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The interstellar thoughts of Garey Godson

The interstellar thoughts of Garey Godson

Garey Godson at the age of sixteen got introduced to a production software and got really fascinated by the process. He spent so much of his time developing and experimenting with this new found hobby. His Nigerian days were filled with constant improvement of this ideal as he moved between cities – Warri, Ile-Ife and Lagos precisely – producing for local artistes. Due to the deeper calling he had messing around with production software, Garey enrolled to learn the basics of mixing and mastering more formally from a producer named Robotic Man (may his soul rest in peace).
In 2015 Garey moved to Berlin and then decided to focus more on music so he started writing, recording and producing songs. Thus far, his journey has been quite a challenging one, but not one without beautiful illustrations of instances where he has dealt with challenges, enjoyed conquests, maintained resilience and continuously seeks a reason.
We caught up with him to discuss all of these for this month’s edition of DrummrRadr.
Interview and Article By John Eni-ibukun
Garey Godson, Photographed by Max Judge

Garey: How was your day? How’re you doing?

John: Well my day was okay, quite normal…

Garey: Oh, Great

John: Let’s get to it

Garey: Yeah

John: I always love to start with stories of how artistes began to make music, would you mind sharing yours?

Garey: My background in music actually did start with production. I was writing and producing for local artistes back then in Warri, also in my university days in Ile-Ife and also in Lagos. And then I moved to Germany in 2015 and that was when I decided to start recording myself and pushing myself as an artiste. The reason is because it was kind of difficult for me to stay very much in touch with Nigerian artistes and it was just very difficult for me to pitch my works considering the distance, so I started producing and recording myself, writing my own music, trying to learn about the music industry using myself as a case study.

When I just arrived in Germany I met another kid called HKMK. He’s a German producer; I showed him how to produce and then we kicked it off really seriously. With time, He became like a brother where we were just making records; we started from scratch together, we started like a “music house” you could call, called the Room Of Understanding – functions as a label. We started working with local artistes by getting them on the label, helping them with production and stuff like that. It’s been a pretty interesting journey to make the transition from producing to being an artiste myself, learning about the music business, also during the time I did an internship with Universal Music in Berlin – it’s been a really interesting journey; you get to learn what it entails to put your music in front of the world, and it comes with different emotions because there are highs, and at the same time, there are really low moments when you have to remind yourself why you started making music in the first place to keep you going.

Garey Godson

John: I love your story and the fact that you started your own journey by production because I think production is the toughest part of making music. Let’s elaborate on the music you’ve made so far; in 2018 you put out two projects – Gift plus Grind and The Lift Off – why did you put out two projects in the same year? Was it based on just how the creative juices were flowing or pure strategy?

Garey: With both projects, it wasn’t premeditated. I was just working on so much music at the time and it was just felt right to put them out. I didn’t really want to sit on anything. That’s pretty much why the projects came out; and I was at university at the time, I was spending so much time with HKMK, so it was just the thirst and hunger to get everything out.

John: So about moving to Germany at the age of 22, how was the transition for you?

Garey: It was a big challenge for me in the sense that it was the first time I was going to be away from home for a long time. I arrived at Germany for my masters’ study with my elder brother but once we stepped into the airport we went our separate ways so it was my full step into independence being away from family members and friends. It was like the beginning of a new self-discovery you could say; I was scared to take the new leap of faith into the new world but with time, I kind of got more independent, I got to learn more things about myself, I got to learn how to navigate to make meaningful relationships, I got to learn different cultures and how to navigate the difficult challenges that come with life and still rise above them in a graceful type of way. Leaving Nigeria in a way was a great decision; not like in the “now I’m out” type of way, but it was just time for me to have some self-independence and really explore more things about myself, and that’s one experience that has really shaped me into my adulthood.

John: But wasn’t there like a cultural shift for you? That in itself is a challenge. How were you able to cope with and eventually overcome this challenge? Also, what made the transition easy for you both as a person and as an artiste?

Garey: The relationships that I managed to build around me have just been tremendous in terms of the positive effects – meeting HKMK, starting like music movement with a couple of friends who later turned family, having people around me who support what I’m doing and kind of see my vision, it’s been very instrumental in shaping how comfortable I feel in Germany and how I’ve been able to make my way through the difficulties that come with experiencing a totally different culture – so I’ll definitely say the people I have around me.

I also feel like I enjoy being open-minded and finding out about things I never knew before; I’m always looking forward to learning new things – I kind of like just open my mind to having conversations that challenge me as a person, going to places that challenge me as an artiste as well because for you to unlock and learn more about yourself, you have to in a way be open to listening to people and share in their experiences; it doesn’t mean you have to do everything or just follow everything they’re doing, but I feel like just being open to new experiences is something which really affects how you create the art you make as an artiste, or how you’re shaped as a person

John: That’s real talk. Before you moved to Berlin, you made songs themed around Afro-fusion, and even after your transit you stuck to your guns. Was there any point during your early days in a new country that you had fears that the new people around might not appreciate or understand the kind or music you make?

Garey: Yeah, it’s something I’ve come to embrace as an artiste; I think it’s very important to at a point in time accept the fact that not everyone would like your music. Music is a very subjective type of thing and it speaks to people in different type of ways, so people have different exposures and expectations in terms of what they want to hear but at the end of the day, the sound that I make resonates with the people that it resonates with; so in the past, I’ve had an insecurity of ‘are they really going to accept my sound?’ – Even in Nigeria as well: I know to a great extent that my music is different from what is being played every day on the radio (and Nigerian music very great and highly influential to the world as a matter of fact) but my background in music just made me very experimental and lucid when it comes to trying different sounds so I never ever wanted to lock myself in a box of hip-hop or trap or Afrobeats or RnB, but all of those elements are very evident in my music so I try to not bother myself about how people receive it. Instead I try to focus on creating art which is very authentic – so when I make a record I ask myself these three questions; ‘does it speak to me? Do I catch a vibe? Does it say something? Do I feel confident listening to me? – and that’s what’s really important to me. If I’m able to answer those questions confidently, I feel like it’s definitely going to resonate with people when it comes out.

John: People who are within the same sphere of consciousness as you are…

Garey: Exactly.

John: Let’s talk about the Lift Off. That was the project in which you properly introduced yourself as an artiste within the Room Of Understanding. How did it feel being in a company of other creative?

Garey: It was a great feeling. It’s something that I created with HKMK. It was a period when we were spending so much time in the studio, and I was like ‘Bro, I really want other people to feel what we’re feeling. I really want other people to feel this transparency, friendship, family, and space where you can be free to be yourself,’ and that’s how we came up with the idea of  Room Of Understanding. It’s actually a small room studio in the city where I studied, but that was where we always made music so it was his room, with just a bed and it was just a chilled comfortable place but we turned it into a studio where we bring in different artistes, record, you know draw inspiration from each other, connect with photographers and videographers – like everything is just in-house. So it’s a label Hannes and I started and having this has been very instrumental for me as an artiste cause you just don’t get to listen to what you create, you also get to share experiences with other people. We feed off each other’s creative energy, and apart from just music, we spend time together to get to know each other – basically, we get to create those experiences that reflect in the art we create.

John: I actually really love this idea of the Room Of Understanding. The fact that it started off from an actual room is just amazing.

Garey: It’s a room that has grown into a state of mind. It’s a room that has grown into a room, you can say. So now even if we no longer have that space, the spirit is always going to live on forever.

John: You said everyone feeds off each other energies, and I feel like everyone who comes to the Room Of Understanding does so with a mindset that everything done is for the collective good, but everyone gains something eventually after all. For you, what are the things you’ve learnt or gained from being in the Room Of Understanding?

Garey: You never know what might come out from collaborations. Some of the greatest music we hear just come from some artistes just being open to work with other artistes. It’s in Nigeria where we still have the illusion that it’s so much of a negative thing if someone co-writes on your song; most of the times we’re just accustomed to the thoughts of wanting to take all the praise for our works. For me it’s not so important that I get all the credit; it’s much more important that the music is great; so if I’m going to have like three people co-writing on the song or just bringing small elements to make it what it is, then at the end of the day it’s about the feeling we create for the audience and the art that comes out of it so I think it’s very important to open the doors to collaboration. As a producer, most of the songs I’ve happened to have done with the last three projects, it’s been Hannes and I working on them together – He produces, I produce, and we never think about it in the stressful kind of way you know… it’s just an open slate where we just work together on records and put out the best possible music that we can.

John: with understanding in mind…

Garey: Exactly, exactly. We had some people coming from Nigeria to Germany, I think it was November last year, and it was a blast. There was Douglas Jekan, the PGM plug, He was here in Germany with us; we met, we had a very dope event. That was also the same time when I got to meet ShowDemCamp and we connected, made the Koko remix together. It’s just been a great experience opening up the Room Of Understanding to other creatives and music houses and bodies.

John: Speaking of the SDC, they make seasonal albums under the Clone Wars title, and these projects strong political and social statements. I’ve also observed that you sometimes love to tilt towards that direction as you did in The Resistance and Revolution Music; for you, how do you balance your role as an entertainer and as a socially conscious artiste?

Garey: The key for me is expressing myself in the way I feel the most comfortable. With songs like The Resistance and Revolution Music, it came naturally. I wasn’t trying to be too conscious. For us who grew up in Nigeria, I envy those who can carry on with life without looking at the issues happening, and then reflect on it and think of ways in which we can all provide solution; for me, it’s a bit surprising – for lack of a better word – because for me I feel like in some way or another every Nigerian is being oppressed. We’ve all had like the same or similar type of issues where we’ve had to battle with people at the top not remembering us, not giving us a fair chance to living to our fullest potentials so we’re conscious whether we like it or not, whether we are choosing to reflect it in our music or not. I came from a home where both parents where average Nigerians, or as you could call it, civil servants. My dad now is a retired lawyer, and my mum, she’s been a teacher for so many years. So for me, the experiences I’ve had has made me grow up in a way that I cannot completely shy away from talking about these issues in my music because I feel like it’s just not proper –

John: and do you think it’s necessary for other artistes too, or do you think everyone should just do what’s within their own frame of mind?

Garey: I feel like everyone is living their truth – no, scratch that – I feel like authentic artistes should live their truth however they choose to express it so for me, I don’t feel like talking consciously on every song is the only way you can represent something in Nigeria. There are many artistes now who represent something huge and different other than just the lyrical content of their music; I’ll give you an instance, Burna Boy. Burna Boy has really big records that are commercial, but at the same time there’s a political undertone in so many of his songs, even the really big songs but it’s not the preachy-preachy rub it in your face type of consciousness. The same thing with Odunsi; you know, we never really think about it but with Odunsi, he’s a rebel in a kind of way that really speaks a lot about the millennial African; it speaks about the young African who’s willing to take chances, it speaks about the young African who’s not willing to be boxed within an expectation when it comes to fashion or what they look like, it speaks to the young African awakening and taking power into their own hands and creating a narrative, going against the status quo, rebelling against what they say we must sound or look like; so that’s some form of revolution, but in a different type of way so I feel like it’s happening now, but we just don’t get to appreciate those guys because we just think of it as a movement in the cultural sense, but if you really think about the underline part of what they’re doing, they are really affecting political change in a way.

John: I’ve really not thought of it this way before; so it feels like a revolutionary rebellion

Garey: Exactly. So I feel like it’s just important to be true to yourself as an artist and express yourself however you feel is really truly think is authentic to you.

John: Still on consciousness, I think one doesn’t have to express their immediate relative consciousness every time right? Like for you aren’t there times when you create music from a thought, or an idea, or a moment of imagination?

Garey: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. For a song like Cairo, I haven’t physically been in Cairo, but Cairo was like an imaginary place in my mind where I had a romantic relationship with a girl; Cairo is a place that signifies me meeting her and falling in love or lust or whatever and her not wanting that experience to be like a long term type of thing, so I was really hooked up on creating this long-term type of feeling with a girl I met, but she was just gonna come and go, like she didn’t want to create this long-term type of vibe, so for her it was just like fun, but for me there was more of an involvement and engagement. In a way it’s a true story, but also in a way it was very so coloured and also much garnished to kinda paint a picture and the place that I picked to express this romantic feeling was Cairo. So yeah, there are times when as an artiste you imagine outside the box, you think of a place you’ve never been to and based on the kind of vibe you want to create you can even tweak the sound to reflect the moment for the audience.

John: So you decided to tweak Cairo to the point where even if she hears the song she wouldn’t know she was the person you were singing about, nice job!

Garey: yeah in a way (laughs)

John: I’ve also with time come to observe that you make a lot of music centred around love, lust and relationships; like Koko with the SDC and Situationship. How do you manage to strike that delicate balance between doing what you have to do (which by the way is expressing yourself), and maintaining those personal relationships?

Garey: Well, I think everything around reflects in the music one way or the other – experiences, the people you meet, the hands you shake, the kinds of meetings you have around, the culture you absorb – and that’s why the art is so lucid, and free, and expressive, and touching and also compelling. That’s because it’s a reflection of real experiences for me. For maintaining relationships, I feel like if I say something on a song that doesn’t shed the best light on someone, at the end of the day it depends on how you say it and sometimes I have to be very explicit and direct because it might be helping someone else having the same similar issues. I think the people around me in a friendship type of way, or romantic type of way, and even family type of way know that the things that happen around me will finally reflect in my music (laughs) you can’t really separate me from the music if you know what I mean.

John: Yeah, I get it. Speaking on relationships in the family type of way, the song titled Letter To My Brother off The Lift Off album speaks on being in that tight place of lack of inspiration and struggling with being stuck in a loop and running in circles. That project was released about two years ago so I know looking back now you would have a lot to say in regards to breaking off that phase. How do you do that now? Finding inspiration at your lowest points?

Garey: Ummm… It’s a state. I think it’s okay to take a break sometimes. We’re in a world where there’s so much competition, everything is so fast, we’ve got social media, and we’re constantly in one way or another comparing our lives to someone else based off what we see;  I think it’s really important to take a step back sometimes and know that you deserve a break and, it’s okay sometimes when I’m not inspired to create art – the time when you begin to force it for the sake of being within the algorithm or for the sake of having music out, that’s the minute where you lose the authenticity that sets you apart from the crowd. So for me, when I’m inspired I try to record as much music as possible to have it down saved somewhere for the rainy days.  At the same time I know there would be low moments when I would not even want to be close to a microphone, to take some time off to reflect on other things or recharge my system on new ideas and content, so, it’s a feeling that I’ve kind of learned to deal with without being so hard on myself, and when I feel like I’m not so inspired I take a break, do something outside of music – it might be something related to creativity as there are other ways I can be creative like writing a blog for instance, or reading a book, or hanging with friends. I think it’s just having the right balance of all the right things that just keep your mind in the right space.

John: This resonates with me so well because I also tend to leave everything behind to find what works for me at every particular point in times like this. The only project you’ve released this year is the album titled Still I Rise. The project houses songs with different sounds in terms of genres and sub-genres. Presently, it feelings like every artiste is revolting against the norm of what music should sound like, and sound experimentation is key to that. For you, what’s your reason for experimenting?

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Garey: Do you think you could get the theme around the Still I Rise Album?

John: Yeah for me I think the project oscillates between the feeling of lowliness and finding a way back up. The introduction to the project which is the first track was a lo-fi sound in which you were projecting your insecurities and vulnerability and as the songs progressed it felt like you were finding your way out of that state. Also, each song had its own peculiar song which leads back to my question on why you always feel the need to experiment –

Garey: I feel like my music is just not one genre; it’s just Afro-fusion. You could tell it’s just something out of the confines of Afrobeats and every other genre, but it just still is the Garey Godson sound in a way and, the truth is I don’t really think about it much. For me once I listen to an instrumental, I get a vibe and then I’m able to paint a picture around it. The whole concept of the album was inspired by Maya Angelou. You could really see how she painted the picture of oppression which she experienced and which other black folks experienced; racism and all those other sad experiences but still rising above every one of them to be beautiful, to be expressive, to be bold, to be confident and you know, just like Maya, the album was a reflection on experiences that I’ve had over the last couple of years. I feel like in order to really experience growth, you have to go through pain and other different emotions in order to balance out and really discover yourself. So the album is just a journey of all the things I’ve had to go through down the last couple of years in terms of happiness, joy, pain, falling, getting back up, and then falling falling falling again and you know, just getting back up. So the sound just goes through all of those elements.

John: Yeah, I get it. So for you experimenting is just natural. It’s not something you pre-plan or really put your mind to which leads to a certain realness in the final product of your creative endeavours.

Garey: Yeah bro; the love for music and background in production doesn’t just allow me focus on just one type of vibe.

John: Looking at the African Music industry from your own perspective, in what ways do you think improvements can be made for African Music to be able to have a say in the general world view of music?

Garey: First of all I want to say that with the little resources we have now we already are competing on a global scale and we’re doing very well. I have to say that the growth of African Music, more specifically, Nigerian music in the last three years have been immense. In terms of the kind of categories we have been nominated for, the type of collaborations Nigerian artistes are bagging, the cultural impact globally in terms of how many people are now jumping on the afrobeats sound, repping African culture – we can see that right now it’s sweeping even way beyond the music; the music is just one thing which is helping Africans in diaspora to find an identity, and also breaking stereotypes of how people perceive us to be. So I think we’re doing very well, we’re growing very fast, but there are still some challenges we have in Nigeria – I can’t speak generally for Africa – like not having data, like demographic data to let us understand what’s happening with the music is an issue, we’re still battling the issue of a big platform like Spotify not being in Nigeria, we still have the piracy issues which doesn’t allow artistes receive the full proceeds from their music, alternatively  music streaming is one of the biggest things that is affecting the music business in Nigeria because the model has shifted from just shows and endorsements now also to streaming. So I think the industry is growing really fast. There’s a few things we still need to keep up with and catch up on, but we have to say we can’t really compare the Nigerian music industry to what they have in the US or in the UK considering the fact that there has been structure there for so many years.

John: But I also feel like we are handicapped in some ways because of the high rate of poverty. There’ll always be piracy because of poverty. There also are people who really want to listen to music through the right channels but are struggling to keep up with the monthly subscriptions and whatnot which in some ways affects the demographic data of listeners.

Garey: True. Data is problem, and internet is also really not affordable which also is a problem so we’re just only seeing the tips of the iceberg of what’s really possible if we have like more access to the internet in Nigeria because more people are going to be streaming. Also if they’re able to decentralize the strongholds in terms of pricing considering of the geographical territory then it becomes easier for more people to have access to streaming platforms which is going to be a huge benefit to the streaming platforms and also a benefit to the growth of African Music with Nigeria in mind more specifically. So I think not being able to research enough how the audience is growing in terms of audience data and also internet data are the two main challenges that we’re still having.

Garey Godson

John: That’s very right. There are also many narratives pointing out that Africa and African music is very much underrated. Do you buy into these narratives?

Garey: I think the whole thing about underrated has been debunked; like if you listen to pop songs these days you hear very strong undertones of Afrobeats. In Germany, here in Berlin, even in small shops Nigerian music is playing, and I’m not just talking about the likes of Tekno or wizkid, artistes like Tay Iwar and Santi, they know them really well here in Germany. The young people who listen to what’s fresh globally, they know those artistes, so it’s like the African music has grown so much more that we can really appreciate right now. I think they know what we’re capable of doing, and the world right now is waiting for it but we don’t have the right infrastructure in place to push it to where it’s supposed to be, and right now while we’re having this phase, I think we should do the most we can to suck the most we can out of it.

John: That’s what we are all trying to do. Let’s go back to talking about you, what are the major plans you have for your own career for the next couple of year?

Garey: I love the music business. I’ve had a strong background in things that have to do with music apart from being an artiste myself, in terms of management, production; I’m also very handsome on things like what the visuals look like, and being involved in some way in making the videos and also, I like the business side of things and that’s why I interned with Universal Music. I’m also in talks with other major labels in Nigeria to kind of see how we could do something together in such a way that feels independent. So for me, apart from making music, I just like the conversations that go around the business in helping to create some sort of structure so we can compete on a global scale. So putting out more music is number one priority for me, at the same time doing the type of collaborations, and also keeping a stronghold with my connections to Nigeria.

John: I’m definitely looking forward to everything coming. Are there any lessons you’ve learnt from your own journey so far that you would love to share with emerging artistes?

Garey: Hmm that’s a very thoughtful question; I’ll say it’s just important to stay true to yourself and move at your pace, at the same time keep your eyes open to opportunities. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Don’t let the fear of not having everything in place stop you from making the first move in investing in yourself. Also, there’s no such thing as overnight success. Don’t get carried away by what everyone else is doing; of course it’s okay to draw influences from people, but don’t let it get it get to that point where you start comparing yourself to them.

John: Now, the last question I have is for life in general; what matters the most to you and why?

Garey: Being able to express myself really matters to me in any form. Just having the ability to document my experiences so when I leave this world, it can serve as a source of inspiration even if it’s to two people or more it doesn’t really matter to me, but creating something that transcends beyond just me is really important and that’s only through art.

John: That’s what true greatness entails to me. Thanks for doing this with us

Garey: Thank you guys for having me.

Check out Grey Godson’s latest single, Ma Way Here or preview it below
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