Simi is famous for her special vocals and her ability to whip up emotion in her music. But it’s just a facet of her other skills. Writer, vocalist, sound engineer, and A&R, the new mom is soaring!
“Don’t cry,” I hear Simi coddle her daughter from the other end of the phone line. She’s a new mom in America, who’s combining maternal demands with chasing the paper. It’s all strange territory for the Nigerian singer who is holed up in the US, with her pop star musician husband, Adekunle Gold. Their daughter, Adejare Kosoko, continued to announce her presence at intervals, prompting several moments of “Excuse me, I’m coming,” from Simi. And so she shuffled, moving from music conversation and babycare, career and family colliding in the most practical way.
“I feel like a different person on some days,” Simi says. Her new reality transforming life as she knows it. “I’ve always been good at multitasking for example, but now I’m a superhero at multitasking,” she continues. “I can do 10 things at the same time. And also like managing time ’cause now, every ten minutes you can get to yourself is important. Things I could have done in two hours, I can do in 10 minutes now because I know I don’t have time to waste. So I think it just kind of changes you as a person.”
Simisola Kosoko, 32, has always been a multitasker. A firm believer in self-sufficiency and skill accumulation, she glides through the front and backend of the music creation process. She writes songs and novels, sings, mixes, masters, and has recently just finished a stint in an American music school, where she learned music production. All her records are self-mixed, and she’s also extended this service, as spousal support to Adekunle Gold. What she does is rare in the music industry. Her unique skillset is rare. Self-sufficiency in music is regarded as an expression of genius, and Simi has proved to be more than that.
Simi was signed to X3M music in 2014, and launched into the music industry with label support, after years of gruelling underground hustle. The journey from outsider status, to mainstream ground zero was remarkable. Raised by her single mum after her parents split early on in her life, she started her music career as a wide-eyed gospel singer. She dropped her debut album, “Ogaju” in 2008, but failed to commercially crack the market. It would take 6 more years for her to navigate indie frustration. In that time, she built her DIY sound engineering skills. This granted her creative hyper-independence, and helped her save costs until she signed a record deal in Lagos.
Her crossover to mainstream music brought fame, celebrity, and music success. Her 2017 sophomore album, Simisola, received critical and commercial success. It consolidated her place as one of the country’s elite creators. In reality, Simi’s a workhorse. She admits to being “stubborn,” in her purpose, credits her mother as the source of her confidence, and has an unshakable belief in hard work. “I don’t let anyone dictate the things that are important to me or the things that I should be doing. Because I feel that in life you can’t really make excuses. If I fail at something, I’d take responsibilities for it. And if I’m successful at something, I can also take responsibility for it. I’m not waiting for someone to make my life happen for me. That’s the same energy I take into doing whatever I do,” Simi says.
Simi’s energy colours everything. On social media, she’s carved a huge following by sharing endless quirky moments from her life. On Twitter, she’s become known for sharing her candid thoughts on life. It’s a trait that hasn’t gone unpunished. In recent years, Simi has come under sustained criticism on social media. Whether as pushback to her comments, or digs at her fashion choices, she’s had to tweak her strategy, growing at each turn. “I don’t have a problem with criticism, but the thing is I can see the energy behind what everybody is doing,” she tells me. There’s some more disruption. But she returns quickly, and mumbles her apologies, before going back on the beat. “When it’s not like you’re daft. If somebody is saying something from a good place, you know it. Sometimes how they tell you, they way they tell you is important. I remember before I got signed. I remember somebody used to say ‘Simi, you can’t make it if you don’t do sexy-sexy. That the only way a girl can make it is when they are doing sexy things’. And I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do sexy things.’ This is not about anybody else doing it. If you play on something that is not your strength, eventually your pant would show.”
After 5 years with X3M Music, the company announced her exit in 2019, after two successful studio albums, and a collaborative album—Chemistry—with rapper Falz. She wasted no time in setting up her record label, Studio Brat. It’s a reflection of who she is at heart. A play 0n the phrase, ‘Studio Rat.’
In 2020, as the world battled with the pandemic, and major countries went into lockdown, Simi was professionally soaring. She was recording new material while pregnant. Her first record, ‘Duduke,’ became an instant hit. It was an ode to her child which struck a deep connection with music lovers. With over 20 million Youtube views, she credits it as the biggest song of her career.
What comes next wasn’t as pleasant. While pregnant and uncomfortable, she admits to being restless, unmotivated, and at her wits ends. “Music wasn’t one of my favourite things at that time. I didn’t want to record. And it really hurt me because I just renovated my studio, so I was really excited. I didn’t expect to feel like that. I couldn’t record, I didn’t have any energy. For like almost four months I was just not in the mood,” she says.
Then came Adekunle Gold with just the right idea. He bought a mini studio into their US home and convinced her to make an R&B EP. “I remember Kunle brought a mini studio—because we have a mini studio that we travel with—so he kinda set something up in the room, and be like ‘just try, just try.’ Because the way I feel about music, I’m obsessed. So when I’m not able to record or sing, people around me are worried. So he was really worried. He was like ‘babe, how about just try. Okay just try and record something.’ And I’d just record maybe like 20 minutes in the day just at least to do something. And when I started to record. I recorded ‘Duduke‘ when I was pregnant too,” she recalls.
Simi’s EP, aptly titled Restless II, was released in October, and features the buzzing ‘girl boss’ record, “No longer beneficial.” The 6-track EP is an exploration of love with collaborations with UK rapper, MS Banks, AfroSoul singer, WurlD and Adekunle Gold. Sess and Oscar handled production. “I remember that Kunle was the one that said, ‘oh babe, how about you make an R&B EP?’ And I responded, ‘I don’t think Nigerians want to hear R&B.’ And he’s like, ‘just do it.’ That’s where that came from. I was kinda restless about what to do next. I always wanted to try new things as well,” she says.
We talk for an hour, laughing through it all, as she stated her case for excellence. She’s had to grow in public, developing a tough skin in an industry where the demands on women musicians are numerous and unfair. Where does her grit come from? How has she survived and thrived in a world where outspokenness can be a professional Achilles heel?
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The beginning of motherhood, how does it feel?
It is amazing. It is new territory for me but I love it.
What’s the most interesting part of it all?
I would say the thing that stands out the most is that I feel like I know that it has completely changed me. Like it just kinda rearranges your psyche. Like your priorities are just completely rearranged. And like people say, there’s this kind of love that you feel for your child. I don’t think you can understand it until you have to experience it and just, you know. I’m very protective of her and I just really love her so much.
Congratulations. It’s never easy. Such a huge leap!
Have you ever felt similar? Not maternal, but has there been any other event that has changed you completely?
I don’t think so. But I’d say that the thing that would not necessarily be maternal, but I would say the one thing that I feel…music. I’ve always had a love for music sha. So it’s not like it was a change where I was like, ‘oh!’ It’s like an unconditional love. It just draws you in. So that would be the one thing that is kind of similar. It’s not comparable obviously, but it’s similar. As in the kind of love that you feel for it is unconditional. It’s not something that —music doesn’t have to work to make me be committed to it. My baby doesn’t have to do anything that would make me committed to her. So in that way, they are both similar.
I consider you a genius for a number of reasons. What you can do with music. You’re an original. From singing to mixing to production to mastering also. Is there any part of it that isn’t public yet?
No, I don’t think so. I feel like I’m actually really good with A&R as well. I would do that at a certain capacity for my friends, even my own music. I think I would make a great A&R and even PR if I was interested.
Do you know why hearing you say ‘PR’ is funny?
You are very opinionated and you share it with near-abandon. Near- abandon because you’re a star, and you can’t say everything in your head. But you manage to try.
Yeah. But even lately I’ve been more guarded with that because that’s the way I am outside of music. I consider myself a very confident person. If I think something and I feel like it needs to be said, I would say it. But I realise now that sometimes you mean well right? And you say something because you want to be heard. But then because of my status as an artist or someone with a level of fame, sometimes what you’re saying becomes about you, not what you are saying. And that can be a bit problematic. Imagine you’re talking about the government for example. And sometimes it might become about how you said what you said, and then people are not paying much attention to what you were saying. They are paying attention to who said it or how it was said. And that can be very unproductive. So I try to be more guarded about expressing myself in the public. ‘Cause I realise that the platform is not the same, so I have to be careful with that.
True. I’ve seen you come under fire a lot.
And half the time I’m like how’s she taking all of this? I guess you’ve been hypervisible for so long, a second skin should have grown by now. A third one, even.
I might have been born with a second skin actually. Because I don’t give too many people access to my emotions. I know people say—especially with social media now—everybody has access. So I know that I can’t afford to let everything get to me, otherwise I’d just crash and burn. People tend to say whatever they are feeling. And now that they have access to just anyone on social media now, they are more eager to say ‘this is how I’m thinking.’ Even though they don’t mean bad, they say it and don’t think about how that works. So because I understand that, it’s hard for you to say something to get to me. Especially if I know the truth. Like ‘Oh Simi, you’re a boy’ or ”Simi, you’re white’. Because I know the truth, it doesn’t really hit me like that.
With Duduke, you flipped the script. Everyone was looking for a lover, but you gave them a baby! Was that deliberate?
Yeah, it was. I think at first, what we wanted to do was drop the song and the video on the same day. I think they were like about three days apart. But when I was writing the song, that was also very deliberate. I wanted it to be that you could sing it to someone that means something to you. It doesn’t have to be a child. I knew that eventually, it would become about babies and how people feel about their children. But I also wanted to give people a chance to attach it to whatever they wanted. And the way that I wrote the song, that was deliberate. Dropping the song before the video was also deliberate. I knew that when the video came out, the bump and my pregnancy would overtake everything else. I wanted to give the song a chance to shine without the pregnancy in the beginning. And I was also excited to see how people were going to respond or react to the announcement. But yeah, I was very deliberate.
A part of me feels like you scammed us.
(Laughs) What do you mean?
You scammed us now. It’s deception. I know it’s a strategy but it’s a scam.
Not really. It’s not a scam now. I didn’t lie to you.
What did the song do for you?
Right now, ‘Duduke‘ is obviously the biggest song in my career so far. And it’s funny. I knew it was going to be like a big announcement, but I didn’t know it was going to do as well as it did. I knew it was going to do well. But you know how for people in general, there’s a shock factor, and then they move on from that. I thought that it might kinda evolve into that. But the song, the story just took a life of its own and blew up. It really blew me away ’cause I was really excited in my soul. It’s almost like the song gave people an outlet they never had. Especially with people that had kids and had been wanting to express how they felt. Or people that were pregnant. It just made me really really happy because to pioneer something like that. It made me very proud and happy. It’s still doing really amazing. Right now, the video is on like 21 million views already and that’s just mindblowing. I’ve never had any video go so fast. That’s actually my highest viewed video so far. So yeah.
Your plan worked. Do you feel happy?
I feel very proud of myself because I believe in working for what you want. And to see the result of the efforts. Because trying to get stuff together, even making the video, I knew to make sure that nothing came out. Nobody knew I was pregnant. Trying to get a location. We got so much security when we were coming around to the beach to shoot the video. So to see that work didn’t go to waste, and my team, my friends, everyone just had my back. They made it very seamless for me. So that makes me very proud and very grateful. To have fans and supporters that are worth the trouble. That are just having my back and making sure that everything I do counts for something.
‘Duduke’ was the last song you did before your new EP. Amazing EP by the way. Did you record while pregnant?
How did that go?
It was actually really hard because my first trimester was really difficult. I had pretty bad morning sickness and I was throwing up a lot. That was not the worst part. The worst part for me is that I was very very uninspired. Music wasn’t one of my favourite things at that time. I didn’t want to record. And it really hurt me because I just renovated my studio, so I was really excited. I didn’t expect to feel like that. I couldn’t record, I didn’t have any energy. For like almost four months I was just not in the mood. I remember Kunle (Adekunle Gold) brought a mini studio—because we have a mini studio that we travel with—so he kinda set something up in the room, and be like ‘just try, just try.’ Because the way I feel about music, I’m obsessed. So when I’m not able to record or sing, people around me are worried. So he was really worried. He was like ‘babe, how about just try. Okay just try and record something.’ And I’d just record maybe like 20 minutes in the day just at least to do something. And when I started to record. I recorded ‘Duduke’ when I was pregnant too.
Yes, I recorded ‘Duduke‘ when I was pregnant. I actually wrote two different versions of the song. That was the one I was going to go with and then we tried something else and we preferred that one instead. But when I did ‘Duduke,’ I wasn’t as I was when I was doing “Restless II.”. When I was recording “Restless II”, it was really hard for me. I’m not going to lie. I was struggling, but I’m stubborn. If I want to do something, I’d just chook my head inside by force by fire.
You get coconut head.
It was markedly different from popular expectation. A lot of people anticipated four tracks of ‘Duduke’ or a similar vibe. “Restless I” was a series of covers. Why did “Restless II” have original composition?
First of all, the name that I gave to the first and second EP was mostly based on how I was feeling when I made the EP, as opposed to the content. So when I made “Restless I,” I was actually really truly restless. I remember that it was just before I had signed, and I was like ‘I’ve been hustling, I’ve been doing covers. I want My break. I want my opportunity to show people that I’m good at it. I just want a chance to blow.’ So I remember that I started working on it just around Christmas in 2013. I had my laptop, I had a USB mic and I had just started learning how to mix off of YouTube. I sat down in this room that I used to work in during the day. I remember, I had a bad cold, but I didn’t care. I asked, ‘what can I do?’ So I started to check for covers. I didn’t want to do recent songs. I wanted to do songs that people liked. Big songs. And so I went on YouTube and I got the instrumentals for the songs. And then I said, ‘let me change the whole story and keep the melody so people still have something to connect to. I was thinking, ‘I’m not a big artist now so people would connect more with covers. But like let me put a spin on it instead of giving them back.’ And that’s where that energy came from. And I sat down and I did the whole thing.
Funny thing, I think Kunle and I just started dating at that time as well. So sometimes I’d record and we’d mix it in his room. It was just cute. But because I was just restless, I just wanted a chance to put that energy somewhere. And that’s the same energy—well not exactly the same, but similar to how I felt when making “Restless II.” I remember that Kunle was the one that said, ‘oh babe, how about you make an R&B EP?’ And I responded, ‘I don’t think Nigerians want to hear R&B.’ And he’s like, ‘just do it.’ That’s where that came from. I was kinda restless about what to do next. I always wanted to try new things as well. So it was more about how I was feeling as opposed, to what was inside. And because the first one wasn’t original, I can’t really make money from it. So the second one, I had to do something I could promote as my own content completely.
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The final track has you and AG going back and forth. And you called him your inspiration. How did he inspire this?
Like I said, he asked me to do this. He asked me to make an R&B EP, and that’s the only reason that I made the EP. Because he says, ‘oh babe, how about you do an R&B EP’ and I was like ‘okay.’ I know you already said it before, that it’s different. That’s why it’s different. I was deliberately trying to do an R&B project first of all. And also what I attempt to do is write lyrics that are very simple and easy, and straight to the point. But this one, I wanted to be bougie. I just sang what I was feeling. I didn’t try to oversimplify anything. So the inspiration came from him, in that he asked me to make the EP. And then the song with him, ‘Bites The Dust,’ it actually started as his song. That’s his song. He did the verse and I was like ‘put me on this song now’ (laughs) and he was okay. And it’s very interesting because that’s not the song that you usually…because me and him usually do a lot of lovey-dovey songs.
It was the first song that I listened on the EP and I was like okay finally, another ‘No Forget’.
(Laughs) Not really. Because at the end of the day, we are together but we’re still musicians. Sometimes we just want to sing. It doesn’t have to mean that we’re singing about our love life or story. So when I asked him to put me on the song, he did. And then he suggested that I put the song on the EP. The theme, the style, was very similar to all the songs I’ve been writing. So that’s how that song came about.
Did you ever feel like getting married would have affected your career negatively?
No. I feel like I’m very rebellious, as regards societal norms and expectations. I’ve always refused to believe that my life is subject to the expectations of other people. I know that there’s influence. I know that outside things can influence how your life goes. Obviously. But I feel like to the largest extent, my life is dependent on my decisions, my choices and the things that I do. And if I go into marriage with the assumption that it’s going to affect my marriage then that’s how I’m going to operate and that’s how it’s going to work out. So I never felt like that. Sometimes people say, ‘oh when you get married, oh achievement.’ I don’t think it’s an achievement, I think it’s something you add to your life. It’s a blessing, it’s great. It’s amazing to have that blessing in your life. It’s not work. I mean, having a great marriage is an achievement because you’re working at it. But getting married itself is not. So I just felt like it would just be another phase in my life where I have to work at. It’s just like how schooling is a phase. I don’t know, I just saw it. So I didn’t think it was going to be a problem.
And I see how some people think that it is, especially for guys. I feel most of that is because that’s what people expect.
Just because you expect it, you just self-perpetuate.
Exactly. So me, I did not expect it because I believed that was not my own story (laughs). I didn’t go with that energy. I didn’t go with that energy at all.
Another person very dear to you is your mum. You carry her on your head. Has your relationship with your mother influenced your life decisions?
Yeah. My mum is one of the important people in my life. She’s one of the mentors to me as well. Not just because she’s my mum and it’s automatic. But because she’s a good persona, and she taught me how to be a good person. She taught me integrity. You know, growing up in a place like Nigeria where as a woman it’s almost like you’re raised as second class to men. I wasn’t raised like that. I’m the only girl. So she even had a chance to do that. I have three older brothers. I wasn’t raised like that, I never felt like my brothers were better than me because they were boys. Or I was better because I was a girl. I was raised as a child, like one of the kids.
Also, she taught me how to be confident. She never tried to take my voice away. As opinionated as I am now, I was opinionated as a kid as well. I always said how I felt, she never shut me up. And the funny thing is that, it’s not like she spoilt me or anything. She just let me have a voice, let me have an identity. Even when I told her I wanted to do music. My parents separated when I was a kid, so I was raised mostly by my mum. They separated when I was nine, so most of the stuff that I learnt was from her. She never tried to stop me. She was not music savvy or anything but she never tried to direct my life, as to my career or whatever.
She just assisted and provided support.
Yeah. She would ask questions, even if she didn’t understand what she was asking. She made me believe that I could do whatever I wanted. I think that a lot of parents miss that, raising their kids. You have a lot of people that don’t have any confidence. Or they don’t know what they want because of too much control, or too much shutting up. But my mum taught me. I think my mum was an amazing mum, and I know I’m going to be a better mum. But she was definitely an amazing mum. And I hope that I can take a lot of things from her life and how she raised me, and do the same thing for my own child.
When you first started. How was your experience navigating an industry that didn’t know you and had a different expectation of female pop stars?
Like I told before, I’m quite stubborn. Not stubborn like I have trouble o. But when I put my mind to something, by the grace of God, I like to follow through. If I decide this is what I want to do, I just go ahead and do it. I don’t let anyone dictate the things that are important to me or the things that I should be doing. Because I feel that in life you can’t really make excuses. If I fail at something, I’d take responsibility for it. And if I’m successful at something, I can also take responsibility for it. I’m not waiting for someone to make my life happen for me. That’s the same energy I take into doing whatever I do. Like sometimes, for example—someone says they want to ask me to do something. Maybe a show or a campaign. And my team and I say ‘this is the price.’ And they go ‘why are you saying this is what you want to collect?’ And it’s almost like they want to determine your worth.
I don’t think they should have a right to determine your worth. You are the one that should be dictating what your worth is. And if you can’t afford it, that’s great. If you can’t afford to see me as priceless, that’s on you. But this is how I see myself. And I feel like for me to have that kind of stance, I have to work for it. I can’t be bragging and saying I deserve this, and I’m just sitting on my hands. And I’m not working for the kind of value that I’m claiming to have. So that’s the same energy. It just helps me stay on course. So that’s why I said that I’m responsible for the things that don’t work out. It’s all on me. So that’s how I keep my eyes on the prize. I keep my eyes on the prize because I know if I’m trying to prove something, I have to do the work. I can’t be saying this is what I want or this is how I want to turn out, and I’m not doing the work that is required.
Were there factors that tried to derail this or try to tell you that you were doing it wrong?
Obviously. Of course. In the beginning, especially on social media, I remember when everyone would bash me about my fashion or whatever, and say…
That was a crazy time. I ain’t gonna lie.
Yeah. I remember then, some of my friends would call me like, ‘are you ok?’ and I’d be like ‘why would I not be okay?’ Because I’m thinking, ‘do you really think that I’m going to lose sleep because someone else doesn’t like my shoes?’ And that’s the way I saw it. I just had to prioritize. The things that are important to me, I have to determine them. And I’d tell my friends: one of the things that have gotten me as far as I have is criticism. I don’t have a problem with criticism, but the thing is I can see the energy behind what everybody is doing. When it’s not like you’re daft. If somebody is saying something from a good place, you know it. Sometimes how they tell you, they way they tell you is important. I remember before I got signed. I remember somebody used to say ‘Simi, you can’t make it if you don’t do sexy-sexy. That the only way a girl can make it is when they are doing sexy things’. And I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do sexy things.’ This is not about anybody else doing it. If you play on something that is not your strength, eventually your pant would show.
You can’t live a lie for so long.
Exactly, you can’t. It would show eventually. So I’m like I always want to be as real as possible, because that’s the only thing I can keep up 100% of the time. So even though there are people that would say ‘oh, what kind of songs are you singing?’ In fact, I’ve heard people. I remember something someone had said before I got signed: ‘We can’t work with this girl. She’s not fine. We can’t work with this girl. She’s not sexy like the other artists that are…’ You don’t understand. I know that I’m fine. I’m not looking for validation. I don’t need anybody to tell me that I’m fine. I don’t need anybody to validate my beauty. Or how good I am. Or how talented I am. That’s why I said, for me to have this stance and to be able to stand by it, I must be willing to do the work it takes.
You were always publicly criticized for your fashion. Did you ever see a point in the critique?
I mean, I don’t know. Like for example, when I just got signed, we were trying different stylists. Before then, I was dressing myself. And what are you wearing? Is it not what was in your cupboard that you’re wearing? But you get signed and they try to rebrand you. So they say ‘let’s try and this on you, let’s try and use this stylist.’ The team is actually trying to do stuff right? Some of the stuff that they are insulting me for sef, it’s not me that wore it. Somebody put it on me. Do you get? So if I wear that, maybe the team says, okay let’s try somebody else. So while that’s happening, we are actually trying to get it right. It’s not like we’re just sitting down and waiting for someone, to insult me before we do something about it. We were also trying to work and make sure that we get it right.
Sometimes on the way to where you’re going, you’re going to find some hurdles and stuff. And people sometimes only see the hurdles. They don’t see the journey. They don’t see that we’re trying to get somewhere. So I won’t say I was trying to do the corrections because of the criticism. We’re trying to work and see what worked and what didn’t work. Sometimes what they’re even insulting me for doesn’t add up. Because I remember they were abusing me that I wore one dress for the red carpet. I did not wear the dress for red carpet. I was going behind the scenes to change into my outfit for my performance. I wasn’t trying to go on the red carpet or anything like that. So I wore one dress and the dress was actually cute but it wasn’t my red carpet outfit. And so on my way, someone took a picture with me there.
A lot of people are not exactly opportuned to grow in private.
Most people are not opportune to grow in private. See, like I said, until you make it, you’re hustling. Even when you make it, you’re still hustling. But then, before I’m in a place where they can say ‘let’s get you a stylist,’ I’m wearing what is in my cupboard. I’m not thinking about criticism. Because my priority at that time was to make it. To write a song that people like, to finally get my break.
Music. What are the things you can do with music? Please help list them, excluding singing.
I produce, I mix and I master.
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How did you get to this point?
Passion. I’m genuinely passionate about music. There’s a bulk of things I can do. I like to write. I remember when I was in school, I actually wrote a novel. The things I have the ability to do, but there’s nothing I love as much as music. You know my record label is called Studio Brat. I can literally sit in the studio 12 hours straight. I’m very resilient. I’m very persistent as well. If I’m writing a song, I can write like five songs on one beat to get one song. So I realise that if there’s anything that I’m willing to do with this much passion without being pushed – and it’s not just about money, I’d do it for free. That’s definitely my life’s purpose. It’s one of my life’s purposes, so that’s what drives me. And that’s why when I recorded ‘Original Baby,’ I said ‘money don’t drive me, I drive my money.’ Money is good. I want to spend money, I want to be comfortable. But what I want to spend the rest of my life doing is something I would do even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. So that’s why I want to do more. I went to learn production. I went to production school last year in LA for months. I’m not as advanced as I am with sound engineering and stuff. But I feel like it’s important to be able to. If you leave me alone, I can make it work. I want to be a powerhouse by myself, where I don’t need people. I know I need people, but if I couldn’t get anyone else, I can still make it work. That’s how important it is to me.
You wanted to be professionally adequate for yourself.
Yes, and sufficient.
When was the first time you went into the backend? You went into engineering?
Full on, I think it’s when I did “Restless I.’ Before I would put small pitch and some reverb. But then, I started to learn mixing proper, when I was working on the first “Restless” EP. I remember, I’d go on Youtube and look for tips. And I really enjoyed it because when I enjoy something, that’s when I do the best job, as opposed to when I have to do it.
Some people say you can learn to enjoy something.
I don’t know if I’d have the patience for that. I’m not a very patient person. I’m not patient at all. So if I have to wait somewhere or wait to do something, I get a bit frustrated. So when I’m already there with that thing, for me it works better. Or maybe for some people, they can learn to enjoy. I don’t know. I’m not usually patient enough to learn to enjoy something.
When did you hit expert level in sound engineering?
I feel like there’s still plenty that I haven’t learned.
We know. Modesty does not work well with you.
No, I’m serious. I haven’t gone to a professional sound engineering school actually. But I think why this works for me is that I think I have pretty good ears. I have really good ears for the sounds and the tones and stuff. I think that’s why it came to me so naturally. When I hear something, I know what I’m trying to listen for. Like when I mix, I love the way that it sounds. That’s why I cannot answer that and say when I became a professional. I feel like there’s still stuff that I don’t know yet. For the part that I do know, I believe that I’m pretty good at it, because of how much I’ve done it. You know, I’ve mixed all my songs so far, except for ‘Tiff’ actually. There’s still plenty that I have to learn. I don’t think I’m capable of knowing it all really (laughs). This is not faux modesty o, I’m just being honest with you.
I get you. Are you mixing commercially for other people? Would you ever get there?
It’s funny, I used to do that before, but I don’t really do that anymore now. I don’t have the time. When people ask me, I’m like I don’t know, I don’t think I can. It takes a lot of time. Me, I’m a perfectionist. So if I want to mix a song, it takes me a lot of time. I don’t even like mastering my songs. I know how to master, I just don’t like it ’cause when you’re mastering, there are certain things that you lose. Maybe the EQ of your song. But me, I don’t want to lose that thing, so I now spend hours and hours trying. So when I mix my songs, I usually send it to VTek. VTek does my masters for me. I like when he masters my songs. So I don’t really have the energy or the time.
Because if I say I want to charge them, because of the kind of time it would take, I don’t think anybody would be willing to pay me what I deserve. So I mix my songs. Sometimes if Kunle begs me hard enough, sometimes I might mix one song for him (laughs). There was a time I used to mix his whole album. But because of the time it takes now, even he doesn’t like to wait for me again. He’d say, ‘don’t worry’ (laughs) because I take forever. I used to mix commercially before for a few people.
Before you blew?
Yeah, before I had more on my plate. Before I became a bigger artist.
What’s the one thing that you think being a star took from you? Is there something you miss about not being a star?
Yeah, my complete privacy. The thing that I would normally have done if I wasn’t a star as you say…
As the records show, not as I say. It’s fact.
(Laughs) Ok now, that’s modesty. But like I was telling you before, I’m a very opinionated person and I like to say how I feel. But now because whenever I say something, I don’t want it to become about me as opposed to what I’m talking about. Now I have to calculate before I say something. That is really frustrating because that is not my natural state. My natural state is not to over calculate before I say something. That’s not how my mind operates. Also, look at how my relationship was private before I got married. Normally, I would have liked to just celebrate my relationship how I could without… But now, if I do it, I’m not just attracting comments from people that I love, or people that know me personally. I’m attracting comments from the whole of Nigeria. So now everything is censored more because when you put it out there, you are giving people access to that part of your life. I definitely miss that. I’m not a big fan of fame.
You don’t seem to embrace fame.
I like the perks. Obviously, that’s where the success of my music comes from. But on a personal level, I’m not a big fan of it. For example, I don’t like to have makeup on. It stresses me out and I have allergies. I’m not a super glam person. I like to wear my sneakers and shorts and t-shirts. That’s me. And that’s not going to change. But like, everybody now has an opinion about things like that. You know that could become a little tiring. It is tiring, but something has to give. I love music and I want to do it, so something has to give.
Humor me. If you were given the option of having your art travel as far as it has, while you can stay under the radar. Would you take that?
And I’d still be making money? I would take that o. What do you mean? Funny thing is that when I started to sing, I used to wish that I could sing anonymously and my music would like… And like I said, fame has its perks. You get certain favours, the respect that comes with it. Sometimes the privacy is the price. And the fact that I also feel bad for my mum. My mum is also really opinionated and she likes to use her voice. But sometimes she probably censors herself because of me. Also in advance, I feel for my daughter as well because she didn’t ask for fame. She’s a baby now. And now we have to be very careful because it’s not her choice to be in the limelight. But at the end of the day, something has to give. And I’m used to it now. I’m used to how it has to be now. I’ve mastered the art of balancing my life and know what I want out there. And knowing what I don’t want out there.
And I have to say that I realise that I’m also very grateful for all the support, all the love. So it’s not like I’m just famous and people just know me. Liket there’s no value added to me and anything. There’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of support. So I’m thankful for it. It’s just obviously sometimes you miss your privacy, you miss the anonymity.
Through this journey, what do want to take with you? What’s one thing you always want to have in your corner?
Professionally, I want it to be said that everything that I put out there was good. Like all the content I put out was great and timeless material. I want to make unforgettable songs. And also, I want it to be said that I put my work where my mouth is. I want it to be said that my heart was in everything I was doing. Just basically that I was as good at what I do, and that I sha put my body inside. I worked with all my heart and with all my might.
And as a person, I want it to be known that I was a good person. And that my intentions were always good and that I was always willing to learn. I want to leave a legacy for my child. I want to be someone that she’s proud to call mummy. I want her to speak of me and not speak of trauma that she experienced. But be able to say, ‘oh I’m this good person, I’ve made this great impact because of my mum.’ Ultimately, even beyond music, I want to be a good person. I want people to look at me and know that I set a good example for the people coming behind me.
By Joey Akan
IG – @joeyakan