One of Nigeria’s most popular gospel musicians, Tim Godfrey, is at it again. After a successful world tour last year, he’s back home to stage the fourth edition of his annual concert: Fearless.
Having brought internationally acclaimed Mavin Sapp, Kirk Franklin and Travis Greene to Nigeria in previous editions, this year and precisely on Sunday June 16, he’s raising the stakes by bringing Israel Houghton, J.J Hairston and Phil Thompson to perform at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
“The interesting thing about Fearless is that it is not just a music concert but also a mixture of acting and dancing. It is for the young and old, and designed to motivate them in order to take that bold step towards their dreams. We are saying that they should not be overwhelmed with their failures or where they are coming from. I am a testimony because I was once very broke and I did not have sandals to wear to school. I hawked barefoot in Kaduna, and at some point, I was so poor I became a houseboy… I walked the streets of Kaduna selling bananas, coconut and other stuff. Even my first night in Lagos was spent under the bridge at Oshodi but I did not allow that to affect my dream,” he said.
In this chat, Tim Godfrey opens up on his career, life’s challenges and how he almost committed suicide among other interesting issues. Enjoy it.
What are your plans for 2019?
For the maiden edition of my annual concert, Fearless in 2016, we brought Mavin Sapp, and the following year, we brought Kirk Franklin. In 2018, we brought Travis Greene and did a collabo with Nara, which garnered over 20 million views on YouTube.
For 2019, we are raising the stakes by bringing Israel Houghton, J.J Hairston and Phil Thompson to Eko Hotels and Suites on June 16. The interesting thing about Fearless is that it is not just a music concert but also a mixture of acting and dancing. It is for the young and old, and designed to motivate them in order to take that bold step towards their dreams. We are saying that they should not be overwhelmed with their failures or where they are coming from. I am a testimony because I was once very broke and I did not have sandals to wear to school. I hawked barefoot in Kaduna, and at some point, I was so poor I became a houseboy for about three years. I walked the streets of Kaduna selling bananas, coconut and other stuff. Even my first night in Lagos was spent under the bridge at Oshodi but I did not allow that to affect my dream. I faced many challenges when I started. I lost my dad over 20 years ago and there was nothing to inspire me. I discovered that, if you can believe in yourself and believe in God and fight for your dreams, not looking back or cutting corners, you would succeed. In fact, the moment you tell me that something is not working, that is exactly what I want to do. Everybody was running away from fighting Goliath but David went there and found God’s favour.
At Fearless, we tell people to take on their challenges. And for me, taking the concert to Eko Hotels and having all the international artistes, including A-list artistes in Nigeria and my friends from the movie and comedy industry at the event, it’s going to be a bang! This year’s edition will be a million times better and we are looking forward to it.
We have a couple of tours across the world – from Canada to America and Europe. The year 2018 was super. I believe that 2019 will be much better and we shall touch more lives, inspire more people, and most importantly, challenge people to pursue their dreams. We will also be releasing the album for Nara, the track on which I featured Travis Greene.
From humble beginnings, you have become an international brand. Did you ever believe you could come this far?
I wouldn’t say that, because most times you work with what you see and what you know. I grew up in a place where there was no electricity, so you will understand that there was nothing to give me an idea of what I wanted to become. So, it wasn’t a function of knowing what I could become. It was a function of the fact that I could pursue my little dreams, using the gifts God gave me. Before music, I was a footballer. I had been to Pepsi Academy, I had done Governors Cup and I thought I was going to be a footballer until things changed. Nobody even believed in me. I just did what I wanted to do with my music and I knew that nobody had the kind of style and pattern that was on my mind, nobody could interpret music the way I did. So, I just focused on my gifts and I was pressing and pushing, and while I was doing that, doors were opening and people were beginning to love me. I was not driven by fame and fortune, so I never saw all these happening. I just loved music and I wanted to experiment. I wanted to do what people had not done before. I knew that there was a massive vacuum in gospel music and when we started, people told me that my style would not fly, that it was a waste of time and that Nigerians would not appreciate it. People told me many things but I stuck to my guns. I was diligent, focused and persistent, doing my best. I started small because I didn’t need to impress anybody, and gradually, doors started opening for me. And then, every choir (member) that I trained became the best, and everyday I kept fighting to do my best at whatever I touched.
Could you share with us your most embarrassing moment working as a houseboy?
Working as a houseboy was not an embarrassing experience but a painful one. I was always beaten and abused. There was nothing fun about the experience. I was flogged until I bled. I never stole and was not disobedient but it was not a good experience. I remember one day I ran away from my master’s house and I almost committed suicide. I was like ‘this life is not worth it. If I go back to my parents, this man will come for me again, because that was about the fourth time I was running away from his house’. It was a nightmare staying with him. I couldn’t watch television, listen to radio or play around with friends. I was just there washing, cleaning and sweeping. I became a houseboy at the age of 12 due to crippling poverty.
How did you discover your talent?
I was one of those kids that did well at whatever I touched. I played football very well, same for table tennis. It was easy for me to get into football but I was always doing music by the side, like in the choir. I became a music director in 1994. But in all of this, my focus was football. In fact, when I got to Lagos and was staying under Oshodi Bridge, it was hunger that drove me into music.
One day, when I was very hungry, I just barged into a church at Oshodi and told them I could handle their music and make it different. They did not answer me the first time, so I began to attend their rehearsals, and the third time they gave me a chance. Because I play five musical instruments including bass guitar, lead guitar and piano, I just mesmerised them; they were shocked! That was how they employed me and I remember my first salary was N3,000. I was very excited because I was hungry and broke. People don’t know all these stories. They think I just popped out of the blue and stumbled into success. And so, I was like ‘if one church can pay me N3,000, why not try another church and make N6,000?’ I started focusing more on music, that was how I got many churches to employ me and I was making N9,000 a month, before another church invited me and paid me N10,000 per month.
I was working my life out everyday. I was doing vigil after vigil. I did not even want to be an artiste, I just wanted to be a music director, train people vocally and stuff, but later, everything just changed. God kept expanding the dream and it is getting bigger everyday.
When you started, did your parents support you and what was that reason that made you leave Kaduna broke?
Things were very difficult for me because I didn’t have anybody who was into music and entertainment. Nobody was ready to give me support. As an average Igbo boy then, the expectation was for me to go and stay with somebody and learn how to trade and then own my own shop selling electronics or whatever. That’s the experience of many Igbo guys and that was what everybody was doing, but I knew there was something special about my music and me, even though nobody saw it, including my family. People just did not believe in me. They were like ‘what is he doing. What does he mean when he says he is a musician? How?’ And that was because there is no trace of music in my family.
My journey to Lagos was a very funny one. I was in Ahmadu Bello University and then I left for Madonna University. On my way back to Kaduna, I said ‘let me just take a look at Lagos, let me see what Lagos looks like’. I didn’t plan to come to Lagos, but that was how I came to Lagos, it wasn’t planned. That was why I ended up staying under the bridge.
What was your turning point?
I think every part of my life, every experience, and every turn has been a turning point. When I was a houseboy to when I was sleeping under the bridge to when I was selling coconut and bananas on the streets of Kaduna, every one of these experiences God used to build me. None was a waste. All of them were used by God to build me. So, every mistake, disappointment, and everything that made it look like it was not going to work out, was part of God’s plan for my life. I think the most important thing is that, at some point in my life, I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and saviour. The Bible says all things work out good for those that serve the Lord. That was how things started working out for me, and doors gradually started opening.
How do you feel being compared to Kirk Franklin?
Before now, it was okay and I did not mind because he influenced me. But I think if anyone listens to my music now, they will know that I have come a long way. My music is my sound; I am no longer ‘affiliated’ to anybody. I have created my sound and style. I appreciate Kirk Franklin and I love him, but right now, he does not have any influence on my music.
You are handsome and successful; tell us about the woman in your life?
There is no woman in my life for now.
Really? Even in church, they’ll be coming after you, how do you handle them?
Nobody comes after me (laughter). There is no woman in my life for now. Maybe, before the publication comes out, I may find one (laughter).
Could you describe your ideal woman?
Because of what I do, I need a woman that understands me. Of course, God comes first, so it must be somebody that loves God and is family-oriented. And of course, she has to be beautiful. I don’t care about tribe and colour. All I want is the fear of God, and you must understand that a lot of sacrifice goes into building a relationship. All physical attributes will wane and eventually disappear with time. The only thing that would be left is the decision you made. So, if it was based on something physical, that means it will breakdown.
What is the secret to your success?
God is my strength. I believe that whatever God will not give you, you do not need. I work and I work. I don’t believe in magic or short cuts. I work and I push myself to the limit. I challenge myself everyday to be a better version of who I was yesterday. I am committed, resilient and focused, learning from my mistakes and doing those things they say are impossible.
Right now, we are preparing for CLX 2019, which comes up in June and we have been rehearsing 12 hours a day for the past two months. If you hear the quality of what we are dishing out, you would be shocked. It is unlike anything you have heard before. I don’t believe in cutting corners but doing the right thing and pushing hard, and if you are doing the right thing, God blesses you. Every success I achieve becomes a problem for me because I want to outdo myself.
What has been your happiest moment?
Whenever I am on stage and people are blessed, I am happy. Because of where I am coming from, my mission is to help people, by putting smiles on their faces. I have a music label where we have four artistes and I have an amazing team. And we have some businesses that we do by the side. I help a lot of artistes. I have a reality show that I do every year called ‘Sound Check’. I do a lot of giving and I feel fortunate to be blessed. With the little I have, I am excited when I give and put a smile on somebody’s face.