Nigerian singer and songwriter Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye Known As Simi, bared it all in a new interview with Bold Magazine.
The talented singer/sound mixer, opened up on her music and more in this interview with Bold Magazine, saying having record label has really helped her as an artiste.
Read excerpts below:
O: What do you think makes your song mainstream and what what makes it alternative?
S: I don’t really like the word alternative because the kind of sound I use, the tempo of my music is mellow. It’s not a dance type of groove but it is still really really groovy. I think what makes my music more mainstream would be what I am singing about and then cos I use a lot of ‘Pidgin’. I’m not too for a lack of a better word too ‘Oyinbo’ I try to keep it as African as possible.
O: Speaking about Niche, in the news most recently there’s a lot of talk about black consciousness and black people coming together than ever before. Would you say that there’s a black renaissance going on and are you part of that said renaissance?
S: Well, I live in Africa; in Nigeria so it is not as pronounced as it is in the west as we are all black well predominantly black here. But I am very aware of what is going on and I try as much as possible to be a part of the conversation because it is very important. I feel like there should be an increase on how black people are valued. For me it is just not about black people, it is about women, it is about the society, if the status quo doesn’t not necessarily automatically benefit you, that’s my side. So I definitely like to be a part of the conversation.
O: Would you say that this reflects in your music or it has been reflective in your music?
S: Well I Have a song “Love don’t care” It focuses on tribalism. There’s a lot of tribes here. We have so many tribes in Nigeria, we have over 200 dialects. It’s ridiculous how we let things like that especially seeing that we are supposed to be more alike. We let it keep us way from benefiting from each other.
I once went for an interview and it was for Love don’t care. So the presenter asked if one should let tribal differences dictate who you love. There were a lot of people calling in; like Igbo people calling in and most weren’t calling to say they can’t marry from this tribe or that tribe They were calling to say they can’t marry from another Igbo group, Imagine. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Like your own people and you’re like no this is not good enough for me.
O: Do you consciously create songs like Love don’t care because of the social message or it just depends on the the music you want to create, different song for different mood? Is there a method to the madness?
S: I think it depends. There are a lot of people that would write about conscious things. Take Fela as an example he was a very socially conscious musician, even if you’re laughing at his songs, he is writing about real stuff. I try to do that as well but I don’t just focus on conscious stuff, in fact I like to put a little humour in my songs even if I am talking about something serious. I want people to laugh and smile and say oh that’s ridiculous but it’s true. Personally with song writing, I am not usually stuck on one idea, I don’t have a formula, I don’t have one topic and I say this is what I must talk about. If in that moment I am feeling conscious I will write about it, I want to talk about love, happiness that is what I will write about. For me it depends on how i feel.
O: So looking at your career path, It is safe to say that you left the independent route behind and got a label deal. Do you think you would have as much impact if you were independent?
S: I tried the independent route but it’s not easy. For me, having a label has really helped me, even before I got signed, people will tell me oh yeah you are very talented but not a lot of people were hearing my music. So it definitely made all the difference. Even if it is not a record label, you have to have someone that would invest in your brand, or get a management company. You just need some kind of platform, it makes all the difference from you just sitting in your room and your neighbours being the only one to hear your music to picking up a mic and singing on a stage or hearing your music on the radio. Talent is the same, your platform is the difference.
O: Speaking about talent, you are also skilled in the art of mixing and mastering. Is that also part of your contract?
S: Mixing and mastering is my thing. My contract is just for singing. I am also a song writer but all of that is for Simi. My contract is solely for my singing.
O: So what other talents are you hiding that we haven’t heard about, what songs have you mixed and mastered that we didn’t know it was you back then?
S: I just started mixing and mastering for other people I think last year.
O: People like Who?
S: Dare Art Alade, I mixed 15 songs on Adekunle Gold’s album, I recently did something for Flavour… There are a bunch of others as well
O: There’s always been talk about a collaboration with Adekunle Gold that before you guys signed that you guys crafted each other’s sound together, is there any truth to that?
S: Actually when I first met Adekunle Gold, I never knew he had the King of Photoshop brand thing as I was solely into music as that is all I focus on. So I knew him as a singer and when we met he wanted us to do a song together. He really likes his RnB, blues and he has such a unique voice. I was like this is not you, you have to shine, other people can do this better than you so you need to find something you can do better than everybody else. So we started to dabble; do covers, I pushed him as much as I could to help him find his sound and in the process I was helping myself too.
O: Would you say you guys are still as close when it comes to crafting music?
S: Yeah we are, I mean like I said before, I mixed and mastered 15 on the tracks in his Gold album. I helped in terms of creative direction a little bit, a few back ups here and there so yeah we still are.
O: Your music seems a lot more feisty and intense and most times how you’re visually represented seems very 15 years old Arianna Grande sequence. Is it safe for us to say that there is a divide in what your music stands for and how you are visually represented sometimes?
S: Since I started mainstream music, the aspect that has required most work is the fashion. I am a really laid back kind of person when it comes to fashion, I am not a fashionista, I just like to be comfortable. The truth is there are so many people with opinions on this topic. There was a time I got really frustrated about it because everybody had their own ideas. I like sneakers, like a laid back look – jeans, tees, crops. I know that to some people I am not supposed to look 15, I think maybe it’s because that is my composure and that’s what I can keep up with.
O: There is this idea that for an artist to have like the impact that they want they need to “Blow” first
S: Yeah true
O: What are your identifiers for success, what does it mean to blow for you?
S: If you are using the Nigerian definition it is when a lot of people know your music and your face. I remember when I first released my first official single ‘Tiff’ people knew the song but they didn’t know who I was. But when I released ‘Jamb question’, like that changed a little bit, people started recognising me and then when solider came out, like a lot of people – very elaborate people knew who I was. So my definition of “Blowing” or “To blow” is simply when people are more aware of you. That’s my definition.
O: So according to your definition, you have blown already?
S: To a certain extent yes. There’s different degrees to it as well. It’s just like someone saying are you a rich man. If you have a million dollars you are, if you have 2 billion you are also. In Nigerian being blown doesn’t make other artists less blown.
O: A lot of people are of the impression that if you really want to have that impact, that type of popularity and influence where your music is reaching a lot of people and perhaps changing lives you will have to gain international success, as most of the music and media we consume in Africa is from the west, so therefore if you can go to the source where the media comes from and be relevant then Africa doesn’t have a choice but to reckon with you. Do you agree?
S: Oh I completely disagree with that. Oyinbo people have talent. You can’t go there and start competing with something they have too much of already. It all depends on who your target audience is. For example, my first immediate target audience are Nigerians in Nigeria and then Nigerians in the UK and diaspora. In most of my tracks, I speak pidgin. Imagine if my song was being played on an American radio, how many Nigerians in Nigeria listen to American radio stations? I feel like people have to get it from your own place brother than get it from theirs. It has to come from somewhere, you have to have a home base. Look at Adele, Adele did not start pushing herself from America, it started from her hometown and America paid attention to her. even Drake, “Ojuelegba” was already a hit here before he jumped on it.
O: What Should we expect from you, what’s next on the agenda?
S: Right now I am working on my album, I am just trying to get my collaborations together. There’s also an EP I have with FALZ. It’s coming out soon and a bunch of collaborations with other artists.