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Tiwa Savage on Losing at X Factor Show: ‘I was Devastated’



Nigerian popular female singer, Tiwa Savage opened up on her musical journey, why she moved to London at the age of 11, returning to Nigeria, her estranged husband Tee Billz, and losing out at the US X Factor competition, in her updated Roc Nation profile uploaded on the official page of the prestigious record label.

On developing a love for performing as a child

“I tried to join the choir at my mother’s church but I was I too young so I used to go to rehearsals and just watch them.”

On when she began entering for talent shows

“My music teacher told me to learn a song and I learnt a song from The Sound of Music. He told me that I had a natural gift and from there I started to enter talent shows and competitions.”

On meeting Grammy Award-winning producer and songwriter Keith Harris, who advised her to study music

“He told me that if I wanted to take music seriously, I should study music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. When I started to research more about it, I realised it was one of the best music schools in the world; how am I going to get into this school?”

But Ms Savage didn’t have funds, so she applied for a scholarship

“They held the audition in Ireland so I flew out there to audition but in order to get the scholarship, I had to be able to read music. I couldn’t so they asked me to sing.”

And Tiwa Savage won it, and studied Professional Music.

On Auditioning for the 3rd season of the X Factor talent show

“It was difficult. Over 600,000 people auditioned I made it down to the final 24, so it was the last stage before the live shows.”

But something didn’t fell right as the show progressed

“To me, it felt like they just wanted footage to make good TV. It didn’t feel genuinely all about the music.”

She got through various stages until Sharon Osbourne kicked her off the show

“I was devastated, truly devastated. I locked myself in my room for 48 hours; I didn’t come out, I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink and my mother was worried about me. She even threatened to send me back to Nigeria to live with my father!”

“I had to go through that dark period to come out on the other side.”

On moving back to New York City

“I ended up in the studio and I was writing a song. The next day I heard Fantasia [Barrino] came round to the studio, heard the song and wanted to record it.”

And a week later, Tiwa Savage was signed to Sony/ATV as a writer and worked with The Underdogs, James Fauntleroy, Frank Ocean and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds.

On making decision to compile her own songs 

“You’re writing songs, you’re writing your experiences and then you’re giving them to somebody else. It never felt quite right; it was something I always wanted. I write these songs, I want to sing it and perform it the way I want to do it because it was something I loved through.”

On meeting Tunji ‘Tee Billz’ Balogun, the then-A&R for Interscope Records

“I met Tunji and he told me about the growing Afrobeats scene back home in Nigeria. He thought I was wasting my talents being a songwriter & a backing singer and pushed me to move back to Africa. At first I thought it was a bit of a step backwards but he was adamant that this was my future. He knew it was what would set me apart from the rest.”

On teaming up with Tee Billz and eventually signing on to Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records and releasing hit songs

“It opened doors to people who weren’t necessarily from Africa or into the Afrobeats movement. I remember [singer/songwriter] Brandy came to Nigeria to do a show and somebody recommended my album to her and she loved it. I learnt that there’s beauty in bringing both markets together and I had the ability to do it.”

On delving into acting

“I’d like to do more acting but I’ve held back on that a little because that’s a little too predictable. It’s about timing and finding the right role but I do think I have the knack for acting.”

On her work with MTV’s Shuga and campaigning for HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness

“I feel like in Africa, all they tell you is not to have sex to avoid getting infected with whatever is out there and that’s not realistic. You have to teach them to have safe sex; that’s a more realistic approach. Not to mention the many people infected with HIV who go on to live full, long, healthy lives. We need to teach that also; I’m very passionate about that.”

On her plans to open a music school

“When kids are growing up, they see artists and want to get into music but there’s other avenues aside from being an artist. There’s songwriting, film scoring, composition, production, there’s even music therapy to communicate with disabled people. There’s so many aspects of music that I want to educate people with and that’s what I’m hoping this school will do.”

On Motherhood 

“I have this renewed strength that having a baby does to a woman; you’re in a different space in your life. I want to do things bigger, better, stronger and bolder going forward. I want to encourage other women to go against the grain because – especially in our culture – it seems once you have a child you have to slow down and I believe the opposite. You have to go even harder than ever before.”