After a few years of serenading her fans with great tunes including “Jamb Question,” “Open and Close” and recently, “Joromi” beside the EP with Falz the Bahd Guy titled “Chemistry,” Simi has a self-titled album, “Simisola” to her name. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, the X3M Music act and producer born as Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye speaks on music, life and her career so far. Excerpts…
What category is this album of yours, debut or sophomore?
It’s my sophomore album; I had a gospel album back in 2008. It did what it could do at that time but it was definitely not as big as this one. Of course I wasn’t as big as I am now then.
Why did you switch to secular music after releasing a gospel album almost 10 years ago?
I just wanted to do more with my music. I wanted to be an all-round artiste.
Will you then say you are more of that now? Are you fulfilled?
I’ve always been fulfilled. I was fulfilled when I did gospel music so I wouldn’t say I feel more fulfilled or less fulfilled today.
Looking at your self-titled album, what can you say about the reception so far?
I’m extremely blown away because when I put out the track list and it had only one feature, a lot of people were sceptical about it. They doubted whether it was going to be good enough. I was a bit nervous, but at the same time I wasn’t and I have to say the reception has been amazing. We are topping the charts and we are really excited about that.
Is that supposed to mean the success of an album depends the number of people featured on it?
A lot of people think so. For example, Jay Cole is a rapper who went platinum twice without featuring anyone, meaning it’s a big deal to do that by yourself. That means a lot of people attach major importance to features when it comes to the success of an album. A lot of people tend to think that way.
Don’t you feel you would shoot yourself in the foot by featuring just one person?
I don’t think so because some of the biggest songs I’ve actually done are the ones I featured artistes. I don’t have any problem doing features. For this album, my plan was not to have any features. There were things I wanted to do but they did not work out. I expect the lifespan of my music to be on for a while. This is not the end of my career, so because I did not do features on this one does not mean I won’t do features on another album.
Would you say featuring Adekunle Gold is a sort of payback for what he did on the album?
No, it’s an incredible coincidence but it’s not a payback. I wrote a song, Take Me Back, four years ago and we decided we were going to do the song together. Mind you, that was before he dropped his album and it turned out that at that time the song was compiled, the only song that had a feature with him on it, so there is no scheme.
Did you write all the songs yourself?
Yes, apart from Adekunle’s verse in the song and in Aimasiko, the song was like a mix of the original.
How did you feel about Adekunle using your name to sing?
It’s very flattering. My two favourite Adekunle Gold songs are Sade and Orente.
So what’s going on in your personal life?
Well the things I would like to keep close are about my personal life. Because like I always say when you are doing music or you’re acting, being in the entertainmen generally makes your life become entertainment. So you have to keep that part to yourself.
Are you in a relationship?
One thing that I like to keep very close is my personal life, not just my relationships. But yes, I’m in a relationship. I’ve never denied that, but I just won’t say with whom.
At the point you wanted to put out your album, were you scared about the reception you would get?
Anything is possible; you know it’s not possible for anybody to like everything, even the biggest legends have someone that does not like them. So I knew that there would be people that would say ‘this is not my thing.’ And many people that would like you. One thing is that I have never been scared of failure. I feel like you learn when you fail. For me, it was like: ‘What are people going to say? Are the things I did wrong the ones that people would notice?’
Your song, Joromi, explores a rare theme. How much of that relates to your life?
It could be, I mean the reason why it seems the girl is bolder than usual is because I’m singing about it. If you think about it, she is not saying anything to the guy. What you hear me sing are just her thoughts. So, she is just trying to give the guy signs.
Although regarded as un-African, do you consider it advisable for a girl to drop hints for a guy she likes?
There is nothing wrong in showing a guy you like him, I mean there are definitely boundaries and there is a limit that you should adhere to, not that you should just go out and be all over him. But there is nothing wrong in it. Like I always say, for example you see a guy that thinks because she says it then he would be very rude and very dismissive, that’s unnecessary because they like you. A guy that thinks she is cheap because she shows she likes him has a very small mind.
Two distinct things about you are your vocals and physique. Growing up, how much did these work to your disadvantage?
I noticed as I was growing up, that I was defensive because I was small. I used to feel that everybody would want to take advantage of me because of that. I’ve always been a strong-minded person, before you give me two I would give you five. I had to learn how to survive. Not everybody is trying to take advantage of you though, but I’m always sharp and ready to give it back to those who want to. My voice has always been an advantage for me, people that try to mimic my voice when I’m talking, I hate it so much.
What message would you say you are trying to pass to fans in this album?
Basically, the songs are like a compilation of stories. Some of the songs are things
I’ve experienced and things I have seen other people experience. And also the things I’ve felt and thought about, based on how things should be. For example, Love Don’t Care is very introspective. I’m thinking, is this how it’s supposed to be? I come from a culture where there is tribalism especially if you’re dating someone outside your tribe. People would say: ‘Are you sure it’s the right thing?’ So I’m thinking also: ‘Is this how love is supposed to be?’ I like to sing about real life. I sing what people can think about and say ‘yeah, that’s true.’
Looking through your songs would make it seem they are fixated on love and relationships
True; I have songs which are talking about them but not all of them are saying the exact thing. Like if you listen to Love Don’t Care, Tiff, Smile for Me, and Jamb Question, they are all telling different stories about the same thing, and I think love is the most universal thing. But if you listen to the entire album, not all of them are talking about love.
What kind of lover would you say you are? Are you a fierce lover?
I’m a loyal lover. I would like to say sacrificial, but that is very deep. But I’m loyal; and when I’m in, I’m all in.
So what would really put you off?
For me, trust is the foundation. If I can’t trust you it’s hard for me to be with you. I think I love Nigeria men. People expect them to be trash and they also expect them to have bad attitude and they use that as a bad excuse. So if they mess around they say he’s a man and that’s what they do. But we are all responsible for our decision. You’re not responsible for all Nigeria men’s decision. If I meet someone and date someone that means I’m with you because I know you and what you are offering and I know what I’m bringing to the table. Whatever I’m doing for you I expect the same.
So why do you think men in Nigeria are not romantic?
They feel they are entitled to somethings. There are many men who grew up with this feeling that they are entitled to something. It’s been that way for generations. A man needs to feel like he has to fight for something because he thinks that she will always say ‘I’m sorry.’
Do you agree that an international collaboration add to an artiste’s resume?
Yes, it actually does, because if I do a song with Rihanna, there is a certain clout it will give me. It’s like expanding. When you feature it’s like you are adding something.
Talking about Falz, you guys had such musical chemistry that fans were expecting you to feature him in your album. Why didn’t you?
I have an entire EP with Falz. I’m sure we are going to do other things together but if you want to listen to something on me and Falz, we have entire project to listen to. I wanted to do something else.
It seems there is a love triangle brewing. Should we expect an EP from you and Adekunle Gold or maybe the three of you?
That would be funny
How did you meet Adekunle Gold and Falz?
I can’t remember where we met but I recall I saw him at a show where I was performing. He came to watch. He had been listening to my songs when I was doing gospel music. He said he was a fan and from there, we became friends. I never knew he was a singer. As for Falz, I think he heard a song I did, we hooked up in the studio and he listened to my song. Soldier was the song actually, he heard it and felt we should do something but it did not come out at the time