By Pamela Echemunor
Multi platinum-selling singer, songwriter, TV show host and judge on Nigerian Idols, Darey Art- Alade, shot into limelight in 2004 he participated in the musical reality show, Project.
Fame -South Africa. Although he did not win, he didn’t let that kill his inherent passion for music.
He has since released several record breaking albums since then including, Undareyted, DoubleDare and recently, Naked. He also has his Love like a Movie concert which is set to hold its 3rd
season soon. In this interview, he talks about his rise, his challenges and what he’s doing next.
What was growing up like for you?
It was fun, plenty of family love, and dynamic changes. For example, my voice broke the year my father died. I was only 12 years old at that time. But prior to that time, we moved around a lot; growing up in different parts of Lagos.
Everybody was older than me so, I was always the onerunning around sometimes, without shoes. I was very athletic, playing tennis, football and basketball at a young age. I was quite creative but music never came into the picture until I got into secondary school.
Which is your favourite sport?
That’s tough to say. Nowadays, I play tennis more than basketball or football. I think my favourite is between basketball and tennis although I’m a die-hard arsenal fan!
What is music to you?
Music is everything; music is emotion, expression, life, food to me. Music is everything.
You’ve come a long way since Project Fame in 2004, how would you describe your first experience performing professionally?
I don’t even remember my first professional performance because when I started, just like everybody else, I was doing cover songs in night clubs here and there, opening shows for people. And you know, I started with classical music. So, I can’t specifically pinpoint at what point I started performing professionally.
But if we are talking about my first paycheck, I can’t remember. But the time I spent performing in the church, the Muson Centre and at clubs was an amazing time and experience for me.
During your time in the house, what was your biggest fear?
I guess not making my people at home happy, not knowing if my performance was up to standard, you know Nigerians have high expectations. I think that was my worry, plus we didn’t have any feedback.
We were not allowed to watch news or read newspapers or anything.
So even if there was a world war outside in the real world, we wouldn’t have known.
With each album, you continue to amaze your listeners. What would you say is the secret to your success?
It’s the grace of God, that’s all I can say and a good support system. My family has always been there for me; my siblings, my late mum, my wife and children.
What inspires you to write songs?
Different subjects, different moods and the differentpeople I work with. It really depends on the studio session and the theme and direction we want to go with in each album. I also like to put myself in people’s shoes, not necessarily always making it about myself, people and their different experiences. It needs to come from a real place, because as a creative person, you should be able to become someone else from time to time.
Who are your musical influences?
They are many; Lionel Richie, Louis Armstrong, Myles Davis, Fela Kuti, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce and Jay-Z. I pick music from everywhere, Tuface, Segun Obe, King Sunny Ade etc.
You have hosted various shows. Was that always part of your plan or did it just happen?
I have always seen myself as a creative person, being able to produce, host, Anchor, MC events, sing, act, write etc. It’s a whole creative organism that I think I am. So, presenting and the others come with this package.
What would you say the music industry is missing?
It’s missing more of organic music, music that’s heartfelt, music that is soulful. Our music is very watered down, maybe for commercial reasons or for mass appeal.
We are missing variety which we used to have in 90s. Somewhere along the line, from about 2001-2002, everybody started sounding the same. Every other song till today, sounds the same and if you notice, organic music is gradually taking on.
A handful of people are bringing different flavours and people love them because they sound different. I’m happy that we are able to encourage and inspire the new crop of organic musicians, artists with that soulful sound like, Adekunle Gold, Asa, Bez, Praiz etc. These artists can now express their style of music because of people like me. Now they know that you can do this kind of music and still make a name and survive.
How did the Love like a Movie concept come to be?
Sometime in late 2012, I needed to do a show. Prior to that, my last album was released in 2009. So it had been a couple of years without concerts. I wanted to do a Darey concert and then that metamorphosed into Love like a Movie in 2013.
What challenges did you face at inception?
The major challenge was that nobody understood what we wanted to create and achieve, especially because we wanted to do was something that has never been done before. So, when you are explaining to sponsors or investors about what you wanted to do, they require a clear picture since it’s not something that is popular in this clime. We had to put in all to make sure it happened and it all worked out well thankfully.
What should we expect in this edition?
“Love like a Movie 3” is featuring Ciara. The show is magic, its dance, theatre etc. We are going futuristic this year so expect some edgy performances. It will be really fun people like Omawunmi, Olamide, Adekunle Gold, Vector etc will be there. I’m also bringing back some “Old school” acts; people like Stylplus, Blackie, Weird MC, Jazzman Olofin etc. It’s going to be fun.
What does love mean to you?
Love is God and God is love. Love is the unseen force that makes you do selfless things for the ones you love. Love is putting others before yourself.
How would you be spending your Valentine’s Day?
I’ll be working on that day, there’s a lot that needs to be done.
Any words for your fans this Valentine? I would say enjoy your day, have fun, try and be responsible with every activity and make sure you come out en masse to witness and celebrate with your loved ones at the Love like a movie 3 concert.
How does it feel to be a judge on Nigerian Idol since you rose to fame on a similar platform?
I can relate to what the contestants are going through.So it’s a bit of a weird feeling for me. I know the pressure they are under to deliver, how they feel in terms of music, their performance etc and as a judge there, I try to be as gentle as I can but at the same time, I try to give them the reality. So, I try to blend a bit of reality plus understanding towards their title hopes.
Can you tell us about your work with charity and other humanitarian activities?
Over the years, I’ve tried to encourage music development in schools. It’s somewhat of a dead subject in many schools.
So, I’m trying to resuscitate music through a foundation called, “Hands on Deck”. The idea is to encourage and support creativity. I’m working on an exchange program where creative people can be shortlisted from Nigeria and taken abroad to places like Europe where they can further enhance their skills and later, come back to share that skills with people.
We also use Love like a Movie as a tool for teaching and encouraging young people through the foreign crew members who come in. It’s a part of the contract for anyone coming to work with us from out there, that they have to impact knowledge to our local artisans here so that there’s something they give in return.
How do you joggle work and family?
It’s the grace of God mostly and keeping a tight schedule.
What should we expect from your next album?
Well my “Naked” album has dropped, and I’m working on my next album. I don’t want to say too much about it, let’s just enjoy “Naked” for now.
What is the inspiration behind your song “Pray for Me”?
The song is actually the story of Psquare. At the time they wanted to come to Lagos from Jos, their father was strongly against it because he didn’t believe in their music or their talent. So the twins broke their sim cards and vowed to leave home and succeed. My producer told me the story and I felt it was inspiring.
That story birthed “Pray for me” which is essentially about finding yourself, taking that chance and damning the consequences. The video will be out soon.
How would you describe your style?
My style is comfortable, edgy sometimes. I don’t necessarily try to make statements per se. To me, as long as I look nice, comfortable and smart I am good to go.