Olawale Ojo got everyone’s attention when he emerged winner of MTN Project Fame Season 6
With the release of his debut single ‘Is Notin’, Olawale is fully set to kick-start his music career. In an interview during a recent visit to the NET HQ in Lagos, the 25-year-old singer talks about his journey to fame through the Project Fame platform and his experiences during the music talent reality TV show.
Tell us about your new single ‘Is Notin’
I recorded it the first time I entered a recording studio. Before Project Fame, I was only writing songs but never had the chance to go into a studio to record any. So I was in the studio listening to a beat by DJ Klem and what just came to my mind was ‘Is Notin’ and that was how the first few lines of the song came about.
It’s your first single; how has the reception been so far?
It has been encouraging. A lot of people like it and I have been getting positive feedback.
People say that music talents from talent hunt shows don’t succeed in the industry, does that scare you?
I am not scared because there have been a lot of successful stories of music acts from talent hunt shows. I believe I can be one of these successful people. What I just have to do is work hard and do my part. I have carried myself to this level, so I don’t see why I can’t go further.
What is the next step for you after this new single?
Before I think about releasing another song, I have to first shoot a video for this new single. Any other project has to be after I release the video of this new single.
Tells us about yourself before Project Fame?
I grew up in Ibadan and I am the first of four children. I was just a normal guy that loved singing. It was during the Academic Staff Union of Universities strike last year that a friend advised me to go for any of these talent hunt shows. Initially I told him I can’t go for such because I don’t like competitions but after a while I thought about it and decided to go for Project Fame. My friend Segun actually got me the Project Fame form, before I was invited for the auditions in Ilorin.
How did the audition go, were you picked instantly?
No, I wasn’t even picked at the Ilorin auditions though I got to the second stage. It was a guy I met there that advised me to go for another audition in Ibadan. At first I was skeptical about it, telling myself that maybe it wasn’t my time. When I got to the Ibadan audition, my number was after 600. I got to the judge and he just said ‘no, come back next year.’ I got outside and got another number and tried making my way to another set of judges but the bouncers directed me back to the same judge that gave me a no. ‘I thought I told you no the other time, why are you here again?’ the judge asked me. I told him I came back because I believed in myself. I sang my lines and he said yes to me. The second day of auditioning, I got three straight yes, and that was how I found myself in Project Fame.
Let’s go back a little now. When did you start singing?
I started music as a hobby because I never thought I was going to do anything with it. It just started from me being interested in music and then when I joined The Redeemed Christian Church of God when I got to the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, I learnt how to play the keyboard and drum. I joined the choir also and that was when I started singing very well and people started noticing my talent. The passion grew stronger, but I didn’t think I would take music as a career. I had a shop in school where I was selling and repairing laptop computers and phones and I thought I would probably be some sort of big computer store owner when I graduated from school.
What were your experiences in Project Fame?
Project Fame has actually helped me a lot. When I was singing in the church, I was doing it for God and was not particularly bothered about the response of the audience. Project Fame taught me how to be an entertainer and how to get my response from the audience when I am performing. It was not easy for me during my first performances; the first five weeks were very difficult for me because I had never had such experience before.
Did you think you could win Project Fame when it started?
For me to get to that level alone was enough for me. Considering the fact that it was my first experience, I didn’t expect to go far. Being there was enough for me. I just wanted to enjoy myself and give my best with every song and performance. When I won, I was surprised.
Are you under any record label?
I am not under a record label; I won a one-year record deal with MTN. I’m just under M.e.tal which is a management company.
Who were your early music influences?
I listened to the likes of Ginuwine, Marie, Neyo, and 2Face. It was mainly more of the international artistes because most of Nigerian artistes were not doing R&B.
How has life in the music industry been since Project Fame?
I am at the experimental stage of my career now and I am still getting to discover my style as an artiste. I have been working with different producers to discover who I really am as an artiste. Music is what I love doing and the experiences so far have been awesome. It is a blessing from God that I am where I am now. The passion I have for music was so strong and I knew something was going to come out from it, but I didn’t just know how it was going to happen.
You are still experimenting, but do you have an idea what you want to sound like yet?
What actually made me popular in Project Fame was a Fuji song and performance I did. I discovered that people liked it a lot. So I would love to have a blend of Fuji sound and the R&B sound in my songs.
How have you coped with the change of life since Project Fame?
Not much has changed; I have to remain who I was. People have been calling me and asking if I remembered them and I wonder why they ask such questions because Project Fame has not wiped my memory. People actually expect me to be proud but I see myself as someone who has not achieved anything yet.
What do you hope to achieve in the music industry?
I hope to first of all make my name popular in Nigeria. I want a situation where people will hear me sing and they will know it is Olawale. There is nobody that will hear a Wizkid song and not know its Wizkid because he has his sound.
Who do you hope to work with in the industry?
Tiwa Savage and Sound Sultan are the first to come to mind because they are musicians I admire a lot. I worked with Tiwa Savage during Project Fame and it’s something I would love to experience again because we connected well musically.
Will we be seeing you do gospel songs as a church boy that you are?
I don’t think so. This is my work and my service to God still remains no matter what. It is my profession and I am an entertainer so I will be doing stuff that will appeal to everybody despite their religious differences.
Have you met any ‘Groupie’ yet?
I have not really gone out a lot. It has just been from my house to the studio, so I haven’t met any yet.
How do you intend to handle them when you eventually meet them?
People who have been there have been handling it so I can. I know it comes with fame, and the female fans are very important to us, so I am going to tread careful and with God’s help they won’t be a problem.
Tell us about the prizes you won in Project Fame?
I got a record deal, a car and N5M.
What did you do with the money?
My family supported me in a lot of ways during Project Fame and I had to drop something for them. I had friends who also went the extra mile to help me, so I had to settle them also. The first thing I bought with the money was a keyboard and I gave my former keyboard to my younger brother.
Do your parents still have any doubts about you becoming a musician?
I don’t think they have any doubt now. They will only have a problem if I don’t go back to school and finish my education, but I already told them I intend to finish schooling and get my degree in Agronomy.