Time Out With FUNBI

When it comes to exceptional talents in the Nigerian music scene, we have continuously been blessed with the very best. From the Afrobeats genre to Highlife and R&B, the Nigerian music scene endlessly graces us with musical geniuses across various genres.

With many exciting artists producing good music, an honourable mention would be the R&B sensation Funbi.

Blessed with an amazing voice, Funbi Emiola started his musical career at the age of 14 when he had his first studio session, which his proud father paid for after he noticed Funbi’s artistic talent.

A multi-talented singer, songwriter, and performer, Funbi delivers a soulful sound that captivates audiences and lyrics that resonate deeply. Funbi still solidifies his name in the world of R&B music as he brings a unique blend of passion and raw emotions to his music, getting audiences all in on their feelings while listening. He has earned acclaim for his captivating live performances and heartfelt hits. He remains at the forefront of Nigeria’s alternative music scene, continuously pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

With an ever-growing fanbase and dedication to his craft, Funbi is focused on significantly impacting the R&B genre and beyond.

In this exclusive interview, Funbi speaks
with THEWILL DOWNTOWN’s Johnson Chukwueke on his artistic journey, influences, and exciting projects we should look forward to.

Can you share a bit about your background and upbringing and how it influenced your musical journey?

First of all, I was born in Kwara state. I don’t speak about this often, but I am actually from Ibandan. I was born and raised in Ilorin, Kwara state. I didn’t move to Lagos until 2002, and from then on, music has always been a part of me in the sense that I was in the choir, as a lot of singers were. I used to do a lot of solos; they had picked me to do the solos, and even though at times I found it difficult to remember the lyrics, I still did the solos, and from then on, people would always tell me, “oh you can sing, you should probably take this seriously.” So, it wasn’t until I was in high school, I think, in ss1 or so, that I decided to go to the studio for the very first time; my dad actually paid for my first studio session. A friend and I recorded a song titled Best of Both.

Truthfully, I don’t think I even want to play that song right now. That was my first time having a studio session, but it felt great to be in the studio. The feeling I got while I was in the studio creating stuff, joining melodies together, the music was coming together, I was like, “Okay, this is something I see myself doing a lot more often”, and so that’s how it became more of something I wanted. I released my first song, but before I released it, I did a couple of features back in the day; it was called Beg for It, so yeah. So, I kinda have been in and out of the music scene from then on, but it wasn’t until I released Hallelujah, my first major solo single that a lot of things changed for me, and that was when I was like, “Okay we are serious now, let’s really get in”. So, that’s pretty much how it began.

With so many artists delving into Afrobeats, what is it about R&B that made you want to major in the genre?

Well, I am still a huge fan of Afrobeat and in a way, I still dabble into Afrobeat, but the core of my music is R&B. The thing is, I believe in staying true to myself and what comes naturally to me, although I am always open to experimenting with different sounds, but I wouldn’t be Funbi if I didn’t make R&B because it creates where I feel I do the best, so I can’t go somewhere else where it doesn’t feel like my core although I appreciate all genres of music, and like I said I experiment with different sounds. R&B is still the core for me; I feel I stay true to myself when I make music in that lane. Also, this is not to say you won’t hear me on a different beat cause I think I have done that before. I have delved into Afro, Funk, and even sometimes into House. To be honest, this new project is centered on R&B, and it has a fusion of other genres, but its core remains R&B.

How do you feel your sound has evolved since your last project?

Okay, my experiences have been a whole different one from where I was coming from. Like a lot has happened between the last project I released, which was in 2018, and now. My music has grown, as a matter of fact, I have started recording myself and mixing myself. So all of those things made me understand music better, understand how I want to fuse the melodies and the music better, that has helped to develop my sound , I would say it’s more mature basically, and it reflects in the music.

We are aware of a new single coming out, can you tell us about your new single and the creative process behind it?

Yeah, it’s titled Distance. It talks about relationships. You know how sometimes two people are in a relationship but not on the same wavelength; you have one person wanting more than the other, so that’s what I am describing in the song Distance. We actually had musicians come through, people playing instruments, writers as well, the producer was there, we all just stayed there, we got a place where we stayed then we created a bunch of songs, and Distance was one of the songs we were able to start. I didn’t finish it there, it wasn’t until later I finished it, got the lyrics and recorded the songs. I think from the moment I played back what we had recorded, I was like, yeah, this has to be the one, and that’s how Distance came to life. So the song just focuses on the fact that, yeah, I understand that we are not in the same place right now, but give me time, don’t keep your distance from me; that’s pretty much what I am saying.

Could you describe what it has been like breaking into the music industry as an R&B artist, especially as it’s mostly dominated by Afrobeats artists?

When I first started, R&B wasn’t really a genre that was properly consumed by many people. However, over the years, Nigerian music has opened up to the world, and like different genres, it has progressed here. A lot of people are listening to it, and I would say that right now, people are more in tune with R&B than they were five to ten years ago.

What challenges did you face during your hiatus from the music industry?

While I was away from music, I was basically focusing on how to hone my craft, and honestly, I felt like the major challenge I faced was getting the music right, in the sense that getting the mixing and mastering had to be right, that part was challenging. I am very particular about how things sound; there are times I would sit with it for a few days and be like, yeah, this particular sound needs to go down, this one needs to go up, I go into every detail, some people might say I am a lot of work.

At the end of the day, for me, I have to make sure the music is right, if not I won’t be satisfied and I won’t be able to put it out if it’s not how I want it to be.

Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from your time away from the spotlight?

Memorable moments for me. Firstly, it would be that I have a family now, which is not what I had before. I am married now with two kids, a boy and a girl. It’s been amazing. I want to be very present with my family, so to me, it’s been the most memorable moment for me during this whole period, so it definitely would be my family.

Are there any collaborations or features you have planned for any upcoming project that you’re excited about?

It’s mainly my stuff. I have a feature on my project coming, and I have other stuff that I am working on, but that’s for later. I have worked with other artists, too, but I don’t think I can mention them right now until we are 100 percent sure these are the tracks that will be out. So, all I can say right now is that there’s a feature on my track with an East African artist.

Can you share any plans for live performances, tours, or other opportunities to connect with fans?

Yeah, those are in the works, as you know, I am just coming back with a single, so along the line, there are definitely plans of doing live shows, I personally like to do live shows, I like to have my band with me and sing, that’s my thing, so we are doing that for sure during the promotion of the song and also the E.P, so yeah, dates would be shared as we go along.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as an artist, especially during challenging times?

The thing is, I like music so much that even if I don’t listen to music for a long period and I just start hearing melodies, it’s a natural thing, my body and my mind just go into hyperdrive and I start to sing randomly. So, for me, motivation just basically comes from what I hear around me, and what I feel in that particular moment.

I watch lots of TV shows and stuff like that so sometimes motivation and ideas come from things that I watch. I also actually dream music, sometimes I could sleep and wake up with a melody in my head so I quickly record it. Yeah, those are basically areas I tap into when I am trying to make music. I am pretty sure if you open a lot of artists’ phones, you would be surprised they also have recordings of themselves based on ideas that just came to them, that’s just how it is.

Are there any specific subjects or topics that you explore in your music?

Well, to describe my music, I would say it’s smooth and sensual, a lot of times I explore the topics of love, relationships, and betrayal sometimes, those are the areas I can tap into.

What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B music, and where do you see the genre heading in the future?

I think that with the way music is, even speaking about genres being intertwined, I feel we are all experimenting with music, and even though they say there’s nothing new under the sun, it feels like there are some mixtures that haven’t been explored yet. So, I feel like R&B is not going to stand alone; it’s going to be fused with a lot of other sounds, like mixing a potion; so right now, it’s growing, and it’s still going to grow a lot more as we continue to have more exploits and people transitioning from being just Nigerian artists to being global artists. We have seen artists being able to do that from here being able to do that, just like Tems, so yeah, R&B can go a long way.

How do you define success as an artist, and what goals do you hope to achieve now that you are back in the spotlight?

Success for me would be first finishing the music and then being able to release the music. That is a level of success for me. I just want to see that music is getting to people and hearing their reaction, and how they perceive the music, I think that’s it for me. Obviously, it would be nice to add a few awards to it, but that’s not the motivation; the motivation is getting in touch with people. For me, when I make music that people are talking about, and they show a different perspective from what I was thinking, that means a lot to me. For instance, when I made Hallelujah, I got many messages about how the music touched them and how it meant so much to them. That, for me, is a success; being able to connect with the listeners and having an impact on their lives is success to me.

What do you hope your legacy will be in the music industry?

Well for me, people have inspired me to even make music in the first place, so essentially, it would be great for me to be an inspiration to other artists to create their own stuff, be the one that motivates them, even if they are going to use my songs. Having them say yeah, Funbi’s music inspired me to jump into the studio. So inspiring artist to have a successful push in their music would be immense.

Finally, this feels like a whole new chapter you are starting in your career, so what message would you like to share with your fans as you embark on this new chapter in your music career?

Yeah, so I want people to know that now, I am on a different level. My spirit is very different, and honestly, I feel so much positivity as I am about to put out this single that’s coming out soon. I have every intention to keep making music.

I know a lot of times that I have disappeared, but sometimes it’s just to find inspiration to create again. So yeah, music is coming out, and there’s a lot more coming. What I am putting out isn’t everything I have, although I put in everything into making it, so yeah, there’s a lot more coming.

Johnson Chukwueke
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Johnson Chukwueke is a content and creative writer with over 3 years of experience as a professional. A microbiology graduate from the Imo State University, Johnson is a music enthusiast who also enjoys movies, reading, and swimming. He is a writer at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.

About Author / Johnson Chukwueke

Johnson Chukwueke is a content and creative writer with over 3 years of experience as a professional. A microbiology graduate from the Imo State University, Johnson is a music enthusiast who also enjoys movies, reading, and swimming. He is a writer at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.

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