Nigerian singer-songwriter Johnny Drille – born John Ighodaro – first got attention in 2013 on the sixth season of Project Fame West Africa. Before this platform, Drille was raised in Nigeria’s Edo State and got interested in singing through his father’s church.
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Similar to how aspiring singers get noticed on American Idol or The Voice, this medium connected Drille with fans across the continent. He also caught the attention of Don Jazzy, the producer and owner of Marvin Records, where Drille has been signed since 2017.
Drille’s first official release was a cover of “Awww” by Di’Ja. Influenced by Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, as well as African artists like Jazzy, Bellion, Asa, and MI, he saw his profile grow with subsequent original releases, including 2016’s “Wait for Me” and 2018is “Halleluya,” which featured a collaboration with Afro-pop singer Simi.
As a culmination of these factors, Drille is releasing his debut album Before We Fall Asleep, preceded by single “Loving is Harder.” We had a chance to speak with Drille about what listeners should expect.
Tell us about “Loving Is Harder”: What is this song about?
“Loving is Harder” is a story about lovers who cannot live together neither can stay apart, a relationship that takes so much from each person but somehow they cannot leave each other.
Abusive relationships have become even more talked about in recent times, and as one-sided as a narrative it might seem sometimes, it’s even more complicated than it seems. Love, how I understand it, takes commitment, determination, and hard work.
I wanted to be able to tell all of that in a song. I’ve never really experienced a toxic relationship, but I’ve seen people, friends, family go through these things, and I’m grateful to be able to talk about it with my music.
How did “Loving Is Harder” come together?
A good friend of mine and producer, Wilson Muzic played me a beat, and the first instance I listened to it, I immediately knew what I wanted to sing about, even though not in detail.
Initially, it was just gibberish words and some melodies, but then it all started to come to me, and everything fit just perfectly.
Your debut album Before We Fall Asleep dropped in September: What should listeners expect?
The listeners should expect the best of the best. I’ve taken the last few years and months to craft this project, and I’m so proud of it – I’m proud of my journey so far and all the strides that I’ve taken. Proud of how I’ve pushed myself to be better, to be the best that I can be.
The Before We Fall Asleep album is very dynamic a journey. My intention is to take every listener on the journey and make them feel exactly how I felt working on this project; the joy, the sadness, the pain, and the satisfaction.
What was your approach for putting together your album?
For me, I wanted to be able to tell a single story with the whole album. Whilst each song is different, every song contributes to the entire narrative of the album as a whole. Every song is unique by itself but somehow connects to the next and quite seamlessly that it all makes sense in the end.
The album features myself and my alter ego, which I and the fans now call JD. JD is who I’ll call the other extreme side of me, and he comes through in quite a few of the songs. Without giving away too much, I hope that the listeners can tell the difference and appreciate each personality even more.
Where does “Loving Is Harder” fit within the album’s framework?
“Loving is Harder” is the second song of the album. It sets the tone for what will become a story of love from different vantage points – in this particular case, the sad point.
As a singer-songwriter, how do you go about crafting a song?
There’s never one way for me to make music. Sometimes, the idea comes to me first, sometimes it’s the music, other times it’s the lyrics, and sometimes it’s really just by chance.
In recent times I’ve tried to take chances by free-styling melodies while recording, listening back to all the things I may not have come up with consciously.
You got attention on Project Fame West Africa in 2013. How did this help your career?
Project Fame helped me get my first set of listeners and an audience. It was also my first time in the spotlight, and I got to have a feel of what being there felt like for the first time. It prepared me for how to face the industry and all the challenges and pressures.
Even though I didn’t go very far into the competition, I was grateful for the platform, for that opportunity to be able to start something which has blossomed into what is now Johnny Drille today.
What plans do you have to promote Before We Fall Asleep?
Even though a lot of people would assume that I’ve had an album way before now, it is my very first album and very exciting time for me. I’m so glad to be able to share not just one song but a body of work, to be able to tell my story in a series of songs all woven together to make a complete thought.
I’m grateful for the fans I have gathered over the years and who have stayed with me the journey so far, grateful to be able to present this gift to them, a piece of my heart in words and letters.
Recently, I went to my some super fan’s homes to play them the album – it was amazing to see the reaction and happiness on their faces.
These moments made me understand how truly my music has been impactful to people, so many people that I don’t even know and have never met, such a gift that I’m grateful for.
What are your goals for your career?
There are so many things I want to be, but the big picture for me is to become an icon not just for my environment but for beyond.
One who stood for something different and conquered despite all the odds, that even years to come my music and values would outlive me.
Legacy of one to be remembered for making the best of music.