Interview With The Award-Winning Femi Leye

by Lucy Lerner

18th March, 2022

Award-Winning Femi Leye from Lagos, Nigeria is fully immersed in music as a singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Femi has worked with some music idols such as Youssou N’dour, Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita, Akon, Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, Reekado Banks, Adekunle Gold, Johnny Drille, Ric Hassani, Brymo and more.

Femi’s music is often soothing and languid yet highly spirited. It is heady and intoxicating, a treat for the senses. His sound is shaped by his heritage, music heroes and nostalgic eras.

Today he releases his latest single Igba Mi De (My Time Has Come). It is a beautiful song with many facets from passionate vocals, a winding melody, and a catchy chorus to soothing guitar. The combination of English and Femi’s dialect Yoruba elevates it to another level entirely.

We caught up with Femi Leye upon the release of his blissful new single to find out more:

Photo by Akorede Olaitan

How would you describe your musical style to new listeners?
It’s a beautiful mixture of authentic African music with contemporary sounds and some Jazz.

Tell us about your new single Igba Mi De
Igba Mi De was written and produced when I was doing some shows in America, I was staying with the Producer BEN OBI in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I remembered opening for Fally Ipupa, my performance was so great he said “I need to Produce a Femi Leye record” so I wrote the song the next day and we produced it in the evening. The amazing thing is that I recorded the guitars, keys, Rhodes, bass on the song.

It’s definitely one of my favorite songs.

What were your emotions while writing this song and what message would you like to get across to listeners?
I was just looking at my life man, far from home, doing what I love and basically sharing my story, you know. Every time leading up until that moment. Igba Mi De is the story of my life, my success story and it is the story of everyone that has gone through it man, and getting to that moment where everything is starting to make sense. Regardless of all the trials and tribulations, you finally made it.

What is your earliest musical memory?
Listening to King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, and Fela Kuti on my Dad’s record player. I wanted to play all the instruments instantly. I was just fascinated with the sounds.

Which artists did you listen to growing up?
King Sunny Ade, he was a Rockstar man. Fela Kuti was an innovator.
Lagbaja is also another artist I really listened to. Later in life George Benson, Norman Brown, Wes Montgomery, Earl Klugh etc. I was obsessed with these guys. I learnt their techniques and different things from them. In the 2000’s I was exposed to John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr and other great musicians.

How much do your Nigerian roots influence your music?
A lot. I listened to musicians from the 60’s down to the ’90s, they shaped me. I discovered my African sounds through these guys.

You’re a multi-instrumentalist, performer, producer and composer – is there anything that you find particularly challenging or is there a talent that comes more naturally to you?
They all come naturally to me, I enjoy creating music, playing different instruments and figuring stuff out, I am obsessed with sonics and the way they make people feel, so I am very comfortable in the studio, but my favourite place in the world is the STAGE because I get to perform these songs to the world, feels amazing every time.

If you could go back in time to an era of music, where would you go?
The ’70s was a very interesting era. The musicianship was insane, and they were amazing creators. We are still sampling those guys today.

Is there anywhere, in particular, you would like to perform? (A city, venue or festival?)
London has a special place in my heart, but I see myself as a citizen of the world so every festival, venue, Arena, Stadium, City that will have me, I am ready to give them an amazing show.

You have worked with many musicians – if you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
John Mayer, Bruno Mars. They are amazing musicians.

What are the highlights in your music career to date?
Performance to a crowd of 2500 in Minnesota for my first American show. The reception was insane. I will never forget.

What albums, songs, music videos, films, TV series, podcasts and books helped you through the pandemic.
Chillhop on YouTube, I listened to Lofi every day. Watched a lot of movies and series.

What inspires and motivates you?
Everything around me, conversations with people, random sounds, Car horns Lol

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Be the best version of yourself, not someone else.

What’s next for Femi Leye?
Working on my 3rd album, experimenting with some new sounds, looking forward to sharing it with the world when it’s done.

Igba Mi De is out now.

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