Joy Odiete might not ring a bell, but the name J’odie would definitely set the bell clanging. She is the dark complexioned lady whose popular hit song, Kuchi Kuchi (inspired by a baby lullaby) has been burning the airwaves on radio for sometime. The song just like its writer exudes innocence and artistry. In this chat with Sunday Sun, J’odie gives us a peek into what went through to achieve her musical dreams. Excerpts…
How did you get into music?
I don’t know how. I have been in music all my life, I have been singing in the church and you know my dad is a pastor. So naturally I built on my talent when I was in the children’s choir. Then over time I continued to nurture it. But music business is a different ball game. I got into the music proper right after featuring on Idol.
So are you still in the choir?
Yes, I am .I am even one of the leaders. I cannot leave the choir and it is like saying I should leave service to God.
But you don’t sing gospel songs?
As at the time I left Idol, I had a lot of difficulty trying to make up my mind about what to do, music-wise. I was actually caught between focusing on gospel music and delving into secular music. At a time I wondered whether I would only be singing secular songs, but over time I kept on growing and discovering new things. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t meant to do secular music. That is the truth. The songs I have recorded so far, they are not clear-cut gospel but you would know that the inspiration is gospel. Honestly, I would say I am a soul singer but my inspiration is gospel. I am still quite young but with God keeping me alive may be when I am much older I would be singing clear-cut gospel.
You are not so sure now?
I am more in gospel but from what I have done so far, I am not what everybody understands to be gospel. But my inspiration is gospel.
So you are not singing commercial music now?
Not really but there might be some form of commerciality in what I have done. In essence, I am not singing the kind of songs people tag ‘commercial’, no, I am not. Take for instance, my song – Kuchi, Kuchi – that is not a typical Nigerian commercial music, yet it sold very well.
Okay, let’s try a clear a little controversy about Kuchi Kuchi. Most of the time when the song is played there is always an argument. Is the song a love song or a form of lullaby for a baby?
When I wrote that song, I wrote it with a baby in mind. At that time, I had just come out of a relationship. I was no longer in that anger part, you know there is a time you are just out of a relationship and you are so angry. If you listen to some secular music you would see the musician still expressing anger but I had gone past that stage. That song is an indirect prayer because I had gone past the stage where I had said I won’t love again and I knew that love is a good thing even though I have had heart break.
That song is a prayer, saying I would get married some day, I would have a baby and this is the kind of song I would sing to my baby. So I wrote the song for my baby but people have interpreted it in many ways but that is okay. If you listen to some of the lines, I said that the pretty little fingers of the baby are so tender. Certainly, my husband’s fingers can’t be little and tender. In fact, I am I fully expecting to marry a guy taller than me, but since they have interpreted it as a romantic song, well that is fine then. The song was written from my heart.
What is Jodie doing now?
I am working and putting things together. I don’t want to reveal all the things I am doing at the moment.
That is a tough question because there is a whole lot of uncertainties and I don’t want to say this and something else comes up. I just want to define some things in my life.
So when is your full album coming out?
I would say soon because two years ago Mo asked me on her show, Moments with Mo, when my album would be coming out and I told her November of that year but it didn’t. I am working on my album but I would say soon. Sometimes you plan some things and they just don’t happen. Let me just don’t happen. So let me just say, soon it will come out.
What was it like growing up as the daughter of a pastor?
I grew up in a Christian family, where I had a Christian upbringing. I have two other siblings – an elder brother and a younger sister. I have very loving parents especially my father. As you would expect, he is the strict one. He loves us to bits, he is extraordinary. I don’t think a lot of people have a father like him. He is one of the reasons I want to succeed. I love my father. Now that I have grown up, I understand better he was very strict with us while we were being raised by our parents. His love has more than covered for his strictness.
Was there a time you wanted to pull out of music?
Yes, there were times. The time I really wanted to pull out was when I was depressed. I had a relationship issue and one of the things I wanted to stop then was music because I wasn’t happy.
Does musical talent run in your family?
Yes, it does. My father, my mother and siblings even some members of my extended family sing too. But my brother and I are the ones really into music in the family. My brother is an awesome singer and he plays the bass guitar. My father even produced four LPs (long-playing records) way back then and he was known as voice of melody. He composed this song ‘Oh glory, glory, glory to the Lord’. He is a composer and not just a singer.
Aside music what else do you do?
I make jewelry and I am also trying to get into other business activities.
Was West African Idol a blessing for you?
Yes it was – it gave me opportunity to be among the top 10 and that was really a big thing for me. It might not have been the ultimate plan but it gave me an experience I wouldn’t get elsewhere. You know I had so much expectation after the Idol show. There were promises everywhere but the people failed me. But I learnt something that men fail, but it is only God that doesn’t fail. Also it was an open door of opportunities for me too. Apart from these lessons it brought the reality of my dreams closer to me. You know as a child I had this dream of singing before a huge crowd with stage lights and the West African Idol was close to that. West African Idol gave me a sense of boldness and assurance that I could achieve my dream.
What happened during your break up?
It wasn’t a straight road. You know it was like an up-down thing. But thank God he used it to bring me out from a lot of things. You know when I was younger I didn’t love myself and I was insecure. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, I was afraid and I felt wrong about myself. The break up made everything obvious because I was really living through that person and when that person vanished I wasn’t living again.
Was he your first love?
Yes, he was my first real love and when he left I felt I couldn’t live again. Really, I don’t blame him, but then at that point in time I felt life wasn’t interesting again – you know the devil will lie to a person. It got to a point that I started searching the internet for easier ways to kill myself without pain. Everything just looked tasteless and during that period every thing that made me happy I wanted to stop.
My parents noticed but they just couldn’t get through to me. I had a strong wall over me, my mum was asking me what it was but she couldn’t determine the cause of the problem. I am sure they were praying for me then. I was like a zombie. I am saying all these because I want young people to learn from my experience. Then one day my younger sister called me, she didn’t know what was happening to me and after she called me she told me I love you. Then it was like something broke up inside me and I started crying like a new child, it was so refreshing and I felt renewed after she called and said that. For the first time I prayed to God to forgive me, and give me grace to live again. I think it was just God.
What actually caused the break up?
Well, the relationship didn’t work out after a long while.
How long was the relationship?
We were on for six years.
Was it the music that caused it then?
No. I believe everything is interwoven and I hope to document my experience in a book later in life.
Right now are you in any relationship now?
No, but I am not afraid again. You know, I believe I am now very priceless and I love my self more. You know when you don’t know yourself you just throw yourself around anyhow but when you have realized how worthy you are then you carry yourself well. After that sad experience, I now know that there is only one me; so why would ever again throw myself at anybody? I cannot just throw myself at anybody who doesn’t know my value. He has to assure God that he would take care of me. You know the bible says that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favour from God, so I would be the blessing to that person. But finding that perfect person might really take a while.
I am not saying that there are no responsible men out there and that they are not good enough for me. I just believe I should marry my own husband who would look back in 50 years as keeps us and say ‘I’m grateful to God that I married you’. Not because he is as wealthy as Bill Gates, or as handsome as the lead actor in the movie ‘Titanic’ but because he is just the one!
Are you saying you won’t go into any relationship soon?
Really anything can happen now even before this is published, you know life is dynamic.
Back then were your parents aware of your heart break?
No, they didn’t know, but I said it once in the church over the microphone. You know my parents love us so much but we are not so emotionally intimate. But I am getting closer to them now. But I believe it is better now and parents are learning that there are certain things you need to discuss with your kids no matter how they make you look awkward. You just have to discuss it if not they will learn about it elsewhere and it might be wrong.
Were there objections from your parents?
My parents were very supportive, although they were strict but they were really supportive.
As a pastor’s daughter did the church frown at it when you were there?
Nobody frowned at it in my presence; I’m sure some did but I never heard it. Although everyone can’t be happy with what you are doing but I got like two calls then. An old friend called and he was judging me. I told him to let God himself judge me.
Were you faced with any challenges?
Yes, right after West African Idol, many people felt I was made and so there was extra pressure. Some even suggested that I should get more daring, look sexy, ‘open my eyes’ and date like five guys at the same time (laughs). They told me I had to wear this and that but it wasn’t just me. Then I had to bridge my own personality with what the society wanted from me without being rebellious.
With your Christian background, what was it like the first time the reality of the entertainment industry dawned on you?
During Idol, we had to go to the club every Friday and I hated it. But there was a time I thought I was enjoying it, you know the peer pressure gets to you but when I calmed down I realized I didn’t like it. Even when I tried to enjoy it I felt stupid. Over time I realized that I don’t have to like what other people like and that doesn’t mean that something was wrong with me. Aside religion, I like exquisite things, I am an artiste. I would prefer to go to a quite place like where plants are growing and think. It might sound boring to other people but not to me. You know back then, I used to hate myself and I wanted to please other people. I hated my face; I hated the fact that I couldn’t rap like others. But now I am learning about myself and from what I have discovered so far, I love myself.
Did it have anything to do with your strict upbringing?
No, I won’t blame other people for that. I can’t keep blaming my upbringing for my life because every body has a choice. You know my brother is more outgoing than I am but overtime I began to love myself. If people were laughing then, I would think they were laughing at me. But now I love myself and I am happy I am me. It has nothing to do with the success of Kuchi kuchi. Rather, it was a problem that began long ago.
You know if I had followed what everybody said (like people saying that I had to wear ‘outrageous’ clothes, sing in pidgin, sing fast songs, look and act sexy, be sharp and so on). I suppose you know what people mean by being sexy – that is half naked. I know I just could not dress that way because when I tried it in the dressing room I felt very stupid.
Given all these pressures, was there any time you felt that you weren’t just cut out to be in the music industry?
I didn’t know much then but I knew I wanted to sing and nothing would take that from me.
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