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PAUSE Meets: Adekunle Gold

By February 26, 2020Featured, Music, Music Interviews
PAUSE MEETS:

Adekunle Gold

New Sound, New Album, New Label

Interview: Gracey Mae // @_graceymae
Styling: Jen Eleto // @jen_electro

Stylist Assistant: Jennifer Barisse // @gonewiththewindfabulousxo
Photographer: Zek // @zek.snaps
Featuring: Adekunle Gold // @adekunlegold

With Special Thanks To – Goodluck Hope

“By God’s grace it will happen. I don’t know how but it will happen…”

Bursting into the scene with his breakout hit single “Sade” Adekunle Gold is the Nigerian singer, songwriter who quickly become a household name after covering One Direction’s “Story Of My Life.” A fully-fledged creative, Adekunle Gold is a sculptor, painter and graphic designer; Gold started his career in the church choir before going on to write his first song at the age of 15. Ten years later, the highlife singer is reaping the rewards of his success with countless hits and awards. PAUSE caught up with Adekunle Gold, read what went down below:

Top – Bianca Saunders

Welcome Adekunle! It’s fair to say you’ve had an incredible 2019. You started off by getting married and followed up with tons of releases: Promise, Before You Wake Up, Kelegbe Megbe, By You, Tranquilizer, Live My Life and of course, Young Love. What was the highlight of last year for you?

My highlight for 2019 were playing the big festivals in Europe. Seeing a lot of people dancing whom most probably have not heard my music before. It was great joy to watch. The experience was also wonderful.

Amazing, let’s take it back. How did you get into music? You started with photoshop and design being your background. What caused the transition?

Oh yeah…so the correction is music came first. Photoshop came later. Every other thing came later. Yes, cos I was a church boy, then I was in the teens choir! I was hoping for a day where I was going to lead the church on one Sunday service; that was my goal but again, it never happened before I left the church. Yeah…then I went on to improving on my song writing. I auditioned for several reality shows…music reality shows. Where…I mean…I tried to show myself a bit more, you know? And then worked on my song writing, I was in a band called The Bridge. Then I decided to improve on my song writing even more! And then I released a cover of One Direction’s Story of My Life. Then Sade. And err…we’re here now! Whilst I was working in 2012 as a graphic artist, – like 2012 to 2014 – I worked in three companies, but I was making music alongside, you know. The money I made from work, I would put it into music, recording and everything but yeah. It’s been an interesting journey. Music has always been something that I’ve always loved. Every other thing came later. Graphic design. Photoshop. You know, I didn’t even know I was into fashion like that until even later, you know what I mean? But music came first for me and I will always choose it.

It’s so good that you mentioned Sade, obviously that’s my Yoruba name so that’s song has a special place in my heart but before that, you had written Orente, Friend Zone and Beautiful Night. So what was it about Sade that you thought would really make you blow?

So I had written Orente, I had written Friend Zone, I had written Beautiful Night, before Sade. That time you know I was independent. I didn’t even know anybody, I hadn’t gotten signed. I just knew those songs. I just knew I was passionate about those songs. I knew I loved them. I knew they were going to be amazing songs when I drop them but I didn’t want to waste them cos I didn’t have the power to push them, so I thought, let me just release this cover. Maybe the cover will do a bit of damage and then I can now release my songs later. And just like I planned it, it happened! Then I got signed and I thought, yeah, I think it’s time for Orente…and the rest is history!

Full look – Homme Plisse Issey M, Shoe – Nike

I love that. Your sound is different to 90% of the scene, most of your lyrics are in your native tongue, Yoruba; there’s storytelling, there’s live instruments, and I know before, you used to describe your sound as Urban Hi-life, but I feel like that sound is changing! What’s prevented you from going into the Zanku dance scene? What’s encouraged you to maintain your alté sound?

Because I don’t know how to do it! (laughs) You know what I mean like…Me? I would rather excel in a lane that I really know. What’s the point of ploughing a road that I don’t necessarily understand? I just feel like I would be lost. You know what I mean? So even if I get it right one time, what’s the guarantee I’ll get it right the second or third time? Fourth time?

Look what I’ve done! I’ve done Sade, Orente, Pick Up, Ready…all of those songs are songs that, you can wake me up at 2am, and I could write them. You know? But what changed recently, was that, cos like you said I used to call my genre Urban Hi-life, but, my ears started to open even more, you know. I started to listen to music – different genres. I started to f*ck with different sounds, you know. Before I used to listen to only indie, indie rock, pop songs…but then I started listening to hardcore rap. To even get the gist of what their conversation is like, in their music, you know what I mean? I started to listen to pretty much anything, and, I don’t know! I think I started to write gospel. My ears started to open even more.

I wouldn’t even call my sound Urban Hi-life anymore. I think I can comfortably say that I make Afro-pop. I make African Popular music. Now, I find myself jumping on any beat. If you give me a trap beat, I can turn it to something else, but then it would definitely be Adekunle Gold. You know what I mean? And I’ve started to use more English…I’m just in a space where I’m just doing anything that I like. I’m grateful that it’s really working…

I think I changed my sound at Call on Me. Call on Me is my most streamed song right now. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was even scared to release the song to be honest, because it was a different song entirely from everything I’ve done. But then, I’m a risk taker. I take risks a lot and then I just say “you know what, what’s the worst that will happen? People will say they don’t like it? And then I’ll do another one right? Okay, I’ll make it sweeter.” When I put the song out, I was not sure at first but then I saw the reaction of people, I was like ‘Oh, okay…maybe people are ready for a new Adekunle Gold’. You know and I started building it from there. Now, look at! Before You Wake Up is my fastest streaming song right now. I’ve seen people say that I have not done anything as good as Before You Wake Up, and I’m like wow! (giggle) So you listened to Ire, you listened to Sade, Orente, and you don’t like it as much as Before You Wake Up? I feel like as creatives we try to play it too safe; we just want to just do things that we think people love about us. We don’t even try to do something else. I mean, I feel like I’ve found the hack and I’m like, you know what? Let me just have fun. The most important thing is if I keep my originality on anything I put out, and it’s authentic to me, I think people will see. I know people can spot fraud, yeah, so if it’s not authentic to me, people will probably be able to tell. But people love these songs still, because I’ve found a way to just retain myself on whatever I jump on. You know? My voice is my voice. I can’t change my voice so even if I try to rap tomorrow, I’ll probably sound like me. So, yeah, I released Kelegbe Megbe which is an absolute banger. I’ve seen people say this is my best song so far, and that’s a different music entirely to everything I’ve done, you know. It’s a mellow, almost rap, trap vibe…you know? And then, I just found a way to put my soul on it. Then boom! Again, just to go back from where we coming, cos I feel like I’ve said a lot of things, Afro-pop is currently where I’m sitting, and I’m loving it.

It’s so funny that you’re even saying that because listening to the three remixes of Before You Wake Up, I was like, ‘WOW! This is a completely different Adekunle Gold to who I’ve heard before” and it works! It fits. Even when you’re talking about Kelegbe Megbe, it still has your signatures on it. Live instruments, proper story telling, so I’m loving the evolution of AG. If we go back to your very first big performance. Eko Hotel. 5,000 people. Do you remember that night?

Of course! Like yesterday. I was so jittery; I was so scared. I mean, I was just a one-song sensation guy. From being a photoshop king (I mean, I always am, I always will be!) But yeah, it was just this king of photoshop guy that released a song that people started to love, and then yeah. And then I was on stage. For the first, I mean, not for the first time, but I was on that BIG stage for the first time, like over 5,000 people at Eko Hotel, that came to watch me! And I’m like, (sigh) BOY! (laugh) This is f*cking amazing. I didn’t even know what to expect, where people going to love this song? Did people even know the song enough to even sing along with me? Or was I in my head thinking, I had it all together, you know what I mean? When they called my name and I saw people scream, and then they started singing the song with me, that felt really really good. That one thing pushed me to just give it my all, and that was that.

And do you have the same feeling and the same nerves now? The last time I saw you in concert was your sold-out show at the Indigo, O2. The production was crazy, the dancers were mental, your outfits were killer. Do you still have that same feeling when you’re selling out venues?

I feel like, I don’t think it will ever end. I will always be nervous. Even if it’s not a lot, I will always be nervous before any show because sometimes I don’t know what to expect. I just can’t explain the feeling. That little anxiety, like ‘yeah, it’s about to be another one’. And then I just go. But what helps me all the time is, I remind myself, ‘this is what you’ve always wanted. Chai! Go and do it. Get on that stage boy! Kill it. Do what you do best! Just have fun.’ I played Longitude [Festival] in the last two weeks, right, and it’s a new crowd entirely! It’s Dublin! And then I didn’t know what to expect. First, I didn’t even know if people would come to my set because somebody has just played there, and I heard that it was really packed. And then, I’m just this African boy, that’s not even as popular as some African boys that you know, you know what I mean like? And then I was just wondering, okay, what’s going to happen? Are people even going to come out for me? A no-one? When we started, when they announced my name, and we started playing the music, I lost my mind! It was f*cking amazing. Everything…it felt new! The energy was too much. I’m like, ‘nah! I should’ve been doing this for a long time.’ You know what I mean? I should have been playing to new crowds. You know when people don’t even necessarily know all the songs, but the energy, the joy in their faces…you can tell they were loving every bit of it. That made me really happy. That made me REALLY really happy. So, you know, sometimes I get a bit nervous and I’ve concluded that it’s never going to stop, but then, I’m good. When I get on stage, I’m a different person entirely. It doesn’t affect me, it’s just that before I get on stage, there’s that little anxiety, but I get over it.

Full Look – Daily Paper, Shoe – Russel and Bromley

I love that you took it there because obviously, the AG Summer Tour was epic. You’ve already mentioned Longitude Festival in Dublin but you also did Lovebox Festival, Latitude Festival, Afronation, along with dates in New York, Washington DC and Toronto. What country shows you the most love?

Of course, my home – Naija [Nigeria] but honestly, I think it’s between, I don’t even know who’s the strongest, London has been amazing to me. I’ve done two shows in London and they‘ve always sold out. I think it’s between London and Naija. I mean, UK and Naija. Because I can’t explain it, the love that London shows me is real. I’ve played in other places like Manchester, I’ve played in Birmingham, and it’s been straight vibes. You know? It’s a tough competition.

If any of our readers haven’t seen you live in concert, or live in festival, what should they expect?

Fire! My band, I have the best band in the world. Quote me. Their name is The 79th Element which means gold. You know how I can be? (laugh) I have the best band, and all we do on stage, no matter what stage, is have fun! We play, you will think we’re in rehearsals because of how we play. We’re always having fun, even at the Playground; the Playground is my studio. Right! So we just bring that energy on stage. It’s always fun – always straight vibes. We sing, we dance and we do soul! We give you some jazz, and then we do the master one. Everything African. I feel like I could go on and on about my gigs and my band, but hey, anytime we announce a show in your city, do not miss that sh*t. Don’t!

You touched on the 79th Element which is gold; obviously on the periodic table the symbols for gold is AU. Your record label is called Afro Urban which is also AU. Is there anything else we can look forward to that might have a little sprinkle of Gold on it? Maybe a fashion line? Because your fashion sense right now is killing the game!

(laughs) I’ve been stalling on that one for a bit because I just don’t want to put out anything. I’m very keen on details and I can be a bit of a perfectionist and there’s something in the works around the fashion that I’m going to release very soon. But more importantly, I’m releasing a new project this year. It’s different from everything I have done. I’m going to give you the title here, exclusively. The title is Afro Pop.

We heard 10 or so tracks from you last year. When are we getting the new album?

The album should be out within the 1st Quarter of 2020.

Okay, so not too long to wait…About 30, your last album, was a killer. You’ve mentioned Call on Me and Ire which were two of my faves from that album. You’ve said the new album going to be really different, are we talking about style or execution?

Style, sound, features! I’ll tell you again, everything I touch, everything I lay my hands on, will be authentic and it will totally be on it. So, it’s me just trying something new. But trust me, if you like Before You Wake Up, if you love Kelegbe Megbe, I’m telling you, you don’t know what to expect. It’s everything different and amazing. I’ve worked with different producers in the world. Gone to LA. Sat with different producers. It’s too much! Worked with producers in the UK. Just watch out for Afro Pop.

We will keep our eyes peeled! You’ve mentioned features. We’ve heard that your dream collaboration would be Bruno Mars. Can we cross our fingers for this to happen some time soon?

By God’s grace it will happen. I don’t know how but it will happen. Just look out for it! He’s my best friend, he just doesn’t know it yet.

On the topic of best friends, when I last saw you in person – it was you and Moelogo doing the bromance. Are you guys still close? We haven’t seen you together online in ages!

I live in his house [when I’m in the UK]. That’s my guy!

Okay, back to the fashion! You’ve already said that there’s a fashion line in the works, but you want it to be perfect so you’re not going to throw your hand at anything. You’ve also mentioned in the past that you’ve worked with Orange Culture as a stylist for you. What kind of things do you look for in an outfit?

The thing is my fashion…is like…you know how some people have rules, and say, ‘you can’t wear something. You don’t wear this or that,’ for me, one golden rule is, if you’re comfortable in it, wear that sh*t. That’s me! I’m not bound by anything, so I just tell my guys what I want when they ask me what I’m going for, I just give them a mood board. I say this is the type of thing I’m going for now. I’m done wearing blazers. I’m done wearing jackets. I tell them the kind of mood I want, like right now, I’m on my Don Dada mood. So, I tell them, anything to make me look like a Don Dada, just give me that. And then we draw out somethings, and then they now pull some things. For Kelegbe Megbe video, I had told the director the kind of things…the kind of fashion I wanted to see. This is the kind of mood I want, and it came out exactly how I wanted it to. I just tell them what I’m feeling in the moment.

The fashion statements in the Kelegbe Megbe music video were crazy. There was bold print, bright colours…all kinds of Ankara. Is that the motive you’re trying to push? Should we be buying from more African designers? Should we be representing the culture?

That’s what I’ve always done, you know. For the longest time, if you remember, I used to wear Adire. I wear Adire a lot. I’ve always been about buying African because if we don’t do these things, who will do it for us? My problem is we see here and keep buying things from another place, right! Expensive brands that people don’t necessarily buy where they’re made from but we consume it the most in Africa, and then we neglect, the fact that we have our own as well. But let an international celebrity from Hollywood, for example, jump on something that’s our own! The way they will take it and cherish it, it will now become very cool, and that’s when we now start to follow it, when we’ve always had it. Like, it’s always been cool to wear Ankara. It’s always been cool to wear Adire. It’s always been cool to buy African stuff, right. Let’s not wait ‘til we get the validation from outside, that’s so sh*t. It’s about time, we should patronise our own selves. Let’s do this thing for us. Let’s put our own products on the map. Let people see it and be like ‘yes, this is cool.’ This is our vibe; that’s what I was even saying in Kelegbe Megbe. “Money cannot buy charisma”. I don’t care if you buy Gucci from now until tomorrow, it will not give you swag! You know what I mean? It’s owned. It doesn’t come over night, you just own that thing, and Africans, we have it. So, you know, let’s patronise each other more. Let’s buy African stuff. Let’s grow and encourage our talents. I have Rogue, that styles me. Kemakolam. Orange Culture. There’s a lot of them, and these people are not necessarily big budget designers, but they have a niche and they’re really good.

See, I love that. One of the many things I love about you is that not only do you support local designers but you’re not afraid to push your fashion to the edge. So, one of the things that we’ve seen over the last few music videos is heavy accessories, edgy fit…You’re really showing Africa men that you don’t have to be boring with your fashion.

So, we’ve spoken about Kelgbe Megbe so much, let’s wrap up by telling our readers about your new project, Afro Pop. I personally love the songs that I heard at the exclusive listening party. It was so much fun to see your fans voting for the favourite tracks to be included on the EP. Did their responses surprise you, and is the EP ready?

Funny enough it was not a listening party, it was actually a First Listen. I wanted my fans to be a part of the song selection for the upcoming project ‘Afro Pop’ and to be honest it felt good that my fans picked all the songs lol.

We can’t wait! Before you go, what else can we expect for the rest of the year?

More Great Music, More Videos, More Fun From AG Baby, Tours and exciting Collaborations.

If we want to look out for those announcements, where can we find you online?

@adekunlegold on every platform: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. And then my website, www.adekunlegold.com. Also, I send exclusive gist to people if you follow me [on my website], you’ll receive emails from me. You’ll know that you only get gist first so if you want to receive exclusive gist from me, about me, about my life and stuff, just visit my www.adekunlegold.com/join. That’s how to get exclusive information from me, authentic ones!

I love that, thank you so much Adekunle! It’s been a pleasure having you on Pause Magazine. Any last words for our readers?

I just want to say thank you for supporting me. [This] year is going to be amazing for all of us – thank you!

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