"I Get Really, Really Nervous And Feel So Responsible Because I'm Aware Of The Fans' Stories": BTS's RM Opens Up About Feeling Nerves While Performing

As Rolling Stone's Musicians on Musicians 2022 cover stars, BTS's RM and Pharrell Williams recently sat down together to talk about everything from their secret collaboration to handling having such a massive fanbase.

During the interview, RM revealed that Pharrell is actually one of his idols and opened up about his journey from an elementary school kid who had just discovered rap to global icon coming off an intensely successful decade with BTS. So here are 11 major takeaways from their conversation:

RM and Pharrell sit across from each other on Rolling Stone's Musicians on Musicians
Rolling Stone / Via youtube.com

1.RM wanted to be a rapper since elementary school.

quote by RM, "Rap is basically rhythm and poetry. I really felt attracted to this whole genre to send messages to the world."

He went on to define rap and why he felt drawn to it, saying, "You know, basically, it’s rhythm and poetry. I really felt attracted to this whole genre to send messages to the world."

2.RM feels more comfortable writing lyrics or melodies for other artists rather than himself (though he admitted that it was embarrassing for him to talk about this in front of his idol, Pharrell).

close up of RM speaking on Rolling Stone's Musicians on Musicians

"It gives me other avatars and characters," he explained. "When it comes to me, it’s a complex, and it always comes with the pain to confess. But it’s still the most important part for me."

Pharrell empathized with RM, sharing, "I think the pain part for me is probably the fun part, because that's some of the most vivid paint that we can use as artists when we're filling in what we want to be a powerful verse."

Rolling Stone / Via youtube.com

3.He got into hip-hop by listening to Nas, Eminem, and Pharrell Williams — or, as he called them, "the classics."

Nas performing in 2002

"I started to listen to hip-hop in 2005. I started with Nas and Eminem," he revealed. He also talked about the impact that Pharrell's music had on him. When RM first listened to Pharrell's Take It Off (Dim the Lights) (2006), he actually wrote the lyrics down and translated them into Korean.

He also praised Pharrell's ability to incorporate different elements and genres into his music, telling Pharrell, "These days, genre doesn't mean anything. But I think at that time, some rappers really criticized the rappers who sang or used autotune."

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

4.RM and Pharrell first met when BTS performed at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. They took a photo together backstage, and Pharrell wanted to work with BTS even then.

2018 BBMA's at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada

Pharrell revealed that though he didn't want too seem aggressive since they'd just met, he was ready to leaving the awards show and head to a studio to make music together.

Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

5.When he was 15, RM had his first performance at a small club with about 10 people, and he forgot most of the lyrics.

RM performing on stage with BTS

The experience made him realize that he wasn't meant to be a star like other frontmen, such as Kurt Cobain or Mick Jagger. Instead, he felt like a human who just loved writing music.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

6.RM gets really nervous before going onstage and sometimes performs using a persona to cope.

BTS on stage

"What people don't realize is when you have literally hundreds of millions of fans, and you encounter them 20 and 50 and 100,000 at a time. It is a massive voice and it is a massive energy coming at you," Pharrell began. "You sing, and they sing every word. And you can feel, through their voices, that so many of their lives have been affected and changed because of something that you've done."

Because of how humbling and overwhelming it is to face that onstage every night, Pharrell said he really revered artists like RM and BTS. "Sometimes, your nervous system’s got to be built for that," he added.

"Every night is a challenge," RM agreed. "Like you said, that moment after we finished the first three songs [during BTS's stadium shows in Las Vegas this April], and we took out the earphones and were like, ‘Yeah, we're fucking back!’ — everybody shouted out that moment. That's when I really got all the nerves. There's a different me, a persona, for the next two hours and a half."

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

7.After Pharrell asked him how he handles having such a massive fanbase, RM revealed that he feels gratitude and a responsibility toward his fans because of how much they love and have done for BTS.

RM on the red carpet

In fact, part of why he gets incredibly nervous before going onstage is because he appreciates how much his fans do for BTS and fears disappointing them. "From the rehearsal and even in the plane, I get really, really nervous and [feel] so responsible because I really am aware of the [fans’] stories," he explained.

Han Myung-gu / WireImage
quote by RM, "The fans buy the tickets and come from everywhere for just that one night. I just don't want to disappoint them."

"The fans buy the tickets, and they come from Brazil, Japan, Korea, from everywhere. They just come there for just that one night. So it fills me [with the sense that] I have to pay back. I have to give them and I have to offer them the best night ever of their lives."

However, that intensity can get to him at times. Though the energy can be too much, RM tries to deal with it as best he can. "I'm a human, and I really get nervous," he said. "I really sometimes get depressed and even swallowed by all the energies, but I'm trying."

"Personally, I just want to give [back to them]," he continued, acknowledging their fans. "They brought us from a small city in Korea all the way to the heart of this music industry — Las Vegas, LA, New York — and even me having an interview with Pharrell. It could happen because of fans all over the world. I'm just always grateful, and I just don't want to disappoint them."

8.About 90% of RM's solo album is done, and he considers it to be his first official solo album.

RM speaking at an interview with BTS

He called his previous mixtapes "an experiment."

Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

9.RM has had to reflect over BTS's position as a "social figure" and his own purpose after giving a speech at the United Nations.

BTS speaking at the UN

At this point in their conversation, Pharrell asked RM how it felt to hit a point in his career where BTS could really determine who they are, what they stand for, what their intentions are, and who they want to be.

And though RM said it wasn't their intention, he believes that the members of BTS became social figures of sort, especially once they were invited to meet politicians.

Pool / Getty Images
quote by RM, "A K-pop band giving a speech at the UN or meeting presidents... I was confused, like, 'What am I? A diplomat?'"

"A K-pop band going to [give] a speech at the UN or meeting presidents is like… I think I was really confused," RM said. "I'm like, ‘What am I? A diplomat?’ I was just a small rapper and lyricist when I was young."

On top of that, RM acknowledged that he was in charge of most of BTS's appearances and interviews, adding extra pressure to properly represent himself and his group mates.

10.RM appreciates being able to step away from BTS to calm his mind down after an intense 10 years, especially since K-pop was so different from his original background as a rapper and poet.

RM and Pharrell sit across from each other on Rolling Stone's Musicians on Musicians

RM explained that K-pop, as a genre, includes a blend of American pop music and, as an industry, focuses on groups over individual artists. It also involves intense visuals, choreography, and social media. While this comes with its own pros and cons, RM found it to be especially tricky since he started off as a rapper and poet.

"So I think I’ve got to stop this for a bit," he said, in reference to BTS's recent hiatus. "We’ve got to shut it down and just fall from it in a way and then see what's going on — make my mind really calm down." In doing so, he was able to focus on his solo album.

Rolling Stone / Via youtube.com

11.After coming so far in his career, RM has started thinking about his original dreams as a teenager and why he chose to pursue music in life — even if he doesn't know what's coming next.

quote by RM, "When I started my music, I was 14, and now I'm 28. So I'm in that process. I just don't know what's going to happen."

Though he acknowledged he hasn't been making music as long as Pharrell, RM recognized that he has been making music for half of his life. "When I started my music, I was 14, and now I'm 28. So I'm in that process, and it's really tricky and confusing," he shared. "I just don't know what's going to happen."

To catch more of RM and Pharrell's conversation, watch the entire Musicians on Musicians interview by Rolling Stone here or read a transcript of it here.