Songwriter and singer Tiwa Savage is the complete package: physically appealing, good voice, stage presence, and able to speak intelligently when interviewed by the press.
Savage first got involved with music as a trombonist in secondary school, Claremont High, London. The voice behind the hit song “Kele kele Love” soon decided that she would rather be a singer than a trombonist and admits she no longer plays the musical instrument.
“I haven’t played it in many years,” she says “But I am sure that if I practice for a week or two it will all come back.”
She describes her passion for music as “something she picked up in her high school” from her time in the school choir.
While still at Claremont High, she started singing in clubs and at talents shows around London. It was at one of these local talent shows that she was discovered by Laurence Johnson, owner of Tuff Sessions, a company that hired back-up singers.
“He called me to his office and asked me to sing. And apparently, that was an audition.” She was soon signed on to Tuff Sessions and with Johnson as her manager, she became a back-up singer at gigs of notable artists including George Michael and Mary J. Blige.
High profile and glamorous as this might have sounded, it was however not enough for Savage. After secondary school, she got a job with the Royal Bank of Scotland and also enrolled to study Business and Account at the University of Kent but music remained her first love. In between working and schooling, she continued singing at clubs and talent shows. It was during this time that she met some American musicians who advised her to apply to study Jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, US.
Savage admits that prior to applying and winning a scholarship to study at Berklee she was not interested in jazz music.
“Before then I preferred R&B more. I liked people like Brandy, Destiny’s Child and SWV. I also loved gospel music,” she says. “I went ahead with studying Jazz at Berklee because I wanted to learn music. I wanted to study that course. While doing the back-up gigs, I had come to fall in love with music and wanted to go into it full time so I decided that going to music school would help me.” She moved to New York City after getting her music degree and continued singing at local gigs.
Of her time in the city she says, “New York was fun. It was also challenging because I was the only one there; I did not have my family out there. Out there, you had to hustle and work hard because it is a very expensive city.” The songwriter
After months of ‘hustle’, she finally caught the attention of the then Vice President of Sony for New York. He had heard her one of songs, somehow. “He invited me to his office and offered me a deal to be a song-writer because he was working in publishing at the time and not for the record label. That was basically the same kind of deal that Neyo and Keri Hilson started with and at that time, I think that was what I wanted to do,” she explains.
She however refused to reveal details of her still-existing contract with Sony. “I am not at liberty do so,” she says with a defiant shrug.
Under her Sony contract, she has co-written songs for Fantasia, Monica and Babyface amongst other American artists.
“The song I wrote for Fantasia is called “Collard Greens and Cornbread”. It was on her album that was nominated for a Grammy,” she says with a subtle hint of pride. The album was the 2004 American Idol winner, Fantasia Barrino’s debut album Free Yourself. It was nominated at the 2006 Grammys.
According to Savage, when writing songs, she gets her inspiration from God or from her personal experiences or those of friends. Though successful as a song-writer, the 31-year-old still dreams of making it in music as a singer.
Her decision to come back to Nigeria to pursue her career as a singer was based on a desire to infuse afro-pop into her music.
“When I felt that the time was right and Nigeria was ready to appreciate female artists, I decided to come back,” she adds.
Prior to coming back to the country, she wrote the song “Kele Kele Love” which was produced by H-Money. The song introduced her to the Nigerian audience and soon became a hit not only in the country but in some other parts of Africa. “We were surprised at how far the song had spread,” she says of its success. The song would be included on her still untitled forthcoming album.
“It is going to be a mix of R&B, hip-hop, afrobeat and country, just a mix of everything,” she says adding, “I am going to have fourteen tracks on the album minus skits.”
She would not disclose the names of artists she plans to feature on the album. “I do not want to raise or lower people’s expectations that way. I would prefer they get to find out when the album comes out,” she insists.
She however reveals that some of the producers would be H-Money and Oak who was a producer on Nikki Minaj’s Pink Friday. A tentative date for the release of the album has been set for April next year.