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The Gospel According To Adeoluwa

Meet the Afro-Fusion singer making earworms out of hymns.

by Daniel McIntosh

Photos by Olivia Renald

Social media is a powerful tool for showcasing the stories that make each musician unique, and Saskatchewan-based emerging Afro-fusion artist Adeoluwa certainly understands how to wield this tool capably. On top of posting his music videos, footage of his live shows, and covers of his favourite songs, the Nigerian singer-songwriter takes it a step further, spending extra time documenting his journey as an up-and-coming musician on YouTube. Specifically, as one who made the transition from Nigeria to Canada while trying to launch his music career. 

“I figured I would use my YouTube, as well as other platforms, as a medium to communicate my experiences as a musician, as a person, and as a boy who lives in Canada chasing his dreams,” says Adeoluwa. The artist is in Toronto, having just returned from Edmonton for a last-minute fitting for a stage outfit — an occasion that will surely make the rounds on his YouTube channel in the future. “I think experiencing Canada as an adult has been different, but it’s been like my coming-of-age journey.” 

Adeoluwa says that building his identity abroad helped ground him and lay out how he wants to appear in the Canadian music scene. It also gave him a better idea of the things he holds dear, specifically live music and storytelling through the visual flair he brings to the stage. 

The result? Richly layered experimental pop music with a personal showcase of the same things that kept him grounded and gave him strength throughout his life. His recent run of singles show off his penchant for vocal harmonies and drawn out instrumental sections—an effect of his love for Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner, who influence his sound. RANGE caught up with Adeoluwa ahead of his performance at Breakout West to discuss his pre-show routine, his influences, and why live music just hits different. 

Hi Adeoluwa! I found your YouTube channel where you post your music, but also discuss booking shows and the DIY work of an independent artist. I’m wondering what led you to start posting informative content that a lot of artists could benefit from?

There’s this funny thing that happens when you come from a different country to Canada—I don’t think it’s just a Nigerian thing. When people from your country come across your content online, they suddenly expect you to be an immigration expert. It’s so funny. I would get random DMs asking for advice, but I knew just enough when I was making my journey here; I made a lot of mistakes. But one thing I’ve experienced firsthand is navigating having a music career here, because one of my biggest reasons for moving to Canada was to take my music more seriously. One thing that you come to learn after doing music for a certain amount of time is that it’s not a linear path, and there’s no one journey. Everyone kind of has to make their own journey with what they have. 

I learned that definitely while doing stuff in Canada, but I learned some things that I think can help people, so I was like, ‘Okay, I can share this.’ Everything I’ve talked about in my videos, I’ve actually done. So I said let me just give this a shot and start telling my stories more intentionally.

On another note, RANGE is very excited that you’re performing in our Breakout West showcase. Are you excited for this performance? 

Yeah! The main reason why I make music is to perform it live, and when I’m in the studio I’m constantly thinking about ‘How would this look? How would it sound when it’s being played to a room of people? What am I wearing, what’s my band wearing?’ 

Being able to put together a show is one thing that I really pride myself in knowing how to do well. When I booked Breakout West, immediately I was in planning mode. So I’m mostly looking forward to sharing that with more people. I think this year I’ve been able to create in different places and try out things and experiment with my process, and evolve and change it. This is another opportunity to do that, which makes me very excited.

I know live performance is really meaningful to you, and your latest body of work is actually a live album, A Night at the Artesian, from earlier this year. Why does it feel important to you to release your live shows? 

Even on the Artesian project, in between the actual songs are little instances of me talking to the audience and sharing stories. Crafting that, knowing that we were going to put it out as a live album, and being intentional about the storytelling is very important to me. 

As a musician, there’s so many people who make music and there’s so many different ways to make music. You really have to lean into what you love. And that is what I love to do. It is what I want to do. Even with that, I want to carry that energy into my recordings, especially when I can do a project that’s live, and to share with everyone what’s most valuable to me and most specific to me. However I can push that energy is what I’m doing.

I noticed that you have an audacious fashion sense in your videos and live performances. You really like to get fly, and I’m curious about your pre-show routine. We can start with fashion, then go into everything else.

This is a question I’ve waited for my entire life because it’s something I obsess about. I want it to be very high energy and I want to feel like Freddie Mercury or MJ. I want to be able to infuse that energy into what I’m wearing, because that further amplifies how I feel. Then I think about how I want the audience to experience [it]. I conceptualize the look and what I want the band to look like behind me, whether I want to accentuate what I’m doing or if I want them to have their own character. I think about how the audience will perceive that if it’s a high-energy song. Generally, I’ve always tried to make things for my shows—getting things tailored and buying fabric. My Breakout West outfits are probably the outfits I’m proudest of to date because we’ve been working on these for like six months. That entire process was me and my tailor, Christina, just trying different things.

Then before I hit the stage, I pray, and I try to listen to the songs less and enter the energy of the performance. I drink water. A good performance will go by quickly, so I really like to be present. Every time I get to sing for people, even if it’s one person or 10 people, it feels like coming home to myself. I’m always grateful no matter the size of the audience. I put in the same level of effort in terms of the entire thing so I just try to be present. And then kill it. 

Following A Night at the Artesian, what can people expect from your next album?

I’ve genre-hopped literally my entire career, and I really lean into that. Before I was concerned about cohesion, and it made me overthink my process. I realized that I don’t really owe anyone traditional cohesion. What I owe people is to make the art that feels most honest to me, and what feels true to where I am as a person. Many times that’s all different things at the same time. So long as that’s the art I’m doing, not for a gimmick, that’s what people can expect from me.

Catch Adeoluwa on Oct. 12, performing at the RANGE Magazine showcase for BreakOut West | INFO