Mairo Ese, Nigerian-born Christian singer and song-writer, known for his eclectic blend of R&B and Soul, in this interview, traces his foray into music and more. Excerpts:
Can you take us through your growing up, childhood dreams, education and family?
I am the first of 4 children. I have 3 siblings. My dad was a businessman and my mum an accountant working with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). We were neither rich nor poor, probably closer to being poor, but we were comfortable and content. My parents taught us the value of being content and being able to share with others irrespective, of how much or little we had. Growing up, our home was always open to family and strangers alike. We always had a full home and my parents were nurturers to so many people. We learnt to share quite early.
I have a good relationship with my siblings (Kome, Orez and Oruaro). We lost our dad suddenly 20years ago and this brought us closer as a family. I started my university study at Delta State University, and later moved to the University of Lagos for my first degree. My childhood dream was to go to university, graduate, get a 9-5 job and make money! I had hoped to play football professionally as well (I love football, Arsenal fan COYG!). As a child, I longed to play football professionally. I also desired to go to university, graduate, have a good job and just generally have a good life. I basically just wanted to build a better life from what I had growing up. As a boy, I had dreams of travelling the world and living comfortably.
Can we say you are living your childhood dreams now?
Thank God I am living exactly how God wants me to, and I am loving it!
How did your journey into music start and what convinced you it was music?
My journey into music started when I gave my life to Christ as a teenager. At the time I didn’t know I would go into it full time, however, I discovered my love for singing in secondary school. After secondary school, I joined the worship team at my church at the time (Redeemed Christian Church of God). At university, I was part of the Sovereign Army Student Fellowship Choir and we also had a group of friends formed a worship team called Euphoria. We loved God and we poured our hearts in worship. I had to go for National Youth Service (NYSC) in Kaduna for one year and, while there, I attended the House on the Rock church in Jos and served in the choir too. Coming back to Lagos after National Youth Service year, I was approached and offered a full time position as Worship Leader at This Present House and that’s how I found myself working full time for God in ministry. I worked here for a few years, where I experienced immense growth and tutelage under Pastor Tony and Mrs. Nkoyo Rapu.
What kind of music do you do and why?
My music is essentially praise and worship to God, encouraging people to see the greatness and power of God. It is pretty much the expression of my walk with God.
How would you define good gospel music and what are the key elements in a good sound?
Gospel music is about the message of Jesus Christ. Key elements in a good sound would be the proper expression of the music to convey the message of the song.
Tell us about your album and the journey behind making every song on it?
Like I said earlier, my music conveys the experience of my walk with God which is exactly what this album is about. The title of the album is Spirit and Life. I was inspired by the Holy Spirit through the scripture John 6:63 ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life’. So this album is full of the Spirit of God and my prayer is that it will give life to the listeners. As with many projects and assignments, the road is not always smooth; however the end goal is what keeps one going.
How do you get inspiration for your work and what makes it different from others?
I get my inspiration from the Holy Spirit, in the place of prayer, which is my personal time with him; in studying the word of God, the Bible. I also get inspiration from general life experiences.
As an artiste what are your set goals and how do you intend working to make them happen?
I will say my set goals are aligned to my Boss. I’m like a soldier, under authority. Once my Commander gives me an instruction, my responsibility is to follow as He leads. So, wherever the Lord leads me I obey and He gives me grace to fulfil.
From your view what are the current challenges of gospel music in Nigeria and what can be done?
I believe the challenges cut across music in Nigeria, inclusive of all genres. One is the common enemy – Piracy. We have artists doing their work and not getting their worth. I believe effective government policies designed to protect the rights and intellectual property of artistes will go a long way. It’s a win-win situation as the government is also then able to generate revenue from the music industry via taxes. If music artists thrive, they are able to pay taxes and the government benefits. Another challenge is funding. As an artist you want to put out quality material, however funding could pose a challenge. A solution will be for the sector to be properly structured, when this happens, it has the potential to attract more willing investors.
Who are your musical influences and role models?
It varies from time to time. At different points, I have been influenced by great worship ministers including (but not limited to) Bob Fitts, Terry McAlmon, Ron Kenoly, Donnie McClurkin, Hillsong led by Darlene Zschech, Nathaniel Bassey and a few others.
Which acts and producers would you love to work with and why?
Hmmm that’s an interesting question. There are many Artists I admire both home and abroad and I would be open to working with anyone with shared vision. However, I have always desired to work with Darlene Zscech as she has had a great influence in my life as a younger worship minister.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself doing what God would have me do. I am desperately chasing after my Father’s heart – demonstrating His love, touching lives and making the world a better place.