Adekunle Gold is a different type of artist. He is more than an entertainer. Not that there is anything wrong with being an entertainer, but credit must be given to those who create more of a sonic experience through sound, lyrics, visuals and feeling. He makes music that not only engages its listeners temporarily, but lingers on your mind. It’s easy to relate to his music because you understand what he’s talking about. You’ve probably been there before. His music demands an appreciation not just because it sounds good but because you can hear the effort, the attention to detail and the energy that
has gone into making almost every song a near-instant classic.
In person, Adekunle is charming, funny,
enthusiastc and incredibly laid back for a man who just wrapped up a sold-out, highly praised concert in December and has a second album – About 30 – pending. When asked if he’s nervous about the sophomore slump that plagues a lot of artists, he says, “I can tell you without a doubt that God has helped me do that. About 30 is everything I wanted it to be.” To be honest, what more could you ask for.
Excerpts from his Interview with our editor Sonia Irabor.
If you could be Adekunle Gold in any era, from the twenties to present-day, what era would you choose?
To be honest, I feel like I’m an old soul. I think I would choose to be in the Fela and King Sunny Ade era. Maybe by now, I
would be respected more. Maybe I would be the legend I want to be by now. You see the way King Sunny Ade is performing all
over the world? So if I could choose, I would choose their time.
So around the seventies?
Yeah, the seventies. Yeah
Do you think the way music was absorbed in that time is very different from the way it’s absorbed today?
Definitely. [in the seventies] you could release one song and it would last [for] years. Clearly, King Sunny Ade is still performing his old albums until now. There was no pressure to release a new song every three months. We’re in a generation that’s so messed up. Once you release a song and it’s two weeks old, they’re moving on. The attention span is so short and people don’t absorb music very much. If you release an album, people listen to one or two songs and conclude that the album is trash. We don’t take time to appreciate music or to appreciate what the artist has gone through to make the music come alive. Somehow, fortunately, I’m happy I’m in this time because it’s my time to make my mark. In the future, I’ll
be one of [the legends].
Do you feel frustrated about entertainers who seem not to put any effort into a song but are successful, while you’ve taken the time to really word it, create it and put it out there?
For any creative, when you have taken the time to create something and another person who’s done it in the fastest way,
not necessarily the most serious of ways, gets a nod, it feels sad. We all know that there are so many watered down lyrics
these days. Some artists don’t even try to make sense. You listen to some songs, they don’t necessarily need to be vulgar, they’re just disjointed. You can’t help but wonder, what’s the sense in the song? But you’re there in the studio trying to make sure that you’re actually passing a message across, saying something that makes sense. Yours is the one that’s stamped as wack or not trendy. It’s the times we’re in now. It doesn’t stop some of us that want to make classics from doing so. Some of us want to remain timeless. I always tell people that
good lyrics will never go out of fashion.
For you,what comes first? The melody or the lyrics?
Either. Sometimes I could just see something, like what you’re wearing now [a black Mr Garbe shirt with white text written all over], it just might give me an idea. When I’m on the road, I like to see things. If I don’t see anything, I feel like I’ll be dead creatively. Sometimes, it could be ,an idea, a melody, maybe I’m listening to a Fela song and I pick a melody. I can build around it. [Or I might not be] listening to anything but the melodies just come up.
You have a band you work with. How important is that to your creative process and creating your music as opposed to being sent a beat? Which do you prefer?
Before now, I used to work with beats; producers would send me beats. Even then when I didn’t have a band, I would get
the beat and recreate it after recording the song. Most of my songs have live instruments: live guitar, live talking drums of course, most times, the horn. I’ve always found a way, even before I got my band, to put live instruments [in my music]. If
you listen to Orente, Pickup, and Ready, all of them have the instruments. For me, I feel like it’s important to make people feel the experience. There’s no way that you can make these automated sounds sound live. You might get close, but it won’t sound like the real thing.
What, if you can remember, were the first set of lyrics you ever wrote ever in your life?
It was “Last Dose of Sadness”. I don’t even know what was going through my mind.
How old were you?
I was between 15 and 18. I used to listen to a lot of “white” songs.
As in…rock? Were you one of those emo-typeteenagers? Very emotional?
I used to be very imbalanced. I used to listen to a lot of sappy songs. I still do. But that was the typical song then.
would “Last Dose of Sadness” come from?
I was very emo as a teenager. I would sit in a corner and listen to Linkin Park and sob. I think a lot of Nigerian teens were secretly emo…
Like when you sit in a corner [of your room] writing [songs or poetry] to a mystery person. I had a book where I wrote a lot of poems, I go back and read them these days. I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking then.
Do you remember any of them?
Nah, they’re gone. They’re dead to me now. So “last dose of sadness”, “novocaine for the pain” and “these tears don’t go away.” Those were some of the lyrics.
When you decided to be a singer, did you have an idea of how successful you would be?
For me, this music journey has been a struggle. It’s been me trying to convince people that I have something. It’s been trying to convince friends – close friends to support me, support the hustle and give the littlest [dose of encouragement]. Everything that I’ve done in the past, where I was in the studio recording music that I never got. I’m not going to mention the producer’s name (but I) haven’t gotten (the music) to this day. I’m grateful that I did not give up. If you remember the intro on the Gold album, it says that if there’s anything I want to be known for, it is that I never wanted to give up, that I was brave. All of these things gave me strength to keep going. I don’t want to sound cocky but I knew I was going to be great. I just didn’t know when. I didn’t know in what capacity. I knew this music was going to turn out to be something I would be happy about eventually
Your new album About 30 is coming out very soon. People say when you’re following up a successful album, there’s a lot of pressure. Do you feel that kind of pressure? Are you nervous? Do you believe strongly in the product that you’re just…
If I’m being honest, there were times I was afraid. I’ve had that doubt a couple times. For every time I had that fear, I’ve written
really beautiful music. I’ve learned to be happy and know that God has my back. I think about it: “What really makes a great
song?” My stories have been my stories. I write about my life, I write about what happens to people. The only difference would be good production and a good melody. I’m blessed to have good producers around me. I have Pheelz the producer, I have Oscar, I have a lot of them that I work with. I pick my producers
according to what I want to hear. Now my life is so much better because I am pretty much involved in the production. So when
I had the fear about this album not being better, I invested my time in making sure I don’t sound the same. My goal was to
make this one much greater. I can tell you that without a doubt that God has helped me do that. About 30 is everything I wanted it to be. I started writing the album around the time I released the last one, it was July 25, 2016. What I do is that I write for two albums. When I was writing “Gold”, I wrote for two. When I wrote
this, I wrote for another two albums. I don’t think I have anything to be scared about. I think this album will do amazing.
When you first started out as Adekunle Gold, did you have a clear idea of the kind of career you wanted to have? If so did you feel like you fulfilled that or have you gone a different way?
When I started this music thing professionally, I did a lot of pop songs. I used to think I was Bruno Mars then I woke up one morning and- “Wait I’m not Bruno Mars anymore.” (Laughs).
I learned to embrace my love for Yoruba sounding melodies. I started putting more Yoruba in the songs to make it sound more
Nigerian. So what I did that changed it all was to bring in a bit of Western sound and add local content to it. If you listen to Sade,
it was a One Direction sort of intro. When the song starts, you expect an English line and then you hear O ti pe ti mo ti n ba e soro. I tried that and I saw that people loved it. That’s why I call my sound
“Urban Highlife” because it is a mixture of pop, indie and highlife. Before, I didn’t know what I was doing [but now] I can actually see that I have a sound. What I can see is that I am getting more creative
everyday to add more borrowed sounds, but still a hundred percent me.