Meeting the petite singer songwriter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It got off to an awkward start thanks to a bit of a hug-or-handshake-miscommunication (awkwardness initiated by yours truly, obviously), which led me to doubt the flow of the conversation to follow. However, once we settled down to chat, all doubt was swiftly removed from my mind. Simi is a delight. A gorgeous funny and talented delight. You’d agree when you read the interview, don’t miss any line.
So when did you realise that you could sing and that music was something you want to do?
I went to Federal Government Girls’ College, Shagamu, and I remember sometimes we would just hang out and sing songs under this tree. A lot of people were like oohh, your voice is so cute. I knew then that I could probably hold a note but I didn’t think I wanted to be a singer. Then I started to go to Daystar Christian Centre and we basically had a group in the teens church called Outstanding. We used to sing, rap and dance but singing was the least important thing, I was a rapper, but I have no idea what I rapped about at the time.
Do you remember your first set of lyrics as a rapper?
Aaaaahh, no but I remember the chorus (Simi begins to sing the chorus at this point…. but you had to be there to really appreciate it).
So funny, and hoe old were you then?
Maybe like 13….
Were you performing in the church at that time?
Yes, in the teens church but [as part of the] group and eventually, we started to sing more. I’d always like to sing, I remember I wrote my first song when I was 10, but I think that was when I started to take singing seriously, because of how happy it made me. [At the church] we used to have rehearsals like twice or thrice a week…
But then you also got involved in the more technical side of music. What drew you to that?
It is easier for an artist if you are not very dependent on other people for certain things. I produce demos but I don’t produce commercially. I always tell people if you can’t do something as good as the people you respect then you probably shouldn’t be claiming it. I like to write and record at the same time because it helps me write better. I remember when I did my IT at Cool FM, that’s when I learnt how to use the sound engineering software. I did this EP [Restless], in 2012 and I mixed it by myself, recorded it by myself….. If I don’t enjoy something, my attention span, [is short] because it’s very tedious; you have to do it over and over again. I started watching videos on YouTube, I think that’s how I started to know more until I became better at it than I was, I just really enjoyed it that’s why I learnt it.
The technical side seems to be more male dominated, did you come up against any kind of discrimination or any kind of difficulties when you first started?
Actually no, I think I’ve [received] more respect, people tend to be more like oh wow, she actually does this and does it really well. In fact, most people will want to give me their stuff [to produce] just that I don’t have that much time. But not to my face (laughs). Nobody has said anything silly.
So as a female in Nigeria, why do you think it is that women are not making a lot of impact within Nigeria, in terms of sale, radio play or in terms of audience interaction and loyalty?
I don’t really think it’s just music alone, I think its a control problem. You know, people are used to women taking back seat even if you do something [people are like] aww you are trying. (Laughs) it’s very hard to see a woman that is half-assing it, making it, even if you are popular, you have to work really hard at it, you have to be really good at what you are doing. I think it’s more of a cultural thing. I always say that the biggest achievement for an African woman in the eyes of the society is marriage and motherhood, you know as long as you’ve done that, even if you don’t do anything else, you are complete. I personally disagree with that. You know so I think that it is the place of a woman to fight for what they want because it is very very unlikely that the society will fight for you. I remember when I started doing mainstream music – because I started with gospel – I think for like the first year, I used to be annoyed [because I thought] why would you put in this amount of work, probably more than a guy, and then it’s like you are fighting harder for less. But then I realized that you can easily stay and complain everyday [asking] why…. [or you can] do what you can to get what you want I don’t think it’s just a Nigerian thing. If you look at the world you will realise that we have superstars abroad but if you count the number of women compared to the guys, it’s a huge gap. I think it’s just the culture of the world, you know, [the belief that] women are supposed to be fragile people who are not supposed to be aiming for much beside being mums, that’s why you see a woman who doesn’t really have many dreams but [because] she is married she [automatically thinks] she’s superior [to a woman who is not].
I think it’s the luxury of freedom to actually come to that conclusion that it is their life, especially as a woman where as you said, it’s: marriage + child = complete.
Yes, you have to want to fight for it because people will not fight for it for you, that’s what I found. I remember when I finished school, my mum has always been supportive but like most parents are, she was worried about me. She was like “Simi, why don’t you just go and get experience in one company?” I said, “experience to do what? I’m not planning to do this music part time”. To me, the fact that I’m confident in what I want gives her confidence. If I wasn’t sure of what I want, it [would be] easy for people to tell me what they think I should be doing.
So parting words to a woman who is on the fence who wants to make that leap and be confident enough to be like I believe in this and I want to try it what would you say to kind of help her?
It’s definitely not easy, but in summary I will say that, it’s okay to be afraid but don’t let it stop you, don’t let nobody stop you from being you, be the most you can be and if you fail, try again.
This interview was first published on Genevieve Magazine September Issue.