Out there in the music industry, there’s a false narrative used to describe
what today’s successful song and great artistes should sound like.  This
unsubstantiated hypothesis driven by folks who only see trendy-pop like
dance music as the only yardstick to portray successful artistic delivery,
is the catalyst being used to deprive an array of overwhelming quality
music content radio airplay and cast shadows on artistes that churn out
these materials.  In the midst of this abnormality, artistes like Johnny
Drille grouped under alternative music continue to thrive despite his
journey with his music genre on a road less travelled. Classified as a
music purist, geometrically, he keeps expanding his fan base with every of
his singles and on songs he’s been featured on.

It will be hard to argue against the fact that, some of the establishments in the
music sphere have equivocated for too long. They hide under the pretext of trending content to sideline many with timeless substances like Johny Drille . Voluntarily or not, the majority of the music countdown shows on Nigerian radio stations are being influence by opinionated false description of the music industry. For so long, these kinds of biased commentary have been shared. Most music fans feeds off materials for their daily conversations from mainstream media. If the outlets they are breast-feeding from shares the above-unguided sentiments, the result will persist to be the unfairness visible on on-air playlists compared to individual playlists on phone or on laptops.

While the so-called A-list dominates public music charts, seldom are they
on replay on people’s individual choice playlist. The songs from the likes
of the Ric Hassani, Asa, Aramide, and the Johny Drilles of this industry
are on constant repetition. Good music should be perceived as a flawless
combination of sounds and storyline that resonates with trend and culture,
and also driven by attributes of realism. This is what the likes of Drille
represent with their music. Until we all step outside of our sentimental
music confines, and witness the fan base controlled by our alternative
artistes, until then, we cannot fully have a grasp of the happenings in
different terrains in the Nigerian music industry.

Johnny Drille / August Udoh / Mystreetz Magazine

Diversity in sound is what makes the industry in the western world
interesting and rich. It’s a key component keeping their entertainment
sector alive. It’s worthy of mention that these regions also have their so
called pop-like music dominating a percentage of their mainstream market
but alternative sounds that resonate with grassroots, suburban, and urban
districts across gender lines and age grades are given more than a fair
share. Checkout the music awards, some of the surprise names that pop up to
receive the loudest ovations are sometimes not names associated with the
establishment.  These artistes are revered because of the freshness in
their sound; their message is relatable and their stories are heartfelt.

Not too long ago, some unique groups of artistes that radio left for dead
created a subconscious movement with the hashtag #fucktheradio. It was an
eye opener. This bunch of performing artistes found another way out to
reach out to their audience.  Go explore the music platform called
#Soundcloud; you will be awestruck by the numbers these folks are pulling
online. Over the years, an impressive large music audience has gathered to
watch groups like L.O.S, D.R.B LasGidi and Show Dem Camp at their concerts.
Research indicates the facts that, these sets of alternative music
artistes, the likes of Drille have impressive numbers of die-hard audience
across the country. A concert headlined by them at Eko Hotel will be
record-breaking. The Johnny Drilles of this industry can create magic.


Johnny Drille / August Udoh / Mystreetz Magazine

Let’s talk about you, family, growing up and how music started for you

My real name is John Ikponmwosa Ighodaro and I am from Edo State, born to a
family of 7. I have three younger brothers and one older sister. Both my
parents are pastors. I was born in Benin City and had lived most of life
there. I graduated from the University of Benin 2012 where I studied
English and Literature.

“I had a pretty conservative upbringing, born in church I had to live by
example most of the time. I learned how to sing with my sister, I still
have memories of us singing together under the moonlight back when we were
kids. My music journey dates back to the children’s choir in church. I
later joined a music group that was called the Soul Awakening Singers.
Those were my first serious attempts at doing music. I learned to play the
keyboard in 2002 from an old friend called Douglas.

“Professionally I started doing music in 2013 after I left Project Fame,
which in itself was a life changing experience for me. After my time in
Project Fame I began to take music more seriously and started writing more
music and getting people to listen. The first official song I released was
called ‘Not Afraid’ in 2012, which I re-released in 2013. I kept releasing
music overtime and then went for youth service between 2013 and 2014.”

Walk us through your music production, all the production till date and
the inspiration behind each track?

“After I was done with youth service I went back to Benin to fully focus on
music production and music in general. I released more songs and a few
covers. My big break came in 2015 when I released a cover of my future
label mate’s smash hit ‘Awww’. That was the first time I was introduced to
a very large music audience. I then began to gather more following. Since
then I’ve followed up with more releases like ‘My Beautiful Love’, ‘Wait
for Me’, ‘Love Don’t Lie’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and most recently ‘Awa
Love’. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m grateful for what I’ve been
able to achieve over the last few years.”

Describe your genre of music. Talk about how you have stayed true to your
craft in an industry saddled with trends

“My sound as it has been so far is Folk music. As a fresh man in school in
2009, I came across the music of Owl City and immediately connected with
his sound. I listened to his album ‘Oceans Eyes’ extensively over and over
that year and into the next year and I unconsciously became influenced by
that sound. Also sometime in 2015 I also came across the music of Mumford
and Sons and was completely blown away by their work. There was so much
energy in their music and I thought to myself that if I found a way to
‘Africanize’ the sound in a way that it’d be pretty interesting. You can
say it was an experiment that worked. The first folk song I put out was
‘Love Don’t Lie’ and people immediately loved it, which encouraged me to
put out more releases like that.

“Sincerely the industry has been very kind to my sound and I don’t
really always come across people who do not appreciate my sound. While
there may be a little pressure to try out a few things here and there to be
a little bit more accepted by the pop market, no one is forcing me to do
anything contrary. I’m blessed that people love my sound and it only gets
better from here. Afrobeat is our sound here in Africa and we cannot deny
that but at the same time there are other kinds of beautiful sound our
music industry is blessed with that should perhaps be given a little more
chance to shine and be heard.”

Talk about the interesting moments in your music journey and the toughest times as well

“I’ve had very interesting moments in my career that felt surreal and made
me thankful. In 2016 I was nominated at the ‘Headies’ for the first time
and it was a huge deal for me. I was super excited that I was nominated in
an award show that I usually always watched from home and had hoped that in
the near future I would attend but there I was getting nominated. Also in
2018 I was nominated in four categories as well for my song ‘Romeo and
Juliet’ and I couldn’t hide my excitement. In 2018 also I performed at the
Big Brother Nigeria show where a lot of people discovered my music for the
first time. It was also the first time I was travelling out of the country.

“The toughest times of my career so far will be the times when I was
travelling a lot between Benin and Lagos to push my music and to appear for
radio and TV interviews. I was spending so much on hotel bills and
transportation that at some points I even got broke in Lagos and had to
call for help from my parents in Benin but all that is in the past now I’m
really glad it paid off.”

When should we expect a complete body of work from you and what should
fans expect from it?

“I’m hoping I’ll be able to drop a project this year. I’ve made a ton of
songs over the last few years and if I had to put them all in albums I
could be releasing ten albums. Hopefully I get to drop a project this year.
I’m not one to boast but if I do drop a project, it’ll be one of the best
you’ll ever hear.”

How do you spend your typical day? If not music, what else will you love
to do?
“Quite frankly I’ve got a pretty uninteresting life outside of music. Music
takes the most of my time and barely leaves spare time but when I do have
free time I go and see a movie. I’m a movie person and sometimes think I’ve
seen all the movies ever made, even the not so great ones. I’ve seen them

Talk about your record deal and the interesting story around it.

“My first encounter with Mavin was when Don Jazzy followed me on Twitter in
2015 after I covered Dija’ song ‘Awww’. I sent him more music and we kept
in touch overtime before he expressed interest in me joining Mavin Records
in late 2016. In early 2017 I was officially unveiled as a Mavin. I feel
blessed to be part of such a family sometimes it still feels surreal when I
see Tiwa, Don Jazzy, Korede and everyone else in plain sight, this was
stuff of dreams.”


“There are very few folk singing artistes who capture the hearts and
empathy of their audience on and off stage; Johnny Drille is one of the
‘very’ few.  His music is so genuine that it melts away any bias or
prejudice one might have on him. His music draws you into his world and
paints a vivid reality that you the listener can relate to.

“On stage, Johnny is as expressive visually as he is when you listen to his
studio records.  His ability to connect is impeccable. What makes Johnny
even more so unique amongst other things is his ability to express his
vulnerable side without losing what some could consider as his self-worth
or pride. I think he is one of the finest artistes that we have in the
country and in Africa.” – Douglas Jekan (OAP at Beat99.9 FM Lagos)

“There’s something so pure and genuine about Johnny Drille’s music, over
the years he’s released quite a number of melodious hunting anthems and has
stayed true to himself. His music warms the heart as much as it reaffirms
the power of love. Johnny Drille is special.” – VJ Adams (OAP at Soundcity
Radio Lagos, VJ at Soundcity TV)

“Of all the talents that have made it out of the seemingly obscure Edo
music industry in the past decade, none is as daring and appealing as
Johnny Drille. From the moment I gave him a ‘YES’ as a judge in the
regional auditions for MTN Project Fame West Africa to his outstanding
showmanship in the Project Fame Academy and subsequent covers he released
as an unsigned talent, I had no doubt that his time will come and the world
will know his name and appreciate his music.

“Several offers came his way as I recall, so it was no surprise to me when
he got signed to Mavin Records. And I must say that the fact that his sound
and style has remained uncompromised while with the label is a huge relief
for me. It’s hard to pick a favourite from his growing collection of
ballads but ‘Wait for Me’ will stand out as the single that served as a certification
badge that indeed his time has come. With the single and accompanying
video, he won not one but two categories at the 2017 South South Music
Awards (SSMA) namely The Best New Artist and Best Producer categories.”
Andy Bello (Entertainment industry mogul from the City of Benin).

-Story by Sesan Adeniji


  1. Mark Maxwell

    Johnny Drille is a superstar I love his music especially wait for me, cause it reminds me of the love I shared sometimes back. His music makes you see the reality of life. I am your biggest fan. Heart you like kilode.

  2. Ubergaze

    I told you(in a mention thou lol) I couldn’t wait for the world to know and listen to you.

  3. Edith

    J.D makes music worth listening to. Every word of it. I remember a friend of mine in the US was the one that sent “wait for me” I listened to that song everyday. It was his own way of expressing himself and he didnt have to say more at that time. Next time he called…he said, did you listen to the song. I told him Yes and I understood. The rest they say is history. Thanks JD for blessing the world with such beauty in strings and harmony.

  4. Pingback: Thriving On A Road Less Travelled: Johnny Drille Covers New Issue Of Mystreetz Magazine - Nigerian Entertainment Today

  5. Omolara

    I love John Drills. I was introduced to his music when I watched Stephen Biodun’s ‘Ovy’s Voice’. I love all his songs.

  6. Omolara

    I love Johnny Drille’s songs. His voice is so unique and different.

  7. Eke

    The first time I heard Johnny Drille’s song I was smitten. It was difficult to imagine him as a Nigerian. For every time he missed he missed the best vocal award I felt Nigerians weren’t fair. His songs aren’t for just the ears, they are for the soul, for the heart and they return for the cheek. His voice is nothing less of celestial.

  8. verah phoebe

    Johnny Drille all the way🙌🙌

  9. Ijeoma Agu

    He is such a gifted singer, that the first time I heard him I looked up and blessed God the giver of it. I remain a loyal fan.

  10. OG sean

    Johnny! Johnny!! Johnnyy!!!

  11. Mary Francis

    I found out about Johnny Drille back in December of 2017 through a music channel on TV;it was Romeo and Juliet.At first,I couldn’t believe he was a Nigerian because to be honest it’s not everyday we hear songs like that of Johnny’s. I immediately loved his voice,his lyrics… there is something different about his music…. a whole new dimension. He is a breath of fresh air. I hope he stays and
    continues to move forward. We(family,friends and fans) love him. Johnny Drille is the truth…Lol

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