Award-winning artiste, Simi, finds her bearing in her sophomore album, ‘Simisola,’ which has fetched her a couple of awards, including a spot on Billboard Music chart, writes Vanessa Obioha
Simi’s rise to fame has arguably been meteoric. She does not need to be told. But she doesn’t express this detail in a cocky manner. Sometimes, it feels surreal, as if she never expected to be on top of the ladder so soon. Everything is happening so fast, like her recent outing at the Headies, where she took home three awards: Album of the Year, Best Recording of the Year and Best R&B Single of the Year out of seven nominations.
At times like that, she is transported to a dreamlike state, she only imagined a few years ago. Her statement buttresses inclination. “Before my big break in the industry, I used to look forward to awards. I have won awards before but this one is very special because of the categories I won,” she told me as her make-up artist worked on her face. She was supposed to have a photo shoot but had arrived later than scheduled. Now she was caught between keeping her face in the desired way and answering my questions.
It was funny to see her try to make eye contact with me as the beautician sometimes stood between us. However, she continued to talk. “We weren’t really expecting it at the time. Of course, you aim for the highest. We were just trying to release an album that would be amazing. I wasn’t thinking that it would get to this point. With these awards, it has gone international. People will really see your efforts.”
Simi came into brighter spotlights when she got signed to X3M Music in 2014. Her breakthrough has been a momentous leap. From releasing her first album, ‘Ogaju,’ to ‘Simisola,’ she has become one of the most glowing female artistes in the country.
There seems to be a story behind each award. ‘Simisola,’ the winning album and her second studio album took a lot of sweat. Some of the songs, she revealed, were written four years ago but the whole album took over one year to complete. For that period of time, she was contemplating how best to proceed with the project, though her instinct as a songwriter was strong. There were times when a trip to a resort with her team did the magic of unlocking her creativity. Other times, she struggled helplessly.
She recalled those times, “The finishing of the album was even more stressful than writing the songs. There were two songs that I dropped because I wasn’t feeling them so I had to write two more songs, two months before the album release.”
Of all the songs, the hardest was ‘Gone for Good’, a heart-breaking love song. The song was nominated in the non-voting category for ‘Best Female Vocal Performance.’
“I wish it had won though,” she said, “the victory would have been a good compensation for the sleepless nights.”
The self-titled 15-track album received positive reviews from critics upon release. It landed a spot on the US music chart, Billboard. The singer was applauded emphatically for her ability to create sounds that were intrinsically her own. In an interview last year, she disclosed that the album was very personal to her because it expressed her emotions and experiences in life.
“The songs are about my experiences, things that I have seen people go through, things that I have seen; sometimes funny, things that I am asking myself if this is how things are supposed to be. Why are things this way? For example, ‘Love Don’t Care,’ is about tribalism in relationships. I come from a culture where there is tribalism, like it is a sin to date or marry someone outside your tribe. I have seen people who also come from a similar background so I’m asking if it is the ideal thing. The album is basically about life through my eyes.”
Some of these experiences go back to her childhood.
As a child, Simi developed a mind of her own. Growing up as the only girl in her family, she knew the only way to make her voice heard was to be tough like her brothers. Not that this was a particular issue in her family which she described as a home full of laughter and love. She confessed that her parents overly pampered her siblings and her, ensuring that they all got equal dose of love and care. Yet, a certain insecurity wrapped around her like a blanket.
Her stature. Not a six-footer, the songstress feared being the butt of every joke. She had this mind-set that people wanted to take advantage of her because she was diminutive. Due to this, she became defensive most times, guarding herself with enough ammunition to intimidate any bully. It took her a while to realise that not everyone was trying to exploit her.
Nevertheless, her mannerisms tilted towards boyishness. While her mates were prancing around in their Cinderella gowns and shoes, she opted for shorts and trousers with sneakers. Till date, she is yet to do away with this dress code. When she is not on stage, having a photo or video shoot, Simi can be found comfortably rocking her baggy jeans and crop tops or over-sized shirts. Her fashion sense is not the only trait that makes her adolescent. She plays a lot. There was this instance when she was waiting for her driver after a media session at X3M Ideas offices in Opebi-Lagos, then she sighted a friend of hers coming. Her face lit up excitedly. She screamed and opened her arms widely for an embrace. Laughing heartily, the two girls greeted each other in a signature gesture that involved the touching of the legs and hands. The picture they created was redolent of two children playing on a cloudy day.
Perhaps, her most shocking experience was the death of her father in 2014, the same year she joined X3M Music Label.
“I think I’m naive. Not a lot of things shake me because I believe there is nothing new in the world, but my dad’s death really shook me. Even recalling it now brings sadness. There are things you wish you could change but you can’t take it back.”
Though her parents separated when she was young, the love between her father and her father never waned. She has very sweet memories of him, for example, the look he gave her when she did something wrong or coming home with gifts for her. Those memories will always be cherished. Her mother on the other hand is her ride or die bestie.
“My mum is a very funny person. She is the life of every party. She says the funniest things. There is no way she will say something that you won’t laugh. I think it’s cool.”
She expressed happiness towards the news about her mother’s recent marriage.
“I’m happy for them because it is love. I was her Chief Bridesmaid.”
With this album, Simi thinks she has evolved into a better artist.
The balladeer also revealed that her favourite song in the album is ‘Smile for Me’, a very gripping love song that is still enjoying massive airplay. It was the song that fetched her the award for ‘Best R&B Single’.
“’Smile for Me’ is my favourite Simi song. It is the most favourite song I have ever written. I don’t know why but the song really gets to me. I wasn’t really expecting it to win, so for it to be nominated and won a category proves to me why it is my favourite.”
However, ‘Joromi’ which clinched the ‘Best Recording of the Year’ is engulfed in controversies for similarity in nomenclature to a classic song by legendary guitarist and musician, Professor Victor Uwaifo who is reportedly suing Simi for copyright issues.
“I really don’t have any comment on that but that Sir Victor Uwaifo is a legend who I really have great respect for.”
Interestingly, Adekunle Gold, Simi’s beau is the only artiste featured on the album. This move is presumably a return favour to her boyfriend who in his 2016 album, ‘Gold’ featured only his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he didn’t clinch any award at The Headies. When asked if she consoled him for his loss, she declined to make any comment.
The year may be half gone, but it is only starting for the musician who was born Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye. The remaining days hold greater promises for new hits and promotional tours. Describing herself as a creative person with a curious mind, she is eager to dabble into the business of music, someday. For now, she is content to entertain with good music; with a distinctive imprint that identifies her persona.