Lara George came into limelight as a member of the defunct musical group KUSH. In this interview with DUPE AYINLA OLASUNKANMI, the gospel artiste, who has since gone solo and now based in the US, talks about her music, relationship with her husband/manager and her entrepreneurial adventure. Excerpts
What are your plans as the year has kicked off?
I have been busy promoting my most recent album titled ‘A Slice of Heaven’. I recently released two videos off of that album for the songs ‘Eyin L’Oba’ and ‘Jesus You Reign. I am also currently working on new music.
What is it like being a gospel artiste?
It’s a very rewarding experience to put songs out there that actually go on to impact people’s lives positively. People experience hope, restoration, deliverance, healing and so many, many awesome encounters as a result of the music of a gospel artiste and that is an invaluable thing. I have had people tell me stories of how my songs have created atmospheres of healing. One person told me of how her mother came out of a coma after she played my song to her, another wrote to me about a wrongly positioned baby turning into correct position in the womb as my song played in the labour room. There was a lady who the doctors had told she would not likely walk again after suffering from stroke. She told me that she listened to my music and felt God telling her to get up and try to walk. I sang at her birthday party as she danced unaided to my songs. What huge testimonies! These are simply priceless.
What has been your staying power?
I truly believe that it’s having a child-like approach to life and the art of music. First of all, I am my only competitor. If you spend your time trying to outdo other people, it is easy to become consumed with envy, and once that happens (at least for the gospel artiste), it taints your music. I believe there is a certain purity that being in gospel requires, and in order to have that purity, one needs to look first and only to God.
Do you see yourself retiring soon?
I don’t think it would be possible if I even try to. I hope to, like Mariam Makeba, stay on the stage and in music till my very last breath. I love, love, love music that much.
How do you feel when people sing praises of the song ‘Ijoba Orun’?
I feel honoured. It’s a beautiful thing when people appreciate your work. The song ‘Ijoba Orun’ was one that was in popular domain which I then I re-wrote and did a re-make of. It’s an honour that people love my version of it so much.
Which would you say is your best song, among all you have released?
Well I personally don’t have a ‘best song’ out of all of my releases, but I know I certainly have a most popular one and that is currently the song ‘Dansaki (I’m acknowledging You).
And which is your most challenging?
Well, I wouldn’t really say I have a ‘most challenging’ song. All my songs are self-written and I totally love every single one.
Has there ever been a time you felt like going secular?
Yes, I have, actually. Every time I was disrespected by a pastor or even another gospel artiste (unfortunately that tends to happen quite a bit), in the past, I would ask myself if I had made a good decision by being in the gospel music sector. That was initially though. I long ago discarded those sorts of thought and I am fully convinced that I am right where God needs me to be.
What is your take on gospel artistes featuring secular artistes on their songs?
I think it’s a beautiful thing as long as the songbeing collaborated on is one that celebrates God or any kind of positive theme.
You are currently abroad, any plans to stay?
I am now permanently based in the United States. I visit Nigeria and other parts of the world very frequently for events still, just like I have always done. Only my origination point has changed.
And how do you intend to connect with your fans at home?
The world is now a global village. It’s a great timeto be alive and doing one’s work, and for an independent artiste like myself, social media brings it all together. I am very active on Instagram, Facebook , Twitter and YouTube. All my friends can connect with me via any of those platforms.
Having been married to your manager for a while, what is the secret?
Well, my husband was my husband before he became my manager actually. If you are asking the secret to being married for the 14+years that we have, I would say it’s having a sense of commitment and constantly being forgiving of each other.
It is believed that being married to a colleague is a no-go area, why was yours different?
Like I said earlier, we were already married before my husband became my manager. It just made more sense to have someone as close as that to me handle the management aspect of things. We had always worked together (in real estate), he is a trained lawyer called to the bar in Nigeria, and he has a good understanding of the legal side of things. It’s true that things can get a bit complicated when one is working with one’s spouse but we have had to learn and are still learning too to constantly take a minute away from the work so we can see each other and just be with each other without letting the work get in the way. I think that helps.
Has there ever been fear of failing?
Do you mean failing musically? The thing is that music is a work of art. Every artiste’s prayer is that one’s songs will be loved by the listeners. No matter how many hits you have as an artiste, I think that every single time one releases a new song or album, it is with a huge prayer that it will be well-received.
So without doubt, the question is always there: ‘will they love this one as much as they loved the last?’ One thing I need for a lot of people to understand is that artistes are probably one set of people who have the highest levels of self-doubt. I know it sounds unbelievable, but often times, behind all the show of bravado, there are so many questions beneath the veneer. It’s the reason why comedians encounter depression and popular people often have no or very few true friends. The fear of failure is always there.
Tell us, how is Soforte faring?
For those who do not know, let me say that Soforte Entertainment Ltd is West-Africa’s first structured home-grown entertainment distribution company. Our mission was to achieve the distribution of CDs, DVDs and other physical music and film products first across Nigeria and subsequently in other locations, in order to ensure proper tracking and eventual remuneration to the owners of the intellectual property in question.
We managed to achieve excellent synergy with Alaba Market, and by partnering with a major courier company as well as UAC’s Mr Biggs outlets all across the nation, we set out on the massive mission to achieve this great feat. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not a nation that very much encourages her entrepreneurs, and we encountered obstacles too numerous to mention, not least of which was funding. The project is currently at rest, but I am most proud to have been part of such a venture on the landscape of the Nigerian entertainment sector.
Do you have artistes signing in?
Not at the moment.
Tell us about your glowing beauty?
First let me say thank you for the compliment. Maybe it’s a reflection of my state of mind. I like to be happy and perhaps that makes a person glow.
Is any of your kids showing traits of being a singer?
Both my children love music actually. My son Adeoba (first child) really loves to sing though. Let me just say we are giving him room and space to decide what his true interests are. No pressure at all!
Do you guys, KUSH still keep in touch?
Yes, we do on occasion.
Do we see you having a comeback with your mates?
Many people reading this article probably don’t even have a clue what the group KUSH was or is.
What do you miss about the group?
I wonder when I will stop getting KUSH questions. It’s a distant memory now, but I remember when it was all still fresh, I missed the friendship that I thought we all had. That’s probably what I missed the most in the early days after we went our separate ways.
Would you say being a solo artiste is better off?
Being a solo artiste has been wonderful for me. God has blessed me with a great career and the joy of being able to express my own musical sound whilst discovering myself along the way. I have been able to pace myself as a wife, mother and artiste, without necessarily being under pressure to go in any direction I didn’t want to go in or within a schedule I couldn’t fit myself into. It’s been an amazing journey and I am so thankful to God for every single day of it that I am experiencing.