25 July 2022

5 Minutes with Adekunle Gold: The Nigerian Afropop singer on quitting his nine-to-five to pursue music

HUNGER catches up with the Lagos native following the release of his latest single ‘Five Star’.

Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Adekunle Gold, burst onto the scene back in 2015. Although he’s provided a fresh and exciting sound within the highlife genre, Gold isn’t one to rest on his laurels and is always on the search for innovation. After gaining recognition from his debut single, ‘Sade’, Gold was contacted by one of Africa’s biggest acts, Olamide, to join his music imprint for two years. Since then, Gold has been on a journey of self-discovery and experimentation, as evidenced by his acclaimed 2017 album, Gold. 

His latest album Catch Me If You Can was released in February this year and has already received high praise from critics and fans alike. With features from the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Stefflon Don and Lucky Daye, it seems like the only way is up for Gold. Here, HUNGER catches up with the musician to discuss quitting his job to make music and more…

How did you start with music? 

I started from the church. Pretty much everyone’s story right? My dad allowed us to go to church and I say allow because he was a Muslim and our mum at the time was also a Muslim but my dad was a liberal man and he saw religion as education as well so it was ok for him to allow us to go to church for us to just learn. But while I was in church I joined the teen choir and that’s where my interest in music developed.

Your track ‘Sade’ blew up after you decided to quit your job in finance, was this a difficult decision? How quickly did your life change? 

It was a tough decision to make but I was going to do it anyways so it was hard at that time quitting my job where I was earning good money. I was working in marketing at that point because I studied Art & Industrial Design and I majored in Graphics and the last job I was doing before ‘Sade’ was a Brand Manager role at the company so I was in charge of campaigns and all. It was an interesting line for me that I had just gotten into and that’s when I said you know what let me give this music my full attention and thankfully God bless the song ‘Sade’ as my life changed forever.

Afterwards, you pivoted to Afropop and that saw you really gain a following with ‘Pretty Girl’. Did this feel like your big break? 

‘Pretty Girl’ wasn’t my big break. I think the big break started from ‘Before You Wake Up’ and that was before the Afropop Vol 1 album and that’s where I started to introduce the sound a lot more. It kind of all started with ‘Call On Me’ after I released the Gold album but I feel like the big break kind of started from ‘Before You Wake Up’.

Did it feel risky to pivot to a new sound? How did your followers react?

Hell yeah, it was. You must be a crazy person to change what’s working. I had just released ‘Gold’ and everyone was talking about me. I was a breath of fresh air according to people, like it felt good to bring that sound to a mainstream world but I knew that I could do more and I decided to change it. It was a hard decision to make, I had to do a lot of convincing even to people around me, I lost some friends on the way but I’m glad I did it anyways as if I didn’t do it I’d have never forgiven myself.

Are you going to mix it up again?

You’ll never know. Well just stick around and you’ll know. Even me, I don’t know what I’m capable of sometimes. I just come up with something and then I just run with it.

Could you define your sound in five words? 

I think I’d say Everything You Didn’t Know Existed.

What did you grow up listening to? 

I grew up listening to Highlife and Juju music and a bit of Fuji music but Highlife for the most part.

What’s your earliest musical memory? Anything that really stands out?

My earliest musical memory must be when I was in a boy band called The Bridge. I remember how my friend and I would save our instrumentals and music on a floppy disk. We had a little keyboard that was church owned. We’d do all of our rehearsals and then we’d put it on a floppy disk but little did we know that not all the churches had the same type of keyboard so we’d end up going to the church to perform fully live. We’d have done all of the work on the floppy disk feeling like yeah we’re going to kill it today only to get there and be like rah they don’t have the floppy disk machine so we have to do this thing live but then we’d go on stage and kill it still. I just found it fascinating that we planned so much and then we’d just end up doing it all over again on stage.

Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to songwriting? Do you find it easier to write about your personal experiences, for example?

I actually find it easiest to write about my personal experiences, you know my personal encounters with people, with life and everything. The first thought that comes to my mind is what I write about for the most part.

If you could only listen to three artists for the rest of your life who would they be? 

Honestly, it would be myself Adekunle Gold, Simi and Bruno Mars.

What do you do when you’re stuck in a songwriting rut? Favourite way to decompress?

I leave it. I don’t know how to force writing, if it’s not working, I leave it and then come back to it another day. That’s why I don’t finish my songs on time. Sometimes I finish a song in 7 months or a year. If it’s not working at the moment, don’t stress about it. Come back to it another day. That’s my mantra.

Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?

Bruno Mars.

Favourite song to get the party started?

Just start with ‘High’ bro and the party is already lit!

What’s been the most surreal moment of your career so far? 

There are a lot of them but the one that comes to mind right now is selling out the Lincoln Centre in New York. It’s crazy how it rained that day. it was an open-air event and it rained just before my show was about to start and I was so pissed like why would it rain that day of all the days. And it’s crazy how people ran to take cover somewhere and when it stopped they came back. That was unbelievable for me as I would have thought that people would have just come home because they can’t stay in the rain so they’d leave and go back home and the show would be empty but people came back when the rain stopped and I felt so loved.

How will you know if you’ve made it in music? 

I’ve already made it. My music is sung back to me. everywhere. I release music today and it’s on everyone’s lips young and old. My songs have changed people’s lives. People have memories of when my songs dropped and what it did for them. I’ve made it. I’m happy. There’s more to do but I’ve made it.

How do you want to be seen as an artist? 

I want to be seen as living. Like I’m living my life on my own terms and not doing things anybody’s way, just living and enjoying myself.

Finally, what does music mean to you, how does it enrich your life on a day-to-day basis?

Music is my entirety, music is my life. It’s something I really really enjoy doing. If I don’t do any other thing in this world, I’m just happy making music. It makes me happy. Sometimes it’s the reason I get up to just go and try something to get into the studio and just whip up sounds. Music is it, music is my entirety.

Adekunle Gold’s new single ‘5 Star’ is out now. He plays a headline show at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on October 9th.

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Image Credit Simon Thiselton

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