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I Didn’t Find Fulfillment In Gospel Music As I Do Now

Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye, best known as Simi, is a singer, songwriter and music mixer. Her foray into the music industry started on the gospel platform in 2008, the genre she left for mainstream music shortly after releasing songs like Jamb Question, Soldier, Love Don’t Care among others. She has risen to an A-list artiste, having won awards and recognitions for her songs in solo and collaborative efforts. Recently, Simi released her first non-Gospel album. And she spoke with Newton-Ray Ukwuoma of Tribune about romance, life in the music industry among other things. Excerpts:

How did you meet Falz and Adekunle Gold? A lot of people believe there is a love triangle going on among you three?
I met Adekunle Gold at a gig I was performing at Bogobiri on the Island. He said he has been listening to my songs right from when I was singing gospel. From there, we became friends. Falz loved a song I did and reached out to me on twitter for us to work on something. I am friends with all
of them.

In an interview, you said you will kiss Falz and marry Adekunle Gold. Is that true?
Some interviewers asked me that if it was a matter of life and death, who would I rather kiss or marry between Falz and Gold. I just had to answer the question. I had no choice.

The song ‘Joromi’ is deeply reminiscent.  Was it the real Simi speaking in that song?
It could be. What you are hearing is a girl singing about her thoughts. In the real sense, she is not saying anything to the guy. She is trying to use body language to tell the guy how she feels. But it is all about memories of the past brought forward.

Can you approach a guy you like?
I probably would. I might, I don’t know. There is nothing wrong with showing someone that you like him. There are definitely boundaries. There should be limits; I mean you shouldn’t be all over the person while expressing how you feel.

Some guys see girls that are bold to ask them out as cheap. How do you see that?
There is nothing wrong in telling someone that you like him. I mean I see girls that disrespect a guy that opened up that he likes her and I think that is not necessary. It is not necessary to be rude. So, if a guy thinks a girl is cheap just because she expressed her feelings, I believe the guy in question has a very small mind in my opinion.

You have a small physique. Was it a disadvantage growing up?
Well, growing up, I was more defensive because I was small. I used to think that people always want to take advantage of me. I have always been a strong-minded person, so before you give me two, I would have given you five. I don’t get easily bullied. I had to learn how to relax a little sometime and not believe that everybody wants to take advantage of me. My tiny voice has always been my advantage. Some people try to treat me like a child. But I hate when people mimic my tiny voice when I am talking.

Has it always been all rosy for you, music wise?
It may seem like I just hit it big, but there was real hustle behind the success. When I finished serving in 2009, (I served in Abia State FRSC), a record label signed me and I was there for four years. That did not go very well. I was really frustrated but I didn’t feel like giving up. Music has always had my full attention unlike many other hobbies I liked. My heart didn’t sway where music is concerned. I was not happy things were not going the way I wanted it. I was frustrated but I was thankful because that was where I found my sound. I carved a niche for myself. If I didn’t go through that, I don’t think I would have thought of improving on anything.

You are always singing about love, what kind of qualities are you looking for in a man?
Loyalty. I am a loyal lover. When I am in love, I am all in. If you betray my trust, I don’t think I can be with you because trust is a very important part of love. I hate to be lied to.

Do you think Nigerian men are romantic?
Well, very few are. I think that a lot of Nigerian men are too relaxed. Most don’t believe they have to be romantic. Nobody pushes the Nigerian man to be the best they can be in a relationship. They don’t fight for anything. A lot of Nigerian men grew up thinking they don’t have to work very hard to keep a woman. A lot of our mothers stayed and took the whole Nigerian men thing but that does not mean that they were happy.
They stayed because society expected them to stay.  A lot of our mothers and grandmothers were unhappy. If they had grown up knowing that there is a stiff competition and they must fight for what they value, a lot of women will be happy. If it gets to the point where a man believes there is nothing to fight for anymore. ‘Shebi she is my wife?’
She is not going anywhere, that is when disrespect for the partner starts.

You recently lunched your first album.
No. It is my sophomore album. I had a gospel album in 2008.

How did the gospel album work out back then?
It did what it could do. It was definitely not as good as this one and I was definitely not as big as I am now.

Why did you switch from gospel to mainstream music?
I didn’t just switch now. I have been on the mainstream kind of music for a while. I just want to do more with music. I am fulfilled doing what I love, which is music. When I was doing gospel, I wanted to do gospel and now that I am doing mainstream music, I love it too. So, there is no feeling less fulfilled in it.

How did you feel now that the album is out?
I am blown away. I remember when I was putting the songs in the album together; people were asking me if it is going to do well since I did not feature many people. I only have one collaboration. I was a little bit nervous and at the same time, I wasn’t because putting the album out like that was the way I wanted it. I am glad that we are topping charts. A lot of people believe that the success of an album depends on the collaborations. But J-Cole, an American rapper, went platinum twice without collaborations meaning that it is not a big deal for you to do that by yourself.

But were there artistes you would have loved to feature?

Yes. In fact, I did a couple of collaborations with some artistes, but some did not sound the way I wanted it to sound, so I had to drop them. This is not the end of my career. The fact that I did not do collaborations on this one does not mean that I am not going to do features in other albums. For some people, the only songs they know of me are the ones I did with Falz and Adekunle Gold. That is one of the reasons I put this album out without many features to show that I can hold my own. I felt I needed to prove myself. As a woman, the industry demands more of you.

You were the only artiste featured in Adekunle Gold’s album. And he is the only artiste you featured. Were you trying to return the favour?
 No. Featuring him was a mere coincidence. I wrote ‘Take Me Back’ like four years ago. A year ago, I revisited the song. We worked on it before he dropped his own album. It was when I was compiling that I found out that the only collaboration included in the album was the song with him. It wasn’t even planned.

Adekunle Gold once said you were the inspiration of his songs. Your name was put in a song by him.  How do you like to react to these?
It was very flattering  in both situations.  When I heard that songs with my name, I felt special. But if you are trying to find out why he put my name there, you may have to ask him. It’s his song.

Are you in a relationship presently?
I can put everything else out there but not my private life. Who I am dating is personal to me.

But are you dating someone?
I have never denied that. I am in a relationship but I am not going to say who I am dating.

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