THE STORY OF MY LIFE – Charles Granville
Charles Granville is a multi-talented dude. He trained as an engineer at the University of Port-Harcourt, but currently ekes out a living from acting and singing majorly. One of his songs, Titi Lailai is even ruling the airwaves, which gives him so much joy. Excerpts…
Tell us about your background and how you started singing.
I was born in Port Harcourt; I am a product of a separated home. I lived with my mother first, then my grandma. And I can tell you that it’s not easy living with your mum as a young man. Because she may not understand the reason you do some things at times. I have no relationship with my dad till now, which is something I plan to change hopefully. But while going through all that, I was able to discover a passion within for music. That period, no matter how difficult it was, I could just sing myself to joy and out of boredom because I was so much of a loner. In my lonely state, I will be singing; I didn’t know that I was training myself and planning for my future. That was how singing for me started. I was influenced by the movies that I watched. I love watching movies that have music in them. Indian films and so on. I also listened to music from Fela in those days, till I discovered the likes of Ron Kenoly, Don Moen, Panam Percy Paul, etc. And quite recently that I met people like Sunny Neji who inspires me and also opened doors for me to record my voice. He wanted to record it for me to hear it; him and his manager, Don Tee. They got me into the studio, recorded as well as released my voice.
So, what got you interested in music?
Music for me is like the air I breathe. I started singing in the church, when a pastor pursued me up and down saying that I had to give my life to Christ. Finally, I agreed. He decided to pray for me. So, he started to sing, I joined him. Along the line, I noticed that he was not singing again, so I opened my eyes and I saw his mouth open and he was like wow! He took me to a concert and I performed for the first time in my life and from there, I became used to it. I loved the fact that people were screaming and I never believed that anybody could see anything good in me and for that to happen and for me to get into such environment and for people to be cheering at what I do every day was amazing. From there, I began to get invitation to other events. I started my own choir. Then, I was still in secondary school. I started the first choir for my school. I also started the first choir in my church, and then I became the South-South Regional Music Director for The Redeemed Christian Church of God. Also went to several churches in different States and LGAs to perform and groom their choir. People were also calling me to write songs for events and for other purposes. Right now, I still write songs for movies and for individuals as well as for products.
How long have you been doing music?
Professionally, I’ll say about six years. That’s when I started recording, but I had a musical background before that. But I never recorded any song. I’ve been doing music for a very long time, even though it wasn’t professional then.
What was your mother’s reaction when you told her you wanted do music?
I’ve always wanted to do music right from when I discovered that people loved to hear me sing in secondary school. I told my mum I wanted to do Theater Arts because I had the feeling that that’s what I wanted to do, but she refused. So, I ended up doing Electrical Engineering at the University of Port-Harcourt. I still do engineering work and I don’t regret doing it because it’s good to have more than one option. Anytime I have the opportunity to talk to the youths, I tell them, even if you have talent, you have to go to school so that you can have a backup plan. Study something else, so that you can use it if one fails. Apart from all these, I still act. Oh yes, I still act; I’ve done a couple of movies. I can sing, I love singing and I’m an engineer. It’s a good thing to be able say you can do well in both arts and science. I am one of those people who have been doing it successfully over the years.
Which is your most popular song?
Right now, I will say my most popular song is Titi Lailai, because it’s a song that we just released; and the way people took to it was fantastic. It’s been topping the charts on radio stations and I’m very happy to say that it’s a well received song. I’ve had some good songs before, but Titi Lailai is trending. When we released it, it trended in UK, Nigeria and in different places that I didn’t believe that people were listening to my kind of music. I am very happy with the way it’s been received. I featured Terry G in the remix and some people were like why should I feature someone like that in my music and I said why not? Many people don’t understand who Terry G really is; they judge him based on what they see on stage. I know the same guy when nobody is watching. He has a very wonderful spirit and he did justice to the song. If you listen to the song, you will know that he did a very good job.
How many albums have you released so far?
I have released two albums. I am working on the third one with ID Cabasa’s Coded Tunes and other new young generation producers who are also doing well in the music industry. We have already recorded about eight songs for that album. We are just putting finishing touches to the next songs. By the grace of God, sometime in the middle of next year, we will release the album.
Who are the artistes, both foreign and local, that you like what they do?
Oh! I have my eyes on a lot of people, but I’m not your kind of average contemporary person. I like to go for people who otherwise will not be noticed. People like Femi and Seun Kuti. You know you don’t have them featuring in songs like that. Like when I had Terry G on my song, people were like ah, Terry G, why, how? I’m looking at people; not the regular people that everyone wants to feature in their songs; but those that you don’t get to hear all the time. Last week, I met with Dr. Panam Percy Paul and I saw him perform and I was like wow! This is one man that still hasn’t changed. His voice is still the same. He is a grandfather, but he is still active. I hope that very soon we can work on something together. You will see something like Charles Granville featuring Panam Percy Paul. In the foreign industry, I will like to feature…(Thinks) I haven’t really thought about this one. But there is this lady I really like. What’s her name again? It just escaped my mind. Katty Perry. I really like her. I like the fact that she keeps her lyrics clean. She’s been in the music industry for a long time and nobody knows or seems to realize that she has got awards more than many artistes. And her lyrics have been pure. She only encourages you with her lyrics. She tells you to get better, to look at the strength within you and she is selling her records around the world. And I think that’s something worth emulating; that people don’t have to use vile language in their music for it to sale. I really respect her a lot and I love her work and will like to work with her some day.
Tell us about your experience in the industry.
It hasn’t been all that rosy, I’ll say that. But we are still here. Money has to change hands everyday, though it doesn’t work that way for everybody. Sometimes you bring out a song, without spending a naira, it goes online and catches fire and everybody is singing it; some other time you need to spend so much money and it doesn’t end there. You spend money on DJ, OAP, mix-tapes, tours, it’s endless. It now looks like if you don’t have money, you can’t do music as it is today. But then again, I think I am one of the few blessed ones that have experienced so much favour from people in the industry, such that they don’t really charge me much out of respect for the work I do and for my kind of music. Also, for my talent and for my personality.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I hope to keep working, by God’s grace. Hope to be the biggest act in Africa and the world. It’s something I’m working towards. Right now, I’ve put my hands in a lot things. From music, I’ve done a lot of movies, trying to put my face and my name out there and I believe that in the next five years, with the pace I’m going and by God’s grace, I will be seen and heard in all quarters and all over Africa and beyond.
Which do you prefer between doing music and making movies?
I will say music.
Why would you choose music?
It’s my first love, my first passion, something that is inside me. I never knew that I can act actually, but I wanted to do a stage play for one of my songs. That rehearsal made me to know that I could act. My mum even attended the event and she was crying and everybody was asking her why? She was like, he told me, but I didn’t listen; that if she had known, she would have allowed me to do the course I wanted to do, which is Theater Arts. From there, people now said to me you should act and then when the opportunity came for my first movie, which was Last Flight to Abuja, I took it as a challenge and I think I delivered because everybody; even my worst enemies called and said they didn’t expect what they saw. That means that I actually did well. And from there, other roles started coming and we are here today. And I did the music for that movie and other movies as well.
Which record label are you signed on to?
I’ve not signed with any record label. I work with Diacotyldon, it’s a management company. So, they manage my affairs, my music. I have a production deal with Coded Tunes, which is headed by ID Cabasa. He is the one responsible for hits like Gongo Aso for 9ice, and others that left; Olamide, etc . I’m also working on my own record label because I believe that we can identify the next generation artistes. I want to invest in them from next year.
Who is you role model?
Christ, basically. I believe that His life is a great example of humility, service to humanity. I gained a lot from the way He lived his life on earth. My first role model is Jesus Christ. He is an example of how God wants us to live our lives. I will say that His lifestyle has influenced me more than any sermon you will preach on the pulpit. In the music industry, I would say people like Panam Parcy Paul. I’ve called his name a lot today, maybe because I met him last week. I listened to his songs a lot when I started singing. There was a concert that both of us performed on the same stage and I saw him, I was like oh my God, I want to perform your song and he said go ahead and sing it and I performed the song. Don Moen, Ron Kenoly, they influence me a lot. I’ve mentioned Fela; the way he told his story. It is not just music. He used his music to pass a message, not like some of the music that we have today. There must be something that people will take away. I love music that has message. Most of what he said then are still happening now. Fela’s music is very relevant, so when you listen to his music, you feel like he is still alive. I pray that we would have more people like that in this country who say the truth. My music is like that. I love to always say what I feel, how I feel and when I feel it. Music that has content that people will take away something from.
What inspires you?
I love seeing good things happening to good people; because a lot of times, good things happen to bad people. A lot of bad examples, and we celebrate bad things, bad news, bad publicity. Somebody kidnapped somebody, somebody bombed there, we will be discussing it and then they will give somebody money to keep quiet and all that. There’s little celebration for people who do good. So, for me, I love to see good things happening to good people, so that I get inspired as a person to be good. I just don’t want to see it happen, I want to be one of the people who will make it happen. I go out there also to look for people who have issues and help them solve it and look for ways to get opportunities for others to get to express themselves. Providing a platform for them to showcase their talent, for such people to blossom from nothing to somebody and you watch that person on TV; knowing that you have a hand in his life. It really gives me a lot of joy and pleasure. I will not mention names, but a lot of people you know their names have gotten some influence from me, some kind of seeds that I have sown into their lives at one point or another. Sometimes it amazes me when someone I’m even looking for a way to get their number, and then I meet the person and they are like wow! Charles Granville, I’ve been looking for you and I will be like okay, I’m here , what is it and he will be like in 1994, you gave me my first show. And I will be like oh, is it you? He has changed his stage name and I didn’t know that he was the same person I helped then. For me, those things encourage and inspire me to do much more for the next generation. I think that people should try and think beyond themselves and create opportunities for others also.