Article

Adekunle Gold is remaking afropop in his own image

Adekunle Gold
Adekunle Gold speaks to us on the biggest headline show of his career, breaking down his new album and cutting toxic people out
by Rae Ogbu

He’s as cheerful as his reputation suggests. But he’s clearly a little apprehensive, he has only just come in from another interview on the other side of London. Now in his Docklands apartment, he is sitting at the dining table, running through his phone and MacBook at the same time. Perhaps he’s photoshopping again? 

We wish but he’s not. He hasn’t had the time recently to indulge in his love for computer graphics. Everything from now until exactly one week today is the concluding rehearsal for the biggest concert of his career taking place in Indigo at the O2 London.

Rae: Preparations are obviously at its peak now?

Adekunle Gold: I’ve been rehearsing since last year for this show. We rehearse all the time whether we have a show or not. We are always in the studio.

Rae: Your first headline show took place last year in the UK, was it afterwards you decided to make a comeback?

AG: We knew we were going to be back in the Uk this year right when we did our first show here last year. 

Rae: Should we now expect an annual concert, there is a lot of love for you here, looks like the UK could now become your second home?

AG: I like how you say second home (laughs) I mean you never know, there can be one next year

Rae: What made you decide to return to the UK after the 2017 show?

AG: Because I’ve not had really great experience performing in 2015/16 and that’s majorly because I didn’t get the exact set time that I wanted in group shows. The shows were amazing but I couldn’t really give my best. And that’s what really motivated me to want to have my own show.

And that’s the one we did last year at the Academy Islington, the show was really amazing, we had about 800 people in the hall singing their hearts out with me. And then we thought about it, if we had pulled that off really well, then by God’s grace it just makes sense to go bigger. That’s what informed the 02 Indigo for another amazing night.
 
Rae:  We hear the concert is already sold out?
AG: This time we are expecting 2700, triple the first amount.
Rae:  Have you headlined in front of that many people before?
AG: Internationally, this will be the biggest number I’ve done for my very own headline show.

Rae: When it comes to collaborations, who is your most favourite type of artist to work with?

AG: I’ve not worked with a lot but I will definitely say Seun Kuti, Simi… basically everyone I’ve ever worked with to be honest because it’s been a great vibe working with them.

Rae: What is the selection process like when picking people to work with?
 

AG: For me, it’s the music. It’s how I’m feeling, sometimes I write the song and then I start to think, who is the one person I can work with and vibe with on this song that will just make it better that is what informs who I choose or who I reach out to.

Rae: People are still talking about how futuristic your Album release listening party for “About 30” was. How much of the creative process do you depend on from your team and from outsourcing?

AG: My team is very small, wise are just thinkers and sometimes we don’t even think it just comes to us. I’ve said it so many times, I’m blessed to have Niyi (manager) on my team and I work with seasoned producers. We are doing great things like we are already an empire, and that makes me really happy.

Rae: When Damn Delilah comes on anywhere (even on the stage at the Indigo o2) people just go crazy, I mean hysterical. It’s not the first song about an ex to be released but what is it about yours that make people become all psychedelic?

AG: Damn Delilah is simple, its just about a girl I dated and I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. Many people can relate to that

Rae: Ire is my favourite song from the new album and the video must win an award. The scenes are shot in reverse but everything starts to play forward once you get into the church. Surely we all know your career began when you sang in the church choir, do you sometimes wish to return to simpler times?

 
AG: I mean everything in that video is significant. The whole dream to make music started in the church and that’s why I went back to the church. I also had a place where I have a little girl beside me which represented my sister that I lost. So the video is just a representation of everything that I’ve been through to become what I am now. So like I said, it ended at the church because that’s where it began.
Rae: You’ve said “About 30” is your most vulnerable work yet. It took a lot out of you emotionally and was written over a period of time. Do you worry about baring it all to the world, wearing your heart on your sleeves and letting everyone see your insecurities and fears?
 

AG: No, I feel like sincerity is what really gets people and that’s not even a gimmick from my side. It’s just like to be true to myself and I love the world to see how I am. I mean what’s the deal about Adekunle Gold? Well, this is me! I love to tell my stories and hoping that it will change someone else life or help somebody. Some people are probably going through what I’m going through and it will be like a nice guide for them because they can say it will be fine.

I’m not afraid to put myself out there, but I mean, I will only put what I want people to know about me.

Rae: Do you think the way your fans interact with your music will influence how you make music in the future? Like if certain tracks from your last album did better than others, are you influenced to do more of those type of tracks next time?

AG: I think what I’ve done so far and what I’ll probably do in the future will be based solely on what I’m feeling then not necessarily based on how people are feeling. This is because if I do that, then I will keep changing my sound.

I mean we all have different visions as an artist, for me, I know what I’m doing, my music is intentional. My music is true and I’m not trying to let anyone decide for me what I’m feeling. Every song I’ve put out is how I’m feeling or how I’ve felt at some point. When I put out my first single, “Sade”, that’s how I was feeling at that time, so if I keep making music because of the trend, then I fall off. It’s happened before to people and there are examples. I’m not about that life- My goal is to be timeless!
 

Rae: How do timeless goals -work with business and making money in the music industry. It does put a strain on the creative process when you have to make a living from your music. Yes you are an artist, you are a creative but you are also a brand and a business, so when it comes to getting endorsement deals and being a brand ambassador, at what point do you wear your business cap and say ok, this is new business, and we have to create in a different way to get this deal?

AG: Yeah! I know what you mean. For us, as much as it’s a business, first of all, it’s a passion and the passion has created ways for the business to fall accordingly. So we don’t really care so much about the gimmicks of making forceful things. If it will come, it will come. The ones that we have now, the places that we’ve gone to, the money that we’ve made, they come to us- we don’t chase for then and we’ve remained true to the philosophy.

Rae: You have risen in a good amount of time and it’s clear that there are greater things to come your way with your talent and there is a lot of pressure to stay on top. However, there is still this calmness about you, is it yoga or some new type of drink, you seem so peaceful while everyone else is losing their heads?

AG: (Laughs) I wish I did yoga. the thing is that I always feel that I’m first human, that’s what helps me. I always remember that, no matter what I become. That’s what helps my sanity because it’s easy to get caught up in the fame and the glitter and forget who you are. That’s when you become arrogant and become a lot of things that you were not originally. If you always remember that you need to stay guarded, stay human, I feel like you will always remain calm and be approachable.

Rae: Even for the most down to earth person, surely when you get to your level and the importance of your music, credibility and message has risen, you have to possess some gatekeeping skills when it comes to the people you let in your creative space and even your life generally. How do you combine the two traits of been so approachable and then cutting negative people out?

AG: I feel like in recent times, this is the most intelligent question anyone has asked me because I still don’t know how to draw the line. I’m very honest with you, I love people around me, so much that I attract a lot of people and some that should not be around me still. But then because I give people the benefit of doubt a lot, and even when I clearly see that these people are not necessarily the type that should be around me, I still give them a chance, give them the room to change. It’s not the best, but that’s just me. Am I being foolish? I don’t think so.

I have this conversation with my manager all the time, so I know it’s important. I’m honestly learning how to do that.

Rae: Talking about relationships, I know you are friends with Falz and was curious to hear your candid opinion about his latest; “This is Nigeria” cover track.

 
AG: I think its really brilliant and genius even though it was a cover, it was apt because of the timing. It came at the right time when someone needed to say something about the things that are happening in the country, Nigeria. Falz is creative, you can’t take that away from him.

Rae: You are also very creative in other areas, your fans also call you the king of photoshop.

AG: Photoshop is just fun for me but there hasn’t been any time to do it. Recently, I was looking at a picture and I was thinking- I would really want to be in this shot but there’s no time to really do it. I tell my friends, I don’t brag about anything in my life, but I will brag about my photoshopping.

Rae: Is that how you relax and destress?
 

AG: No! I relax with video games.

Rae: What type of video games do you play?
 

AG: Soccer/football and I relax writing music as well.

Rae: You capture fans with your lyrics, the storytelling is apt and the word flow in English, pidgin and Yoruba is flawless. But writing lyrics back home in Nigeria seems to be a very difficult task for most of our artists. They have the tune, but the word flow clogs up sometimes…

AG: I’m not going to fault anyone but I blame the people who buy the product. So here is the thing, if someone is selling something to you whether it’s good or bad if you keep buying it, it means you are permitting it either way. Nigerians complain some artists have poor lyrics but the same Nigerians are buying into that same music they complain about. And then the people that are taking extra time to give something that is sensible, that would edify you and that works, those people are not paid as much attention to. So either people are confused or they don’t know what they want. My thing is that if you are feeling the music, just feel it. I feel it too, I want to go to the club and hear some dance beats and party so I don’t complain. If you are feeling a vibe, feel it and stop complaining.

Rae: You’ve been playing with your band 79th Element since 2016 and they travel with you everywhere. How did you select each instrument player, how did they all come together to work with your vision?

AG: I pick superstars! I love live music so I watch people play all the time. Femi Leye is my guitarist and my friend – we grew up together and so I reached out to him, same thing for the bassist. The ones I didn’t know before, my friends who knew them, reached out to them on my behalf and we came together, started jamming and we’ve been travelling together ever since.

Rae: Have you ever done a show without them, like a solo act?
 

AG: No, I like to perform with my band. We are friends and like to spend time together. At rehearsals, we have like 60 per cent fun.

Rae: Are you going to get females into the band?
 

AG: Oh! We already have one and she’s so talented.

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