Olawumi: The Heart of it All
Sometimes we try to hide or suppress our emotions but as an artist, those emotions may bring out the best in your music. No stranger to emotional ups and downs, Olawumi, is a 24-year-old Nigerian singer-songwriter based out of New Jersey, that’s making a name for herself. Her songs take you on an emotional journey that anyone that has ever dealt with heartbreak or moving on, can relate to. On a deeper level, her lyrics shows that not all heartbreak is bad, sometimes being “Alone” is needed. We caught up with the artist to find out a little bit more about her music, read below!
What made you become an artist?
I always did music, I started playing the clarinet and singing in the choir when I was in the 4th grade. It was the year they allowed us to pick instruments and hobbies and I stuck with it until I graduated High School. I ended up traveling the U.S. playing and singing in different halls and going to competitions. I was a band geek. I started writing music when I was 17 — up until then I just did covers or remixes. I recorded my first record when I was 18 in Chicago. It was so weird, but I loved it. I was rapping and singing hooks. I got my heartbroken at 19 so I started writing love ballads/songs, then at 20 I got it smashed into pieces, so I started recording my first EP, Noir. We debuted that in May of 2014. So in short, heartbreak made me become the artist I am today, but I was always an artist.
How did you get your start in the industry?
A lot of people don’t know this but I actually started off as a photographer. There was even a period of time when I ran my own blog where I hosted other artist’s music accompanied by live interviews and photos. I went to school for Mass Media so I was always into entertainment and becoming a vessel in it. By the time I was 18, I had already established a few good relationships with some artists; a friend of mine hired me to shoot his album cover in Chicago and it turned out to be the most life-changing experience ever. Nothing was the same after that visit, things kind of just kept going after that. So I got back to Jersey, got my music ideas together, went to Maryland, and really turned the oven up. I managed to get real cool with some producer/audio engineer friends out there and started writing my own songs. It’s been a long journey.
Did you always know you would become a singer?
Yes, I always told myself that I would become a singer one day. I remember being 4 and telling myself I was going to be big one day, haha. I am not there yet, but the passion never left.
Who would you say inspires you musically?
I would be here all day dissecting how and why but the list would include: Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, India Arie, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Solange, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, (his energy on the microphone is untouched) Flying Lotus, Toro y Moi…way too many more to name!
You’ve been on a hiatus for quite some time, what happened?
I needed time to get my ideas and feelings together after “The Feels” ended about a year ago. I was experiencing a lot of transition and couldn’t focus on the music like I wanted to. I have these periods of time when I need to regroup, and re-execute.
Looking back at your old work such as “Queen Shit” or “5” how would you compare them to your new music?
I wouldn’t compare them to my newer songs because that’s just not fair. I wrote every song individually, because of different experiences. To me, they all heal the same, but far as sonically, my music is still full, synthy, and progressive. It’s just a different love that I’m singing about, taking place at a different time in my life. So the growth is definitely there because I’m older and can place a better hold on my emotions.
How much of your love life influences the music you put out?
I would say about 80% of it is based on of my personal love life. Other times, I get my energy from my sister and her relationships, or friends, cousins, aunts…I talk to a lot of women about love and life. It’s really easy for me to empathize.
“Alone” for a first-time listener may seem kind of sad or lonely. But through our personal conversations and more listens, it’s quite the opposite, could you explain the thought process of making that record?
It definitely does seem sad on the first listen. Originally the track was supposed to a celebratory track. I had just fallen in love and it’s the kind of love you don’t expect, especially these days. I remember hearing the production and thinking, “wow…I feel all gushy inside”. I wrote the song and got mixed reviews. It was funny, actually. We’ve all been lonely, we’ve all dreaded a certain someone waking up one day saying, “Hey, this isn’t for me.” I wrote it because I meant it.
What can we expect from your new project? Features? Release dates?
It is currently untitled because it hasn’t hit me yet that. The album is flossy. That’s all I can really say about it. It’s going to be silky.
Coming from a Nigerian background, how does your Mom feel about you making music?
She hated it at first, especially when it started becoming more important than school. It took a while, but after some time she became 100% supportive.
Does your Nigerian background influence how you make music?
Yes, in a few ways. I have always admired the rawness we often find in the typical Nigerian home. I feel like the honesty I was fed growing up sets me apart from other writers. I don’t do metaphors, and I try my best to tell the story as it is.
Do you plan on making music catering to an African audience or working with some afrobeats artists?
That is definitely something that is in the works as we speak. I will definitely be bridging my audiences really, really soon.
Check out her new single, “Alone”, below!