Born in Trinidad, Kojosound, aka Kojo, started his singing career with childhood friends he grew up with in his hometown, St Anns. They formed the boy band New Creation and went on to appear on Trinidadian TV talent show Party Time. New Creation was signed to Mike Dolan’s Tattoo Records and recorded their debut album in Eddy Grant’s Blue Wave Studios.
Kojo’s recent collaboration with Livingstone Brown has resulted in the release of “Queen Inna Di Ghetto”, which is the first single from his forthcoming album Fahrenheit. While dancehall and reggaeton further installs itself as sellable sounds worldwide, Trinidad native Kojo arrives with a sexy, slinky dance-ready variant on the soul-pop-calypso fusion. “Queen Inna Di Ghetto,” is a single that may ensure a successful return to the spotlight for Kojo.
In an exclusive interview Kojo discusses his career and ideas on music…
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
KOJO: It started off in 96 as a young teenager with my band New Creation, we became really popular from my hometown Trinidad in a television show called ‘Party Time’ then Eddy Grant came and swooped up my buddies and I, and gave us a record deal and put us out on tour in England.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
KOJO: Boys to Men,jodeci, New Edition,we loved the R&B bands then came solo artists Micheal Jackson, R Kelly later I got into Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield abut I always had Bob Marley and other reggae and calypso greats playing to me as I grew up in the Caribbean.
3. If you had the choice, is there any event in your past musical experiences that you would change or do differently now?
KOJO: I might have rethought moving to New York as it brought about the death of my band members causing the group I loved being a part of to disband and never record again.
4. Which artists do you listen to today? And after your long career is there still anybody special you’d like to collaborate with?
KOJO: I listen to Curtis Mayfield,Marvin Gaye, The Isleys, Al green and Bob Marley,as they all taught something through their music but they all had a romantic side to them as well which I love listening to.
5. Tell us something about how and where you got to record your latest single, “Queen Inna Di Ghetto ”?
KOJO: I met Maxi Priests manager (Patrick Haveron) I was angling to do a collabo with him (Maxi) when I asked to use his producer to do a song I wrote (queen inna di ghetto),Patrick hooked me up with a producer he managed called Livingston Brown, a Jamaican producer, little did I know that he produced some of the biggest Jamaican reggae artists like Barrington Levy. I was really honored when I found out. Livingston works out of his studio in Surrey in a place called Godalming an old English town famous for making the first clock I think it was.
6. Live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why?
KOJO: working with Livingston was a blast and my other producers have also been great so I really enjoy the studio when it goes well. A preference is tough because I always appreciate the response people give when. I perform for them, you just can’t beat that. I never get upset by the hiccups that go along with performances, I understand that every show is different and they can never be perfect in what they can provide. Also the passion that goes into a performance I live for so if it comes to a preference I guess I might go for performance.
7. Which one of your original songs do you feel is the absolute “crowd pleaser”, and moreover, do you remember when and why you composed it?
KOJO: One of the songs which I haven’t recorded yet myself, but whenever I sing it to crowds accapella or on a riddim is called the woman in you. I’m waiting for the right producer to record it and when it’s released I’m sure it will be memorable.
8. On which one of your songs do you think you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
KOJO: That would be Queen inna di ghetto, with Livingston, I think we ticked all the right dots, he knows the music inside out(reggae) and knew exactly what to do with the mix of r&b and reggae that I was experimenting with. I felt it was a perfect record when we were done.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making KOJO music sound the way it does?
KOJO: soul/r&b and reggae are they key ingredients, I start off with a soul/r&b side to it then reggae is added to it, then the rest is history.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you day after day to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
KOJO: Passion definitely. I’m passionate about the music around me and the songs I write.
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11. Which aspects of being an independent artist and the music making processes excites you most and which aspects discourage you most?
KOJO: I love the record making and recording process I’m always excited about getting something I wrote and having new music wrapped around it to see what it turns out like. I also love getting the visual part of it done as in the music videos. The part I don’t like is convincing the label which record is a single and why, as I don’t like being told why it shouldn’t be a single as far as I’m concerned all my songs should be singles. I feel the same about music videos for my songs.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process and what usually comes first, the lyrics or the music?
KOJO: It’s usually the music that comes to my head as I find myself singing a melody over and over in my head, then the lyrics come along to interpret what the melody is trying to say to me.
13. How involved are you in any of the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music. Do you outsource any of these processes?
KOJO: In the beginning I worked alongside the producer to get the ideas done and out of my head and into the producer’s. I learned from recording at Eddy Grant’s studio that as the writer it’s needed to keep me close to the music and it’s good to stay close to it till it’s done. So now I try to be close every step along the way. Sometimes I have to let go and let the producers do their thing, with some of my songs I produced the demos and then passed them along to the producers and let them take over so they then take over and reinterpret my ideas in their style and influence. With mastering I was lucky to have worked in one of the best mastering studios in the world called Metropolis so I tend to try and have my masters done there where possible, however one of my producers is very good at mastering his tracks and with some Jamaican producers I work with, they pride themselves on getting their masters done in Jamaica so I can’t argue with them when it comes to their productions.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
KOJO: Warren Buffett is a man I admire and respect, who is also one of the richest guys alive, he suggested that the best investment is to ‘invest in yourself’ which I’ve followed. I’ve no regrets in life so if there was advice I didn’t follow I don’t regret it at all.
15. At this point, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit your career?
KOJO: My ability to sing is the one factor that most people complement me on when I perform live and I believe without it my life would not be what it is. So I desire that the most. My ability to write moving songs is next and my career would not be what it is without it. No one would have wrote Queen inna the ghetto for me but me, and I’m happy that it’s my talent to write, that has got me noticed.
16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
KOJO: No way, Taylor Wwift and Justin Beiber have made it to people through the net. its discovered new music and helped a lot of artists like Cee low and Psy as well, I look forward to what it may bring. The net has made me a number one artist for reggae via ‘Reverbnation’ and I look forward to what else it may bring for me.
17. Is “Queen Inna Di Ghetto” the exact sound and vibe you wanted to produce at this time in your career, or was this strictly a commercial choice?
KOJO: It was the exact sound and vibe I wanted, with me there is no right or wrong time, the only time is now. I don’t plan to live forever so when I do something it’s because it was the right time to do it.
18. Tell us something about your upcoming album, “Fahrenheit”?
KOJO: This album is all about what one would experience in the Islands where I come from, a mix of beauty, heat, passion, romance, fun, sunny vibes. It’s meant to be a warm album, feeling like a party in some ways, that you just enjoy till the end.
19. What do you feel is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome now, in your quest to achieve your goals and commercial success?
KOJO: Finance is my biggest barrier as it limits what I can do and how fast I can introduce my music to the public. If I had a bit more finance I could have a bit more fun giving away things to the people who have come to appreciate my music, it’s a way to give thanks for them coming to see me, as I love them taking time out of their day to come and experience me.
20. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve any musical goals whatsoever?
KOJO: I don’t want to make music that brings harm to any people in any way whatsoever. I’d rather not be a part of any music making, that encourages violence or harm to any one, so any collaborations with violent artists I’d rather not be a part of, or being associated with artists that encourage this behavior.
21. Do you have any Shoutouts to anyone?
KOJO: Yes I’d like to shout out my family, mom, Shikera, Amara and baby Rian, then I’d like to shout out to all my London fans and people who’ve supported me throughout. My hometown people in St. Ann’s, New Creation, my sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles……man ,the list is endless…..love to you all. One love!
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