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Interview: Tolü Makay talks new EP, confidence and seeking joy

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After releasing a cover of Saw Doctor’s classic hit “N17”, singer-songwriter Tolü Makay grew her fanbase exponentially- and pretty much overnight. Now, the 26-year-old Afro-Irish has just released her first EP Being. Because of her gospel roots and inspiration from Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and other powerhouses, Tolü carries a lexicon of confidence with her music. Filled with positive manifestations and personality, Being dives into her personal journey of self-love, confidence and flair.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Tolü Makay to talk about the album, working through a pandemic, and confidence.

Congratulations on your first debut EP! How does it feel to have it complete and out in the world?

Thank you! It honestly feels great. I feel like I’ve released a part of me that I’ve needed to express for so long. ‘Being’ has helped me in ways I can’t fully explain. Times when I needed upliftment, encouragement and confidence, it helped and for people to tell me it does the same for them means everything. I feel like I’ve accomplished a level and can now move on to a new chapter of exploration.

You were born in Nigeria and grew up in Offaly, Ireland. How has your identity been shaped from where you’ve lived?

I always say you only know what you know. I only know what I’ve been exposed to. My identity, my character is made up of many circumstances, I simply don’t know how else I would’ve been. I am who I am. It’s definitely a long-winded answer but I don’t how else to answer it.

You’ve talked before about growing up in gospel and using your voice in the church. How old were you when you first started writing songs and who in your life encouraged you in your musical journey?

I started writing songs in my last year of university. When I won a gospel talent competition that required me to release a single.

Before then,  maybe from the age of 15 onwards,  I would do a lot of journaling, I would record a lot of voice notes of me singing songs, I freestyled and a few poems here and there. The first song I released on a streaming platform was a poem I made fit into a beat in 2018. My family are a huge part of my musical journey as well as my best friend. They really prompted me when I didn’t have the courage.

Your cover of Saw Doctor’s “N17” was nothing short of magical. What was it like working with that big of a production and team of people?

It was amazing. I absolutely enjoyed meeting and speaking with those involved on the day. It’s an honour!.. and to receive Saw Doctors’ blessings was a moment for me. Although due to the predicament we are in I haven’t met the majority of people that have blessed me this year, I’m looking forward to the day to meet everyone and celebrate with them.

How does it feel being on Ireland’s fast track to fame so quickly?

Am I? haha. Thank you. It feels great to feel noticed. I really just want to make sure I continue to make amazing music, share my experiences with the world and create a life of happiness for everyone I encounter.

The aim of your new album is personal growth and the stages of self-love. How has the message and making of your album been challenged given the current situation with COVID-19?

For the creation of my EP ‘Being’ in 2020, I had most of the work done in 2019. It was mostly for us to record, shoot some videos and find a way to release. There were various obstacles as you can imagine, but having a team of people who believed in my songs and really pushed me to give my 110% even when I felt really defeated helped. I think what was challenging about it is, I was in a place where it felt like the entire world was on hold and there was no certainty for anything. It was also my first year of going into music full time. I had moved back home and truthfully I wasn’t really happy or positive. However, the message that ‘Being’ encompasses kept me so hopeful! Releasing, adapting and creating a “mini studio” (not the best haha) made me just focus my energy on what mattered the most and what mattered was music, reconnecting with family and exercising.

Why did you choose to title the EP Being?

‘Being’ means essence, entity, who you are. It summed my becoming of who I wanted to be.

Each song off the EP comes from such a high standard of confidence. What’s your secret to maintaining a positive view of yourself (besides listening to this EP on repeat of course)?

Haha! Praying and cutting myself some slack. Being patient in reaching my goals. Learning to trust and understand that yes I need to work hard, but also leave room for the universe to simply do its thing. I can’t control everything… and seeking what brings me joy.

When COVID-19 is no longer a big risk, where would you see yourself traveling to first?

Nigeria or Italy! Maybe one after the other.

Stream Being here.

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