Tonye Garrick is our cover girl this Sunday . Popularly known as the Ari Belema crooner who graced the Nigerian music scene with her unusual mix of traditional and sexy with a tinge of western vibe . Shortly afterwards, rumours of her quitting the music industry was the order of the day , or so we thought . Touching base with her recently , Tonye speaks of the pitfalls she encountered , her trials , tears , love and picking herself back up again in the Re Awakening of TONYE GARRICK


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T & E : What was like in the beginning of your career as an artiste?

TONYE : In the beginning, music was all I slept, ate and drank.  I did always see myself becoming a musician but I’ve always been very shy so I went the conventional route and studied international business.  I did also minor in Fashion Merchandising because I love being a creative.  I later auditioned for several music reality shows; popstars 2, Making the Band, The Voice, American Idol just to name a few prior and during the time I worked in the corporate world.  My love for music had always been there but I decided to move to Lagos to take a real chance.  I was so excited and motivated and for the first time I felt like I was really doing something for myself.

T & E: What were you involved in before music?

TONYE : I’ve always thought of myself as a Jill of all Trade. I have many interest; Fashion, Interior Design, Fitness and music.  I studied International Business and Fashion Merchandising and Before music, I lived in the states where I worked as a Contract/ Billing Analyst at Deloitte.  This was my bread and butter and it allowed me to save enough to pay for the first few songs I recorded.

T & E: Let’s talk about challenges as a budding female artist. What was it like?

TONYE : I’m going to be very honest here.  The biggest issue with most musicians is usually financial.  People look at me and feel I have everything so they want to triple charge me.  I had nothing but a little bit of my savings when I moved to Nigeria.  My father refused to support my music because he couldn’t understand why I would leave my job in the states for this journey.  Both my parents lived in Abuja but I insisted on being in Lagos so I jumped from one friend’s house to another until I found a bit of stability at my manager’s house.   Working with trustworthy people was another challenge.  As a female artist, you become vulnerable because most industry people (Producer, Video Director, Record Label Owner, Investor) want to sleep with you and once you refuse, you become their enemy.  There’s been lots of crying, laughing, good times and bad times.  Lots of experiences that have shaped me into the person that I am. 

T & E: Would you say these challenges have triggered your present silent mode?

TONYE : I would say the last 2 years have been really tough.  I hit rock bottom and I was broken.  Every time things started to look up, something would happen and my world would come crashing down again.  To be honest, I think I always listened to everyone else but myself when it came to my music.  That was mistake number one and my major downfall.  I was tired of others dictating my destiny so I had to pull myself away from music completely to fall back in love with it.  Being silent and blocking out the noise has helped me pull myself back up.  It helped me trust my own inner voice and understand I need to always put myself first.

T & E: What was that turning point for you in your music career?

TONYE : The turning point in my career happened towards the end of 2018 – early 2019.  I lost myself.  I lost music.  I completely forgot who I was and why I moved back to lagos in the first place.  My relationship was sabotaging itself.  I was broken and I knew I had to go back to the drawing board.  I became a lot closer to God and I asked him to direct my steps.  The truth is sometimes God wants you to fail so many times with others so that you start to solely depend on Him.  Now, I’m doing exactly what Tonye wants.  I found myself stuck in a life I wanted to change and now I’m changing my own narrative.

T & E : What do you consider the greatest influence in your life and career?

TONYE :I think my background and my cultural experiences have been the greatest influence in my life.  My mom’s igbo, my dad is part edo, rivers and Sierra Leone.  I’ve also traveled quite a bit and I am so grateful that I have been able to draw inspiration from so many different areas.

T & E : Let’s compare from when you started and now, what has changed?

TONYE : I was obviously younger and excited to sing and release just about anything.  It didn’t matter if I was uncomfortable with the situation and the circumstance.  Now, I’m on this journey to discover WhoIsTonye.  As weird as that sounds, I’ve never fully understood who I really was. Presently ,  I just want to keep peeling the many layers of Tonye that I’ve never known.  I’m more mature now and more comfortable with making mistakes and picking myself back up.

T & E: What are some of the changes you would like to see in the music industry ?

TONYE :I would like women to start empowering themselves a lot more.  I would like women to become creative directors in all areas of music.  We can’t just bow down to men and have them ruling the industry all the time .  We need female producers, female engineers, female label owners.  We need women who have been through the hurdle of trying to realize their dreams and  start paving the way for the younger generation.

T & E: What are some of the lessons learnt overtime?

TONYE :I have learnt that all along, I needed to be strong and independent.  In Nigeria, women are overly dependent on other people.  We can’t keep waiting for people to do things for us because the minute they are gone; we feel completely lost.  I’ve learnt that I need to work hard during every step of the journey and not seek validation from everyone else.

T & E: What are some of the things you treasure most in life?

TONYE : My family is my biggest treasure.  They have seen me go through many phases with and without music and they have never judged me.  When I was broken, they helped me pick up the pieces.  I’m so grateful for them. 

T & E : What do you do to unwind?

TONYE : I work out… a lot.  I returned to the gym in 2018 and dropped over 40 pounds and that helped me regain my confidence.  Now I’m at the gym 4 to 5 times a week.  It helps me release a lot of tension.

T & E  : Let’s talk about the people you admire and role models

TONYE :I have so many amazing women who have been instrumental in my life.  My mother is my biggest role model.  Not just because she is beautiful, generous and kind but because she has always encouraged me to do what makes me happy.  She believed in me when I stopped believing in myself.  She has always worked hard to make sure her kids were all okay and that’s exactly how I want to raise my own children. 

T & E : Where do you hope to see your brand in the next 5 years?

TONYE : ‘This question always throws me off.  In 5 years, I plan on running my own label, running my clothing line and my interior design firm.  I’ve always had all these dreams and goal which I thought were not attainable.  Now I know we women are capable of doing so much.  I won’t stop until I get everything I want.

T & E: If you are to advise young people who want to go into music what would you tell them?

TONYE : I would tell them to go for their dream.  I would also tell them to finish school and get a degree that can help sustain that dream.   Make sure you work extremely hard and never stop believing in your craft.  I wish I had started my music journey sooner but I’m also glad I always had a degree to fall back on.

T & E : Are you presently in a relationship?

TONYE :I AM NOT.  I was in a relationship from NOVEMBER 2016 – MARCH 2019 but it had to end.  Now I am focusing on loving and taking care of TONYE.

T & E : What are you into now?

TONYE :I’m still a musician but the truth is right now, the only person who can push my music is me.  I’m working now to fund what I love.  I’m also developing my clothing Line.  I just want to do everything Tonye Loves to do.  Everything right now is about me and putting myself first.

T & E : Will you say it’s  curtains down for music? 

TONYE :OH ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I just hit a pothole.  The best way for someone to be reborn is to hit rock bottom and start all over again.  I now have my truth to tell and what better way to tell it than through my music.  I’ve hurt, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve loved and now I’m finally ready to tell my story.

T & E : What were your most challenging days like?

TONYE :My most challenging days were the days I couldn’t afford to record and I felt like other people were moving forward while I remained stagnant.  I’m glad I went through all these Challenges. I’m so grateful because I’m definitely stronger now than I was 4 months ago.

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