Omolade Oyetundun, the voice behind the popular Airtel 444 commercial, is a final year student at the University of Ilorin. Simply known as Lade, the upcoming singer is fast becoming the sweetheart of music lovers for her beautiful delivery of the Airtel commercial.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Kwara State native and one-time winner of UNILORIN idol spoke about her love for music, her growth, and experience after the Airtel advert went viral.
PREMIUM TIMES: How did you discover you had the talent to sing?
Lade: Music is a special gift for me. When I discovered I could sing, there was no way I could do it because I was still very young and there was no one I could tell that I wanted to really sing. I realised when I was nine that I really loved singing. I used to sing in the bathroom, in church, and all of that.
Looking back on my journey, I’d advise that parents really pay lots of attention to their young children to help them discover their talents earlier and guide them through it. It is not everyone that will make it in the corporate world. Education is important but they should not kill talents because they want them to focus on school. Encouragement from family gives a special kind of joy.
PT: What would you say is an occurrence that further solidified your will to pursue music?
Lade: Not like there was really a drive. I was just enjoying what I was doing basically. After some co petitions I took part in, I saw the need to really continue because I found out that people wanted to listen to what I had. At any point, anywhere I go to and the people know that I can sing, they’ll be like ‘sing for us, we want to hear your voice.’ So, those things are part of the reasons to want to further in music and because it is my passion. I have a very very strong passion for what I was doing. Maybe not when I started because I was only doing it for fun then but after winning some competitions plus some kind of people I associated with in the university, they all changed my mentality about music. I had more knowledge that added up to my drive to pursue music.
PT: How did you feel when you won the Season 3 medal for UNILORIN idol?
Lade: I felt really great. I felt fulfilled because I took part in the competition in the second season but I did not win. I was really sad because I felt it was something I could have won but I actually lost my voice because of the weather and because I over-rehearsed and all of that. If not that something like that happened, I didn’t see the competition as a big challenge, I felt it was something I could have won. After that happened, I decided I was going back to get my crown, I am going back to do this again.
I was not surprised when I was called up as the winner because I knew I worked hard for it. I reached out to a lot of people to give me hints on how to pick my songs for competitions. I reached out to some people that have been on project fame a long time ago. I had full knowledge of what I was doing at that time, not like the winning came as luck. It was properly planned and properly prepared for.
PT: How did you get the opportunity to clinch the Airtel advert commercial?
Lade: During the lockdown, I didn’t want my Instagram page to just be there so I thought of a way to keep it running so I was doing covers for other songs. A particular cover I did, “Duduke” by Simi, got the attention of a lot of people after I got a repost from Simi. The CEO of Soltracka, that is the agency that I did the Airtel advert for, reached out to me and told me to come over to the studio and we build a working relationship from there. That was how we started and a particular day, he called me to come and try something out and we did it. He told me it was an Airtel advert and I was really excited about it. That was how it happened simply.
PT: What inspired your choice of lyrics?
Lade: The lyrics were already penned down. I liked it, I enjoyed it and I personalised it. I put myself into the lyrics because that was what would bring out the beauty of any work of art. As a musician, whether you wrote your lyrics or not, if you don’t put yourself into the lyrics, you may not get the best out of it. So, I did not write it but I put bits of myself into it and it came out while.
PT: How did you feel about the reception of the song? Were you expecting it to be that huge?
Lade: At all. I was not even expecting it to be that huge because I watch commercials and everybody will be like this commercial is nice. But the reception of this one is as though it was a single on its own, like a full song. I was like ‘wow, how can people accept a commercial like it was a big artiste that released a single?’. It was like a life-changing experience for me because it really put me out there, to be honest.
PT: Do you feel like you have become a superstar?
Lade: Well, I won’t say no because seeing your name everywhere on Twitter with people saying things like the person that did that Airtel advert deserves a Grammy, deserves this and that award, that there should be something like the best advert award and I see people tagging me to such posts, makes me feel good.
There was a particular time I went out, because I was putting my pictures on Twitter, a particular lady saw me and was like oh I’ve seen your picture on Twitter and all. I felt good because people can now recognize the face. Because there was a controversy about whether it was Teni that did the song. The fact the whole thing is changing online makes me feel good because it was not like that at first when I started the push. People were still insisting it was Teni. Now, I can see that a lot of people are tagging me to posts that they see 444 in.
So, yes I feel like a superstar but I have not gotten there yet. There is still a long way to go.
PT: How did you feel about the speculations of who the real singer of the commercial was?
Lade: I didn’t feel really good about it. I did not sign any agreement of non-disclosure and at the same time, it is not like I am one blown artiste, so it is normal for me to expect something like that. If it was Fireboy, Airtel would have spelt it out that new jingle by Fireboy and all of that. Because I never blow, they just kept the name out of the whole thing. It was my own duty and the duty of people around me to push for me and I really appreciate everybody that put in their efforts to put me out to this point.
I didn’t really feel good about it, but now, I can say I feel better. I still want more people to know about it and I know they will, definitely.
PT: A lot of people still feel like the singer is Teni. Have you met her, are you her fan, and can you do a collaboration with her?
Lade: I don’t know, people say we sound alike but I don’t see the resemblance in our sounds and I don’t even think we sound alike. Probably the texture because sometimes the vocal texture might be alike. I can play my song now and play Teni’s song, I don’t think you will find similarities like that.
I have not met her, I really like her, I love her music and of course, I’d love to do a collaboration with her.
PT: Has the experience opened any door for you so far?
Lade: It has opened a lot of doors. I have met a lot of people because a lot of people come in and out of the studio I work at. Whenever I am introduced as the voice behind 444, people are like oh wow and before I know it, we’ve probably exchanged contacts, gotten follows on Instagram and we just become cool like that.
I have met people and I have been able to affiliate with new brands as well that I won’t want to go into details about.
PT: Have you worked for any other big brand or big artiste?
Lade: The only big brand I have worked with is Airtel. Any musician, no but soon, I will work with them.
PT: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your journey to being a singer?
Lade: Growth, consistency, it is not easy, trust me. It is not easy to stay consistent with a craft. No matter how passionate you are, you still need something to keep you going to maintain that consistency. I think I had challenges with consistency when I first started and I think up till now. You are thinking of the next content to put out because you have to be really strategic and all of that. It’s not easy, not like it is difficult because music comes easy for me. I can do music any time, any day but it is still something creative. Sometimes, you’ll have a block, you might not be able to write, you might not be in that music mood and you just need to go away for a while to clear your head and for more ideas.
Then the challenge of meeting the right people, in terms of people that will promote you is like a big challenge for every upcoming artiste out there. Pushing on your own is good but pushing with an agency is easier than when you do it on your own. Sometimes, the grace of God on somebody’s life, you might just do one song and you are out there. Definitely, the challenges are expected but I thank God, they are not more than what I can handle.
PT: What is next for Lade now? What should your fans expect from you?
Lade: I actually want to do music full time so I am recording back to back, getting more content. Basically, I am just recording and getting ready to shoot because I don’t want a situation where I’ll drop any song and I’ll not be able to maintain that pace again. That is like a big issue. When you rush in, at the end of the day, you might rush out and I don’t want something like that for myself. So I am taking my time to build myself and compose myself before I shoot. But my fans should expect a lot.
PT: You drummed your support for BBNaija housemate, Laycon, and you even did a song for him. Why did you pick interest in him?
Lade: It was not really like I picked interest per se because I don’t really watch Big Brother just the short clips I saw on Instagram, where you’ll see some did this to Laycon, someone did that to Laycon. I just wanted to check him out. Not like I just decided to do that but the story of what was happening around him fitted into one of the songs I did that I titled “Peak”. I just decided to change the lyrics and I used it and I just posted it. The reception was really mad, I didn’t expect it. I like all housemates but at the same time, there was just something about him that I needed to clear and I used that song to clear that angle.
PT: What are your thoughts about the Nigerian music industry? Do you think there are equal opportunities for female singers and male singers?
Lade: Well, the industry keeps evolving but to be factual, the male artistes have the upper hand. It is just something that has become like a norm in the industry for guys to just have their ways, they just push their ways through and it just goes. I feel female artiste should brace up and face the challenges. It is not easy but at the same time, to get to that point, we need to do like the extraordinary. The guys really work hard, not like the female don’t work hard too but it is not easy for the female to maintain fame because of lots of things like controversies and probably family. Most of them will be like I need to go and settle down and in entertainment, you need to put yourself in the faces of people. If you go MIA for a long time and you are not coming back with a bang, it might not be easy for people to keep up with you. That is how it is for both males and females. I think we already have it in our heads that male artistes only make it in the industry, we need to come out more and show ourselves. If this person is winning this back to back, we can get there as well. We should be calm to create content, don’t rush it then pressure too, don’t bow to pressure. If there should be anybody with the upper hand, it should even be the female.
PT: Who do you look up to in the industry that you’d like to work with?
Lade: Growing up, I really loved listening to Asa and as I grew older, I fell in love with Adekunle Gold’s sound. So, Asa, Adekunle Gold, now I am loving all Fireboy’s songs, then I really like Brymo as well. Teni is really good too, she is someone I really respect and I love her craft, she is jovial with her music and she just enjoys it. So, if I’d work with some people in the industry, it will be Asa, Brymo, Adekunle Gold, Teni, Fireboy, TuBaba to mention a few.