"Traveling has been a really big part of my upbringing and I've been fortunate enough to travel for different reasons," says singer/songwriter Eric Nam, 29. "I'd like to think that it has had an impact on my character and personality, which ultimately affects my music." Born and raised in Georgia, Nam currently is on tour promoting his Billboard World Top 10 EP, "Honestly." His song, "Float," will be featured in the upcoming film "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation." Nam currently resides in Seoul, South Korea, where he also is an on-air TV and radio personality who has interviewed celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Miranda Kerr and Robert Downey Jr. For tour dates, check out his website (https://www.ericnam.com). Nam also interacts with fans on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ericnamofficial) Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ericnamofficial and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/realericnam/).
Q. Growing up in Georgia, did you think you could be a pop star?
A. No, I had never really felt that way. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, which as you can imagine, was not the most diverse place to grow up in as a Korean American. I thought it would be so cool to be a musician, but I always thought it was impossible, because I would never be accepted in mainstream media. The fact that I'm able to tour North America and around the world is an incredible blessing, and I am thankful every time I do it. I'm doing my job, because I love it and I'm passionate about it. But I also do it because there needs to be more Asians actively pursuing and doing these things where we're under represented.
Q. You sang at a St. Peter's Basilica Mass in Rome when you were in the Atlanta Boy Choir. What was that like?
A. I remember that experience very clearly. I was about 12. I had a solo part. There were about 40 of us kids and our conductor was an older person who ran a very tight ship. I was always on edge, because you never knew when you would get in trouble. (Laughs) We stayed in really interesting villas and ate Italian pizza for the first time. We sang in front of hundreds or thousands of people in a language I had no idea what I was singing.
Q. Speaking of languages, how bilingual were you prior to moving to South Korea?
A. I was bilingual in English and Spanish, but I didn't speak Korean really. I knew a few elementary words, but it was very broken Korean. My pronunciation was awful. It was a very big challenge for me to get to where I am right now.
Q. Where did you learn to speak Spanish so well?
A. I learned Spanish as my second language from middle school through high school. I grew up volunteering at homeless shelters and tutoring kids of Latin immigrants in Atlanta, who didn't speak any English. That prepared me for when I traveled. Every summer from ninth grade, I would spend time in Latin America doing a mission trip or a service-oriented trip. I started in Mexico and went to Panama and Guatemala. In college, I went to Bolivia.
Q. Did you feel that you made a difference on those service trips?
A. To be honest, it was a very eye-opening experience for me. I felt almost selfish, because I was going there to do a service, but at the same time you learn so much from the experience. I hope that their lives are enriched by us going there, too, in opening their eyes to new people from around the world.
Q. On those trips, were people surprised that you were American?
A. I remember on one of the trips that I went on they were calling me Jackie Chan. I said, "I'm not Jackie Chan." (Laughs) Then they said, "You're Chinese." I'm like, "No, I'm Korean-American." But they didn't know that. For some of them, I was the first Asian person they saw in real life. Some of them had very negative perceptions of Asians, from what they had been told or seen in their local media. I lived with the locals for weeks at a time and they said, "We're really glad we met you," which was so nice to hear.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. London, Seoul, Osaka, Mexico City and Atlanta, because it's home.
Q. If you could hop on a plane right now and go to any place, where would it be?
A. I really want to go to Istanbul. I've only connected through there, but I want to spend some time in Turkey. I think it's a fascinating place.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)