You’ve heard him usher in all the latest couples in town in the past year, you’ve heard him on the radio, you’ve seen his animated visualisers on YouTube, you probably spent all of your Detty December scream-singing the hook to any of his songs at the top of your lungs, eyes closed, one hand in the air. Bottom line, Joe Boy, the 22 year-old singer/songwriter who’s taken the Nigerian music scene by storm, has infiltrated every aspect of Nigerian popular culture and we welcome him with open arms and hearts and vocal chords ready to belt out any one of his catchy hooks! Conflicting schedules meant we weren’t able to meet so we had to settle for an email q&a, which meant the conversation couldn’t be as rich as I wanted it to be. But this is no bad thing though, because it means I have a chance to have a bigger conversation with him soon!
What was the first song you ever wrote? Do you remember the lyrics?
I think the first song I ever wrote was a song titled Slow Wine, I think I can remember some parts of the lyrics…
Don’t worry, I won’t force you to sing the lyrics… This time. Your single Baby has become the wedding song for a lot of couples, in addition to being one of the most played songs of 2019. Did you envision the level of success?
I knew the song was going to be a big song but I never expected it to be so major and I’m really glad that it surpassed my expectations.
With your E.P, Love and Light, you talked about how you wanted your first body of work to inspire and make people happy. Why was this important to you?
[During] the timeframe I was recording the songs on the ep, I was surrounded by happy and positive vibes and it really helped me creatively. After I released Baby I was getting a lot of messages from people about my music getting them out of depression and changing their mood positively so it inspired me kind of to make happy music.
You said that Baby was recorded in 45 minutes, which is really impressive! This makes me wonder about the type of creative you are. Are you usually more impulsive in your creative process or are you a perfectionist?
My creative process actually varies depending on the type of vibe I’m getting at the moment. So my creative process is not really defined. Sometimes I could finish a song in 45 minutes, sometimes it could be two hours.
Still on the topic of your creative process, do you have any anxieties surrounding what you create and how the public might respond to it?
I think almost every creative has anxieties when it comes to creating. Thoughts like, “would people connect easily to this?”, but most of the time I go with my guts when creating, then I sample it with some of the A&Rs I know to get their thoughts, then I know what to do from there.
How do you think such anxieties may have affected how you make music?
I’d say maybe [it’s] guided how I make my music. Like I said earlier, you just have to trust your guts because at the end of the day, that is what makes an artist’s sound different.
Were you a risk-taker when you were younger?
I think I am a risk taker – a calculated risk taker. I remember selling my phone to record my music even when people didn’t know who I was or my music. I remember turning down $5000 cash from MrEazi and asking to work with him instead. This was when I didn’t even have up to ten thousand naira in my account. I think where I have gotten to right now with my career is partly a result of taking risks, I don’t think significant progress can be made without taking risks.
When you were younger, what did you envision your adult life would look like?
I envisioned working in an office honestly… but destiny had other plans. (Laughs)
Creating a whole story sequence for your music, using the visualisers on YouTube, has been such a stroke of genius marketing. What were your thoughts when the idea was first brought to you?
I felt it was a great idea because it was different and relatable to a large audience. I always knew it would work.
We only ever see life after a star becomes a star, so we assume they’re overnight successes no matter how often this isn’t true. What was life like leading up to your big break?
I had a very normal life before “blowing”. I attended University of Lagos, played video games, attended parties… Pretty normal lifestyle honestly.
How did you deal with rejection at that time?
I always knew it was matter of time. I remember saying if I could meet Wizkid in person I was gonna make it in music, and I did. Since then, nothing could discourage me. (Laughs)
The songs on Love and Light deal with love, heartbreak and betrayal. Tell me about your first heartbreak?
Believe it or not, I have never been heartbroken. (Laughs)
You seem to know enough about the feelings to write about it…
I am a very empathic person. Most of the heartbreak songs I have created [are] actually other people’s experiences, that I knew about. I know how to write a story and make people feel like it’s mine, especially heartbreak stories
Going back to your desire to make inspiring and happy music, when you were growing up, did you find that source in Nigerian music?
Yes I did. A lot. There was a point in my life that all I did was listen to music, it was like my escape at some point. When things were really tough for me, it was like medicine to ease my pain. Music saved me.
As a young musician, where do you hope Nigerian music goes in the next few years?
Nigerian music is really going to get bigger worldwide as time passes. Already we are the biggest music industry in Africa, only a matter of time we will get to be the biggest in the world.
Looking beyond the present, what are you most excited about for yourself – career and otherwise?
I am soooo excited. Can’t wait to put out new music because, I assure you, 2020 is going to be way bigger for me than 2019. My music will cross more borders. Major hit songs on the way. Stay tuned!