Olawale (real names Olawale Ayodele Ojo)’s perseverance and hard work have always set him apart. This was evident when he stole the hearts of viewers to become the winner of the sixth season of the MTN Project Fame. In this interview, he discusses how he combines his studies and his budding music career, his preferred genre of music and his motivation to succeed.
What made you go for the Project Fame auditions? Also, how would you describe your experience in the Project Fame Academy?
It was a great experience; it was really something I wanted to do since the night my friends brought the form to me in school. When it was time for the auditions, I went to Ilorin and, to tell you the truth, I auditioned three times in two different cities – Ilorin and Ibadan – before the judges finally saw something in me and allowed me into the competition. When I first auditioned in Ilorin, I got a ‘no’ and then I went to Ibadan, where I got another ‘no’. I decided to go to another location where I met another judge, because the same judge auditioned me in Ilorin and Ibadan. But then, as God will have it I got a yes. The Project fame house really helped me a lot; I learnt how to be an entertainer and a performer, amongst other things.
Winning the competition is a big deal for anybody. How did you feel when your name was announced as the winner?
Sincerely, I was overwhelmed and short of words. At the beginning of the competition, I was not sure I would win, but on the day of the grand finale, I thought to myself, ‘this is it, I might be the winner’. When my name was announced, it was a mix of emotions. I just kept on reminiscing on the journey, how I got into the competition, the good and the bad times, the rejection and the acceptance… and I almost cried. But, like I said, I was excited.
Do you feel the pressure to ‘make it’, considering the success of your predecessors Iyanya, Praiz and Chidinma?
I won’t call it pressure, I’d rather call it a motivation to work harder and do my part. I am at the experimental stage of my career now and I am still getting to discover my style as an artiste. I have a good team and we are taking it slow and steady.
You just released a single titled Is Notin what is the concept behind the song and when should fans expect an album?
I recorded it the first time I entered a recording studio. DJ Klem who produced the song played the beat and I loved it, but the truth is that I was really nervous and I kept telling myself ‘it’s nothing,’ and then that was it for me. I developed that thought and interpreted it to me: a young guy who, after winning a music competition, might be nervous, but still believes that the sky is his starting point. All these material things, actually, mean nothing.
In the Project Fame house, you often mixed elements of the Yoruba culture (the use of the Talking drum, for example) in your music. What do you think your genre of music should be called?
My genre of music is Afro-pop, but I can assure you that it is deeply laced with the Yoruba language. Is Nothin has a Fuji influence, but right now I am in the studio working on other songs. You will hear a lot of Apala and Highlife in my new set of releases.
Where were you the first time you heard your song being played and what did it feel like?
I was actually in the car with my friends when I first heard my song on radio. It felt so good that I had to keep asking myself ‘na me be this?’ (laughs out loud)
You are still an undergraduate; so how do you combine school with your music career?
I won’t lie about that: it really has been difficult. But the point is that I am trying so hard to make it work. I promised my parents that music will not affect my education and I plan to make that happen. But keeping my promise has not been easy. Sometimes, I have had to sleep in the studio and head out the next morning to Ogbomosho for an afternoon lecture.
What’s your ultimate goal as an artiste?
Right now, my short-term plan is to make Olawale a household name in the music industry; so much that fans will recognise my sound and know it’s me. For the long-run, I am heading for a Grammy. Believe that!
Which artiste or artistes would you like to collaborate with?
I love Tiwa Savage; she is an energetic performer and a brilliant musician. There is a lot to take away from her. I can never forget performing with her on the Project Fame stage. I love Sound Sultan and Don jazzy,also, because they have good content. I will love to work with all three of them.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m getting ready to shoot the video for Is Notin and I am presently in the studio working with new producers. I am having so much fun doing that.
Word of advice to your colleagues…
Like my mother will say, ‘Be true to yourself and keep doing whatever you know how to do best’.
… and the fans?
I love you all and please don’t stop supporting my music. I will continue to make you guys proud.
Alomo or Champagne?
First song you ever performed
The first song I ever performed was Sexy Love by Neyo.
How did you spend your price money?
First, I paid my tithe and then I bought a keyboard. I gave my family some of it and invested the rest.
What three songs are you are ‘feeling’ right now?
I love Aye by Davido, Surulere by Dr Sid (featuring Wizkid, Phyno and Don Jazzy) and Oshe by Praiz.
Who is Olawale?
I like to say I am a cool person, but that is self-praise. Olawale is a native of Ekiti State; the first of four children. I now reside in Lagos and I really love making people laugh. I am presently an undergraduate at the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho.