Toronto-native, TOBi, displays a true sense of “unapologetic soul music” that generates authentic reactions from his listeners. His new album STILL derives from the sentiments of moving from Canada and pursuing music. He was inspired by artists ranging from Tupac to Michael Jackson to Celine Dion.
Read our interview below with the young artist TOBi where we discuss his music, inspirations, and transformation after moving to North America.
For those new to your music, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is TOBi, I am a Nigerian-Canadian artist ready to leave my mark on the planet the best way. I’ve been writing songs since I was 8 years old and it’s my way of connecting and bringing people from all walks of life together.
How did you realize that you wanted to pursue singing?
I realized I wanted to be a singer when I would spend every waking moment doing it. All my friends know me as someone who is constantly writing songs and melodies, dancing everywhere. At the age of 23 after working a full-time job for a year, I realized it was time to monetize my pain.
Excited to hear your album! Tell me the inspiration behind the title.
STILL is being calm in the eye of the storm. Staying present and persistent, in my goals, in my vision, in my purpose in life. Navigating through adversity and coming out on the other side battered, bruised and still standing.
What do you hope fans take away from listening to STILL?
There are many themes that I explore in this project and I hope fans really dive into it and be open minded. I made this music to be passively and actively enjoyed. I’d prefer if people actively listened and dissected the messaging within it, but if they just want to listen to music that makes them feel anything, then I’m all for it.
Your music is inspired by the transformative years of moving from Nigeria to Canada. In what ways have your family inspired your love of music?
My parents love listening to music and as far as I remember, my grandfather used to be an avid dancer as well. Not technically gifted at all, but a lover of music, sound, and movement. I fall into that same space. Outside of some vocal lessons, I haven’t had any formal training in singing or dancing, so I just let myself be free in expressing how I feel inside. It is cathartic, uplifting and almost spiritual. I loved my parent’s music collection because it was so vast and different. There was no methodology to it at all. They didn’t have favorite genres or artists. It was a gumbo of sound and a richness of texture, that warms me up to think about.
FYi was released in 2016, how does your newest project STILL differ?
STILL is more personal to my life story. It explores more ideas that I have been through and it is more sonically variant. Also, there is more of a narrative arc in this project that I think people will experience more emotions with than FYi. I can see people experiencing a variety of feelings from joy and hope to sadness and melancholy.
For live performances – what sort of elements do you try to incorporate? What makes a live performance memorable for you?
Depending on the song, I like to incorporate live music as well to give it a fuller and richer experience than the studio recordings. Also, I make sure I am connecting with every single person in the venue either through eye contact or movement. I am very active on stage and I know that if I show myself being completely free on stage, it allows others to let go of their inhibitions and do the same. I want to make my shows a safe space to be yourself and be free to move and be liberated. I have also incorporated a light show in my recent hometown show that took things to the next level.. it looked so surreal.
“City Blues,” “Sweet Poison” and “Werking” are the only songs available off your album at the moment. Which one of your songs on the album is your favorite, and which one was your favorite to put together? Why?
I love different aspects of each song, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I think “City Blues” and “Caged Bird Sings” show the widest range of what I am capable of artistically from the rapping to singing, playing with different cadences. I just had the most fun constructing those two songs. I’m also very proud of the songwriting as well.
You’re a multidimensional artist and believe in breaking boxes, expectations and defying limits – what’s your process when creating new music and their music videos?
Firstly, I set my intentions for the project that I am embarking on to get my mind in the right space to create. I find when that happens, everything that is born from that seed is of a like mind and will eventually bear the fruits that I manifested. For videos, it’s a collaborative process with the directors, so I like to hear out ideas and treatments from them as creatives themselves and then find a common ground between us both. I try not to follow the status quo or imitate what is trending in contemporary music. Obviously, I’m influenced by it because I am a part of it and aware of what’s going on musically, but I don’t want to get swept by the tide.
You’ve mentioned you wanted to make music that made people move physically and emotionally – do you feel like you’ve accomplished that goal?
With STILL I definitely accomplished that goal. There are songs on there that will get you out of your seat and dancing with your loved ones, friends or by yourself. Conversely, there are songs that will sit you down and allow you to be introspective, meditate and breathe for a second. Songs that will make you analyze your emotions and examine how you are feeling at the moment. I want people to Feel and not just be passive observers of my music.
Final question, what do you hope to accomplish by the end of the year?
By the end of the year, I want to be able to tour and share my art with people all across the world. Spreading the vibes across continents and people from all walks of life.
Have you listened to STILL yet? Let us know your favorite track from the album on Twitter @CelebMix