Joseph David (Joey), a lover of God is an Abuja based music producer, songwriter and CEO of Sunrise Records, a gospel label majorly out to help upcoming artists to bring them to limelight, help improve their music life and also give them a platform in the music industry.
In this interview, he shares how he got started in the entertainment industry, how he has managed to carve a niche for himself as a gospel music producer, and the challenges he has experienced so far.
Q1. How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
Joseph: I started music when I was five years old, but professionally when I was nineteen. When I was five years old, we had musical instruments in my house. My dad had a live recording studio back then in the 90s, he did live recording for people, so as they come to play, we had to learn how to play the music and operate the system, though back then they did not have computer systems, but they had some other machines. We had to learn how to play and from there we graduated to playing for the church and then got into music fully 1998/1999 and there about, started music production fully, had to go to school, left it for a year or two. While in the university, I continued running the studio things, because some of the people who already knew me and wanted me to work for them.
Q2. What have been your challenges so far?
Joseph: When I started really doing studio things, I started from gospel and then moved into secular, did secular for a very long while for close to six or seven years, though in-between I had to do gospel also, but I did majorly secular because there was more money in secular music than gospel. I faced a lot of things with those secular guys because sometimes some of them came into the studio and they are either high on drugs, drinks, cigarettes and all that, then they may also end up fighting, you may have to find a way of settling the fight and then sometimes be careful so they don’t destroy the studio equipment.
After I graduated from school, I had to make up my mind that I wasn’t going to do secular music again, and moved into the gospel industry, since then I’ve been doing gospel. It’s not quite easy doing gospel though, because most of the gospel people are thinking about ministry, they want you to be of help to them, they want you to help them. Most times, they don’t consider that you also have bills to pay, so all they think about is their ministry, they want you to be of help to them and all that, of which secular guys don’t do that. And then, if it happens that you have to finish a gospel artists work, when he gets it into the market and he’s able to make some good money, suddenly he just disappears after making the money, even to come say thank you for helping me do the job, most of them don’t because they are majorly after fame and the money not about ministering to souls.
It’s been quite challenging though, but we’re working towards seeing how we can regularise the gospel artistes so they can have a face and stand and also believe in themselves, and that they should preach Christ and not just do music for the doing sake, all for money and fame.
Q3. It’s often believed that secular musicians excel more in the music industry when compared to their secular counterparts, what’s your take on this?
Joseph: It has been the major issue for a very long while, because those guys that have gone out to the secular world, most of them actually started from the church and why most of them went out was because the church did not recognise their talents. That’s one of the reasons, the church did not recognise their talents. It’s just recently that churches are beginning to accept music. Those days, churches didn’t really respect the talents you have as a music minister, they tend to take you for granted. They’ll tell you it’s a voluntary work, they don’t need to pay you for all that. Scripturally, the Levites were recruited and they were asked to do nothing else than music, it’s in the Bible. They were asked to do nothing else but music, and how were they paid? Every other tribe brings in their tithes and offerings to the junction of the Levites, of which that’s where the Levites eats from.
The church even till now still don’t understand that they still tend to push the music ministers away, I’m not saying the music ministers didn’t have their own faults, they did. Because most of them were just looking at the monetary aspect and most times when you want to do things for God, leave out the monetary part and just do what you have to do for God, and God is certainly going to reward you. Most times, we’re looking for the urgent reward, instead of just waiting on the Lord because that’s what the Bible says, ‘they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up wings as eagles, they shall walk and not faint and they shall walk and not be weary’. The Bible is totally complete, it’s just that most of those guys that have gone out into the world didn’t have so much faith to be able to hold on, they just feel they need a quick and fast money, they needed quick and fast fame. What’s the fame all about? What are we preaching? Is it Christ were preaching or ourselves? The church has been an issue, that’s why those guys moved out and they personally have their issues. Because, if you take your stand, you’ll excel. There are so many gospel artists who are excelling, you have Solomon Lange, Samsung, Chris Morgan. Chris Morgan used to be a very serious ‘hawker’, he hawked very well. But somehow, he was steadfast. In his connection with God, God brought him to limelight. His music is everywhere, Samsung’s music is everywhere.
If you hear their testimonies, it’s not like they never had issues. I remember Samsung saying one time that his first album, when we used to have music in cassette players not CD now, he couldn’t even get one hundred copies of cassettes for his album, but he was steadfast, he went for project fame, they were the ones who started project fame and he excelled. Since then he has been doing gospel, he had not deviated to secular. I just think the artists don’t have focus in what they want, most of them are just majorly after the monetary aspect, so that’s why I would not totally blame it on the church, but also blame it on the artists themselves.
Q4. How can the church encourage upcoming gospel artists?
Joseph: One of the ways they can encourage gospel artists is by finding out what these guys need, and meet their need. Not just finding it, but meeting their needs also. Some of them have totally dedicated themselves to the music ministry. If they’ve totally dedicated themselves to the music ministry, I think the Pastors, the General Overseers, the Reverend should be able to put these people on salary. The church should be able to pay the music ministers, it may not necessarily be all of them, but at least the music directors and the instrumentalists should have something, because they need money to buy things that will equip their ministry and make their talents and gifts grow, because it’s not good that they come to church and they keep playing the same way they’ve been playing over the years without any improvement whatsoever. So I think the church can actually support the music ministry, give them good musical equipment and give them good money to be able to train and equip themselves.
Q4. What do you think the artists could do to improve on themselves?
Joseph: Most people get into gospel music probably because they heard their friends sing and he did an album and then he became known everywhere. Some people also sing because they think they have the voice to sing. Having the voice is one thing, having the anointing is another thing. Some people just have the voice, they don’t have the anointing. But you need both of them. A friend of mine will always say ‘the anointing without the voice is equal to annoyance’ and if you have both, you’ll have a good delivery to make. I think what most of the artists need to do is continually remain in the presence of God, the presence of God is also very needful. Because if God’s hand is not on your work, no matter how good that album is, it wouldn’t sell more than 50/100 meters around where you stay, but if the hand of God is upon your work, I tell you, even if it’s only one song you do and put it out, people will listen to it and hassle you to do an album.
Most artistes don’t stay with God, that’s why they don’t really excel the way they want to and then, they have a different motive to excel and become famous. That shouldn’t be the motive, I think the first motive they should have in their hearts is how to reach a soul. How can I bring a soul to Christ? If we have that in our hearts, seriously every gospel artistes is going to excel.
Q5. What can be done to improve on the entertainment industry in Nigeria so as to meet up with the developed countries?
Joseph: One of the things we don’t do in Nigeria is take time to do our job. If you go to the developed countries that’s one of the things they do, an album project sometimes take like a whole year or two. Most Nigerian artistes, particularly the gospel artistes, don’t have the time to wait. You see a gospel artiste release an album this year, he’s already preparing before the year runs out or early the following year he’s releasing another album, it shouldn’t be like that. When you release an album before you even release it, take your time to breathe on the album, after the work is even done, take time out to listen to it, give it to two or three to listen to it, pray on the album so as it goes into the world, that all who will listen to it will be blessed. If you look at the secular guys, some of them, for like two or three years, they’ve not released an album after their last album. I know of Lagbaja, it takes him like four years to release an album and the same goes for Tuface, it takes him like four years to release an album. But gospel artistes don’t have that patience. They should be able to take out time and work on their voices, get the right backups, and the right instrumentation before the work is being pushed out, after which your next work try and improve on what you didn’t do the last time.
If you didn’t feature some people in the last one feature them, and most times artistes think you must have to feature one big artiste or the other before your work can spread, no. I tell every gospel artiste, once it’s your time to shine it’s your time, nobody can take it away from you. Your own is to utilize that opportunity and you’ll see how you’ll excel. That’s what happened to virtually all the gospel artistes that we see around. Dr Panam, Solomon Lange and the rest of them, it was their time to shine and they shone very well.
Q6. Who are some of the major artistes you’ve produced their songs here in Nigeria and abroad?
Joseph: Here in Nigeria, Dr Panam’s album Glory 5, he did like seven of his songs here in this studio, he’s a man I respect a lot, and then Chris Morgan, I’ve done one song for him in one his albums, it’s an igbo song, and then I’ve worked for Psalmist Fred, done also for Don Sam, he’s an Abuja based artiste and then I worked recently for one lady who is based in Texas USA, she came all the way down to Nigeria and she needed a producer and someone introduced her to me, her name is Kate Idoko Igodo.
Q7. What’s your advice for upcoming gospel artistes?
Joseph: My advice to them is for them to work on themselves, their voices, their spiritual lives, their song, they should work on the lyrics of their songs very well before they bring it out. Above all, their spiritual lives. The Bible says the letter killeth but the spirit gives life. When they sing, let it give life to people, they shouldn’t target a million audience, target one, two or three people who will listen and just give their lives to Christ.
Q8. Final word.
Joseph: I wish everybody is going to be so connected to Christ, if you can be connected to Christ, he’s gonna do above what you think. Because that’s what the Bible says, ‘Now to Him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly, far above what you think, ask or imagined’. God can do above what you think, keep your focus on Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith. He’s the beginning and the end, He’s gonna make everything good for us just the way we want it.
Report by Ojinnaka Vincent Onwumere and Faithful Iyobosa