunwoo Jung-A's album It's Okay, Dear.

Since then, Wheeler said, he's racked up two more wins and a total of nine Korean Music Award nominations; not just in the K-Pop genre but in the folk and rock categories, as well.

A song he co-wrote and produced for K-Pop star Lee Hi, called Hold My Hand, went to No. 1 in several countries in 2016, and the video has more than 10 million views on YouTube.

Wheeler said he's also worked with some of his own personal music idols, including Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Marty Friedman of Megadeth, and Stuart Zender, Jamiroquai's original bass player — "which is really crazy because, you know, as a 20-year-old kid [I] idolized that band."

Brad Wheeler/Facebook
Brad Wheeler/Facebook

He's also been busy with a new addition to his family; he and his partner have a baby girl named Luna, which has caused Wheeler to change his work habits.

"It's completely changed my life. Honestly, I used to work 80 to 100 hours a week … but these days I'm home by 5 or 6 p.m. to make dinner."

Brad Wheeler/Facebook
Brad Wheeler/Facebook

New studio in the works

Wheeler is also making a change professionally; he's opening a new studio with a Korean business partner, East Seoul Studios.

"I've been really fortunate. I'm a foreigner doing this here, which is not that common … to be running a high-end commercial studio," said Wheeler.

"I ended up working with artists that I had no right to be working with because of curiosity, you know, where a Korean is wanting to work with a foreigner because obviously just mentally and culturally, it's very different how people make records."

LISTEN | Hear Brad Wheeler's conversation with Paula Gale, as part of Weekend AM's weekly podcast:

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