interview | johnny drille

Johnny Drille is a shining gem in the Nigerian music scene with hopes of taking over the world. With Afrobeats being the face of African music right now, Johnny’s mellow music is a refreshing taste of the diverse sound that West Africa has to offer. Nowhere is Johnny’s talent clearer than in his latest album Before We Fall AsleepIt’s an atmospheric entry into Johnny’s work featuring everything from socially introspective tracks to soft romantic pop ballads. The rising Nigerian singer shares with Schön! why he wants to rewrite how the world sees African music. 

Can you share how you first got into music?

I sang in the choir in my local church for years and at some point decided to audition for a talent hunt competition. I got through and even though I did not win it was my first  experience at music professionally. It gave me a glimpse of how the music industry worked and that platform gave me the first few fans which I’m still grateful for.

What genres or artists influence your current sound?

In the past I listened to a lot of Owl City, Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran. Recently, I have been listening to a lot of Jon Bellion. I’m such a huge fan of his music and all the music he’s worked on for other artists. I was lucky to meet him in 2019, that is still one of my most precious life moments. He’s been such a huge inspiration. However, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Holly Humberstone, LANY and Lauv.

Where do you typically find inspiration for your lyrics?

Music is very spontaneous for me. Inspiration can come from anywhere: walking down the street, listening to other music, playing video games, having conversations with people or spending time with my family. A lot of my songs have been inspired by real life situations and I think it’s one of the reasons why my fans can connect to my music on a more personal level.

What themes did you try to explore in your latest album Before We Fall Asleep?

My album is a roller coaster of emotions from love, to hate, to disappointment, to police brutality and crime, to heartbreak. The album is two different sides of me, almost like an alter ego of some sort. One side being the lover boy who is such a hopeless romantic and sings about love in all its beauty. The other – which I call JD – is a stark contrast who sings about all the other ugly stuff. This album is like a coin, each side so different from the other. 

What do you hope fans to feel after listening to your album debut?

In one word, nostalgia. I want them to feel the very emotions I felt the day I wrapped up the album and played it from top to bottom, to feel my vulnerability, my pain, my joy and my love.

Is there a track that was one of your favourites to make? 

Yes! It was the very last song I recorded on the album. It was written by Fink and Lamont Dozier. It was the most tasking to record vocally but I was happy how it turned out. It’s such a beautiful song. 

Your sound is a little different to what we usually hear coming out of Nigeria right now. Do you think that gives you an advantage in a way?

I think that every artist needs that uniqueness and recognisability. The most successful artists in the world have that in common and I’ve always wanted to be different. I’ve always wanted to stand out. There’s so much beautiful music coming out of Nigeria and Africa in general, and though Afrobeats is the big sound from here, it is my hope that the rest of the world can see Africa, not just as an Afrobeats continent, but one with diverse sounds in music. 

What do you hope is the future for music coming from the continent?

My hope is that, even as Afrobeats gets bigger, that the world would begin to see more than Afrobeats and how diverse and beautiful all the other sounds coming out of Africa are. Africa is bigger than Afrobeats, there are much more beautiful sounds coming out of here.

Lastly, what do you hope to achieve this year?

For the album to hit it big, to do shows and festivals in countries of Africa and outside of Africa. The UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, and more. As the pandemic goes away, of course.

Johnny Drille‘s album ‘Before We Fall Asleep‘ is out now.

This Schön! online exclusive has been brought to you by

photography. Jack McKain
talent. Johnny Drille
words. Shama Nasinde

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