The Nigerian artist talks about trusting your gut feelings, remedying imposter syndrome and why our identity is best rooted in who we are, rather than what we do.
AYLØ's evolution as an artist has led him to view sensitivity as a gift. As the alté soundscape in the Nigerian scene gains significant traction, his laser focus cuts through the tempting smokescreen of commercial success. AYLØ doesn't make music out of need or habit. It all boils down to the power of feeling. "I know how I can inspire people when I make music, and how music inspires me. Now it's more about the message."
Clairsentience, the title of the Nigerian artist's latest EP, is simply defined as the ability to perceive things clearly. A clairsentient person perceives the world through their emotions. Contrary to popular belief, clairsentience isn't a paranormal sixth sense reserved for the chosen few, our inner child reveals that it's an innate faculty that lives within us before the world told us who to be.
Born in 1994 in Benin City, Nigeria, AYLØ knew he wanted to be a musician since he was six-years-old. Raised against the colorful backdrop of his dad's jazz records and the echoes of church choirs from his mother's vast gospel collections, making music isn't something anyone pushed him towards, it organically came to be. By revisiting his past to reconcile his promising future, he shares that, "Music is about your experiences. You have to live to write shit. Everything adds up to the music."
Our conversation emphasized the importance of trusting your gut feelings, how to remedy imposter syndrome and why our identity is best rooted in who we are, rather than what we do,
This interview has been edited for purposes of brevity and clarity.
Photo courtesy of AYLØ.
What is the inspiration behind the EP?
Usually, when I'm working on a project, my energy is quite turbulent. The direction constantly changes. I'll work on track one, followed by track 12, five and so on and so forth. It's up and down, over a long period of time and involving many people. During the recording process, I experienced a change in environment. I was living with my aunt, who's a painter. As a result of time, money and navigating the majority of her life on her own, she hasn't painted in over twenty years.
If you're an artist who withholds their art from the world as a result of happenstance, I strongly believe a part of you will be haunted by "what ifs." She wants to paint, but she can't. By sensing that untapped energy, you could say I had a clairsentient experience. That outer body experience only happens when you're in close proximity with someone as amazingly talented who isn't harvesting that. That's the reason I was able to make the project so quick.
How did you choose the features for the EP?
Originally, my vision for this project was something to call my own: an EP where I produce everything. In practice, things didn't go exactly as planned. I was still making the executive decisions, but I had a lot of help in terms of the production.
"Lilies" came about with help from management. I sent it to them and asked if Lordkez could rap on it. I created "Set Design" with Sute [Iwar]. It's just music you know— you pull up to your friend's house, you vibe, we recorded some other stuff but I left "Set Design" with him on my way out and he sent a verse back.
"Patience" with LMBSKN is the only track I didn't produce. We switched it for another record which I produced. By the time we made this song, I thought it was so good that we had to release it immediately. I know the concept was to produce all the songs but I needed to detach from that vision if it made the EP better. It was the best produced and arranged song, end of story.
You're an artist that's lauded as a natural storyteller, yet the EP has no coherent narrative. Is that deliberate?
My previous projects usually have a storyline but I've decided that the message can be found through my intentions. Listening through tracks 1-5, there is no literal storyline to this EP. If you listen close, the story is in the production. My next album is coming out, there's no storyline but I'm very intentional.
Photo courtesy of AYLØ.
How did working through the pandemic affect your creative process?
I just became a little bit more grateful for everything. The pandemic isolated me with thoughts I couldn't distract myself from. I still get caught up in my thoughts, wants and needs. Material things like money will be there but the certainty of tomorrow might not be. No one actually gives a fuck man. All this overthinking is futile. Be intentional and be present. That's all I can do because I don't have control over how people's reactions.
As an artist that's been influenced by their radio shows, tell me about the significance of working with Soulection.
[Grins] You know what's up… you know.
You seem hesitant to share this accomplishment. Could you please elaborate?
I released the EP under their label but I haven't been signed by them. I don't dwell too much on accomplishments but I was very pleased to be at that point where I'm working with some of the people that helped shape my mind but presenting to me records and showing me opportunities to create things beyond my comfort zone. The whole experience was nice.
The album some time this year. If I made an album mostly consisting of hit records, then this next project is the result. I just finished recording it yesterday. My project managers haven't shared their thoughts with me yet but I'm sure they like it. I just emailed it to them yesterday. When I'm done, and when I feel complete, the next phase awaits me.
I'm curious, did your aunt eventually end up painting again?
Not yet, but soon enough. Her sons and I need to make stupid money so she'll have no burdens to distract her from her passion. That's the dream.