In a recent interview, MTN Project Fame 6 winner Olawale Ojo talked about his struggles before the competition, and how the ASUU strike had pushed him into registering for the competition.
Excerpts from the interview below.
Q: Shortly after you were announced winner of the MTN project Fame, you said your mind was still blank to express how you felt. It is more than 48 hours now, so how are you feeling?
I feel blessed. I feel that everything around just worked for me this season because I didn’t really expect to come out as the winner this season. It’s about God because I don’t believe there is something I did that others didn’t do. It was the grace of God and the people that voted for me. I’m really grateful to all the people that believed in me and voted. I wouldn’t have won without them. Basically, I feel this is God’s grace because at a point in the competition, I was almost evicted, so when you look at everything from beginning to the end, you will realise that it is God’s grace.
If you didn’t envisage winning the competition, what was your plan when you registered to participate at the auditions?
I came up to register when ASUU was on strike, and this was my first time to participate in a music competition. I didn’t really come with too much determination, but anywhere I find myself, I always try to give my best in all I do. So, when I got into the academy, I didn’t have a choice than to give my best for everything.
So ASUU strike actually pushed you to Project Fame?
Yes, but I believe that is how God wants it to be. The strike is a blessing in disguise for me.
Who is Olawale?
I am a normal guy and like I said, I am into sales and repairs of phones and laptops, and I do that in school just to make some money. But I love music so much. I play the piano, drums and I sing in my church choir. I was the music director of my church choir for two years before I left for school. Basically, that’s just me. My life has just been music and business. I just try to add value to myself.
Tell us more about your experience as a phone and laptop repairer?
I started as a lover of gadgets because I know much about gadgets. Like some people will call me love-vendor. I use to love-vendor their phones. It was expensive then to put some media applications like Bible on phones. It was a luxury then, and that was what I was actually doing. I later graduated into selling phones. I started knowing the problems that are peculiar with some phones and how to fix them. I didn’t really go for any special training though. I am not saying that I am very good at repairs, I do it basically based on the experience I have with phones.
How lucrative was the business, and did you sponsor yourself to school with it?
I didn’t sponsor myself to school, my parents did that. But there are some extra money needed in school that you can’t ask your parents; that was the type of money I was making. At times, I feel like taking some responsibilities myself, so I need to get extra cash.
As a millionaire now, how do you intend to cope with your colleagues in school when the ASUU strike is over? Will there be any pressure on you?
I think the only change is that I meet a lot of people and people know me now. I wasn’t this popular, but now I am popular. I think that is just the difference. I am still Olawale. The only thing different is just that I am now popular and I have to be more conscious of my career now because I have to work more on my songs. I have to make sure I don’t disappoint my fans out there. The work has changed.
Project Fame had produced five previous winners before you. What are your plans to rank among the most successful ones?
Basically, I am sure that those that have won it before didn’t achieve that because of what they did, but that is God’s plan for them, and I believe that God’s time is the best; if you come out at the wrong time, then you might just crash. I am putting everything to God and I will just play my part, work hard and make sure I write good songs. But everything depends on God. He knows when He needs me to come out, when people needs to know me. My music will not be a do-or-die affair. I didn’t bring myself to the Project Fame academy, God did, and He is able to sustain me.
You sound very religious…
I won’t say that I’m too religious, but at the same time, I believe so much in God. Looking at my journey from the beginning of the competition to the end, it has been God. I was almost evicted at a point.
You started from the church as a choir coordinator, and now you are a winner of the project fame. Are you going to play gospel or secular music?
I’m not doing gospel music, and my personal composition at the Project Fame finals wasn’t gospel music. I believe that God created love and dance, which is not bad for us. I don’t believe that everything should be gospel; music should be either positive or negative. Even if a secular song has a message of love, it is good, but there are some music that don’t deliver love, and I wouldn’t go into such music.
Before the Project Fame competition, how well did you study the Nigerian music industry?
I am very observant and listen a lot. I don’t really listen to Nigerian music, but at a point, I realised that my culture is important, so I started listening to it. I actually wanted to know what they do that make people scream and shout their names, understand their kind of music and know the type that sells. For a song to sell, it has to have African trade mark on it, either you put Yoruba language or you put pidgin English. WizKid, 2Face, P-Square and others put something of these languages into their music; that is one major thing I have discovered. With that, their music flows in a way that even a roadside mechanic can get your message and enjoy it. That is music that both the rich and poor can listen to.
Are there any Nigerian artistes that you draw inspiration from?
I don’t draw it from one person. I draw experience from different sources, so I will say they all have their own peculiarity. I am a very flexible person, and have decided to throw myself open so I can learn a lot. They are all great, so I will try picking one or two things from each of them and add them to my own and pray better things will come out of it by God’s grace.
Despite having a good music background before coming to the Project Fame, what have you learnt in the academy?
I have learnt to have confidence in myself. I sing in church but have not been in this kind of platform before. Project Fame is my very first experience, the first time I will appear on TV. At a point, I became nervous. The first time I came on stage, it was written all over me that this guy is scared, but the Faculty members worked on me. I really appreciate them. They helped me manage those weaknesses and now, I’m more confident on stage and believe in myself, despite the fact that I have a small stature.
What was the most challenging thing you encountered in the academy?
Like I said, I do business, so am used to it. I don’t have problem with my co-contestants, don’t quarrel, and I don’t get angry easily, so everything was just fun for me.
While the competition lasted, was there any other contestant you had feelings for?
You were never close to any of them?
One thing is that throughout the competition, I made sure I wasn’t too close to one person. Samuel was my birthday mate; Roland’s bed was beside my bed. As for Immaculate, I learnt from her. But I didn’t really have a favourite.
Was there any contestant’s eviction that really hit you?
Everybody. During the first eviction in the show, people were weeping, but I wasn’t crying. At a point, some of them were like ‘come on, are you not human?’ and I told them that this is a competition and it is normal for people to be evicted. Besides, your crying won’t bring the person back. I was determined that even if I was evicted, I won’t cry, but I focussed on my task. Each time anyone gets evicted, I always feel for them, but that is how it is meant to be.
Since you emerged winner, have you spoken to your girlfriend on phone?
I don’t have a girlfriend.
Nothing, I’m still young.
How old are you?
I’m just 25.
That is not too young to have a girlfriend
I see myself as a young boy. Look at me, do I look like someone that can maintain a girlfriend?
But you’re now a millionaire. Your level has changed?
It’s not about the level, I’m still Olawale and I don’t look like someone that can maintain a girlfriend.
Where do you see Olawale in the next few years?
Majorly, I see myself as a very different person, coming into the music industry with my own originality, and I don’t want to lose it for any reason.
Who is likely to be the first artiste you will work with?
I don’t know. I can’t really predict. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.