Photo: Travis Shinn
Afro-Fusion Artist Omah Lay Is Just Getting Started: How His U.S. 'Boy Alone' Tour Will Be "Like A One-On-One Session"
Omah Lay has struck gold with Justin Bieber and been nominated for a NAACP Image Award — now, with 'Boy Alone' under his belt, he's ready to commune with stateside audiences like never before.
Nigerian phenom Omah Lay toured the U.S. just last year — but in hindsight, he sees it as a throat-clearing. Back then, he was operating on the strength of his debut EP, Get Layd, as well as an appearance on Masterkraft's remix of Justin Bieber's "Peaches."
That wouldn't be his final foray with the Biebs, though. In 2022, the pair teamed up once more on Lay's ode to relationship discord, "Attention." The song formed the heart of Lay's debut album, Boy Alone, which dropped in July 2022. He describes it as his most inward-looking release to date, a catalog of his ups and downs as he rocketed to the world stage.
Now, Lay gets to transfer the album's "stories" — his word — to American audiences. At this prospect, he's elated. "It's not going to be, like, just coming and playing the show. It's going to be like a whole interaction," he tells GRAMMY.com. "Like, 'I've told you the story; now, this is me coming again to tell you right in your face what I was saying in the album.'"
Lay's Boy Alone tour kicks off Sept. 7 in Silver Springs, Maryland; brings him through the East Coast and up to Canada; and concludes in October with gigs in California and Texas. Check out the full itinerary here, and read on for a soul-searching interview with Lay about Boy Alone, what he wants to impart to audiences, and which dream collaborators remain.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What can fans expect from this tour kicking off next month?
This is the Boy Alone North American tour. Bro, fire as usual; fire as usual. I think the previous one was just, like, an introduction. This time, I know my fans; they know me. We have a stronger bond, especially in the U.S. And with the new project, Boy Alone, it's just more fire, bro.
Can you expand on that a little bit and tell me how the show will deepen and you'll connect with fans more than ever?
Yeah, because this time, I have new songs. I have the album Boy Alone. And with this album, I told a lot of my story, so this is going to be me performing my latest stories for my fans. I think it's going to be more intimate. It's going to be like a one-on-one session.
How would you summarize what these stories are? What are you putting across?
The story for Boy Alone is literally just my story of the past two years. It's been me going through the whole thing — the whole fame, the whole becoming who I am today. The past two years of me being a superstar. My ups and downs, my emotional breakdowns, my happy moments, and everything.
I just summarized that experience and told the story of every experience I had on the album. So, this is me coming to the U.S. and telling them those stories right in their face.
You used the word "superstar." What might people not realize about being one?
I am who I am; everybody's who they are. And I think everybody is born to be who they are. The album is not about me being a superstar; there's really nothing special about being a superstar. I'm just another human being walking the earth and making music; that's it.
There are [innumerable] artists in the world making music just like myself. There's really nothing special; there's nothing hard; there's nothing difficult. But I think one little thing that people misunderstand is the fact that the celebrity is also human.
How would you describe how you strung together your experiences on Boy Alone?
Like I said, it's just a series of my experiences put together. It's just like photographs; all I did was capture moments and make songs with them. Instead of pictures, they are in words and melodies.
"I'm a Mess": that's me. I was a mess at some point, and I made a song with it. A song like "Temptations": I was going through a lot, but I still had people who stayed by my side. And I captured it and put it in a song.
How do you feel you've deepened as an artist over the past few years? I imagine you've become more in touch with yourself and your feelings.
Yeah. I'd say I discovered more of myself. I grew into who I am today. I wasn't like this; I didn't know all of this. And I'm really grateful for growth; I'm really excited. I'm really happy that I grew the way that I did, because this is not where I came from; I came from a different place.
So, it took me a while to realize and grow into becoming who I am today.
You've worked deeply with Justin Bieber — and what an ever-developing artist he is. Can you talk about working with him?
Working with Justin Bieber is one of those things on my to-do list that I just checked. He's one person that I've always wanted to perform with. And when he reached out to me at first — when I first dropped my project Get Layd — I was like, This is it. This is part of the dream.
We went back and forth and got a couple songs. I was supposed to be on the Justice album, but I was on the road and a lot of things happened. But we kept going back and forth with records until we got "Attention."
It's a classic. Justin Bieber is a legend. And, bro, it's a blessing to have Justin Bieber on a record.
You've been nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding International Song, for "Understand." How does it feel to receive that honor?
It's a blessing too. Part of the dream; part of the journey. I don't have the best words to describe the feeling, but I'm excited and feel really blessed to be here today. I feel really blessed to be part of the people making Afrobeats what it is today.
Can you talk about your life and career after this tour, into the end of 2022 and into 2023? How are you charting your next era?
I'm not God! [Laughs] I don't have my whole life planned out until I'm gone. But there's a picture in my head; there's a picture of who I am and who I want to be in my head. And every day of my life, every day that I wake up, I just try to get one step closer.
It's not like everything is planned out. But going forward after the tour is more music; more of Omah Lay. It'll be my life; it'll be me. That's all I can be: I'm Omah Lay, and that's all I can be.
So, yeah, it's really not rigid; it's not like it has to be this way. It's flexible. I can wake up tomorrow and go to Asia and stay in Asia for two years. It's not all mapped out — you feel me?
You mentioned that working with Bieber was a dream come true. Who else would you like to collaborate with?
The proliferation of Afrobeats is one of the most positive developments I've seen during my time in the music industry. A lot of the music's great and the fans are so nice.
The whole of Africa is really excited about African music becoming this big. It's part of the dream: Afrobeats to the world, Africa to the world.
And as much as Africa feels like one place where a lot of things are not right, when our people see something good coming out of Africa and a thing from Africa going global, they're happy and they support it, because it gives them hope.
Any negative associations of Africa as a whole are so funny, because it contains an infinitude of cultures and communities. It's not just one thing.
Yeah, Africa is really big. It's different cultures, different everything. The music is different in different parts of Africa. Like, Afrobeats — I would still call it African music, but it's West African: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya. And if you go somewhere like Egypt, it's different.
If you go to South Africa, you do amapiano and house. That amapiano sound — I'm really optimistic about it.
What have you been reading or listening to lately? What's swirling around your imagination?
Bro, I've been listening to a lot of amapiano music. Yo, there's this boy that I found. The world needs to know about this kid. His name is Ethan Bortnick. He's so cool. His music is like, crazy jazz; I don't even know what to call it.
I'm really hoping that the world discovers this guy, because I can see something in him. That's what I've been listening to for the past two days; I've just been listening to him.
Before we get out of here, is your best work ahead of you?
Oh yeah, definitely. As a matter of fact, every time [will be] a great record. I think it's normal as a human — you are just never satisfied. You feel like it's never enough. No matter what you put out right now, you feel like there's so much more inside.
Yeah, I think my best work is still ahead of me, and I don't know when I'll reach it. Because my career [is] just two or three years old. So, I still have a lot of time.
Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com
Meet Justin Bieber With GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions
Bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience to meet Justin Bieber
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched a new auction offering bidders the opportunity to bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience with Justin Bieber. Open now through Oct. 25, the auction package features two tickets and meet-and-greet passes to an upcoming Bieber concert.
To place your bid on this exclusive experience, visit www.charitybuzz.com. All proceeds will benefit the GRAMMY Foundation.
FYI/TMI: Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy, Justin Bieber Breaks The Law
Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney among performers for Sandy benefit; Bieber gets ticketed in L.A.
(In an effort to keep you fully informed, and fully entertained, below we present today's FYI and TMI — news you need and news that's, well, sometimes needless….)
More Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy
GRAMMY winners Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, and legendary rockers Roger Waters and the Who will perform at a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 12 in New York. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims.
SoundExchange Reports 3Q Royalty Payments
Performance rights organization SoundExchange distributed $122.5 million in royalty payments during the third quarter of 2012, marking the organization's largest quarterly payout since its founding in 2000, according to Billboard.biz. SoundExchange has distributed $326.9 million in performance royalties for the year to date, bringing the organization's grand payout total to $1.2 billion since 2000.
Bieber Breaks The Law
As if Justin Bieber's recent trouble in love wasn't hard enough for the 18-year-old, the teen pop sensation has now run into some trouble with law enforcement. Bieber was ticketed by Los Angeles police on Nov. 13 after he was pulled over in his Ferrari in West Hollywood, Calif., for making an unsafe left turn. On top of that, cops found his registration was expired. Hopefully now there's one less unsafe driver on the road.
MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction Launched
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions offers exclusive memorabilia from seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit
Following the seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit honoring Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman on May 6, GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched the MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction. Presented in partnership with Kompolt, the auction is open through May 19 and features a variety of autographed music memorabilia, including items signed backstage at the MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Gahan and Paramore.
Additional auction items include a framed issue of Rolling Stone signed by the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger; vintage memorabilia signed by Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, and Barbra Streisand; guitars autographed by Kings Of Leon, Korn, Tom Petty, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Urban; unique memorabilia signed by Jeff Beck, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Muse, Katy Perry, and Rihanna; and a 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards VIP Experience for two including rehearsal passes and hotel accommodations.
To place your bid on items featured in the auction, visit www.ebay.com/grammy. All proceeds will benefit MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.
Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies
Blues Musician Pinetop Perkins Dies
GRAMMY-winning blues musician and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pinetop Perkins died today of cardiac arrest in Austin, Texas. He was 97. Born Joe Willie Perkins in Mississippi, Perkins gained fame as a piano player on the Chicago blues scene after he joined GRAMMY winner Muddy Waters in 1969, replacing Otis Spann. Prior to that, he played alongside blues artists such as Earl Hooker, Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others. His first GRAMMY Award came in 2007 for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas, an award he picked up again at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards this year for Joined At The Hip with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. At 97, Perkins currently stands as the oldest GRAMMY winner. (3/21)
Domestic box office earnings from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never totaled $72.2 million on March 20, surpassing Michael Jackson's This Is It ($72.1 million) to become the most successful concert-themed film in the United States, according to a Billboard.biz report. Michael Jackson's film remains the most successful worldwide, grossing $189.1 million internationally for a global total of $261.2 million. Justin Bieber's film has grossed a total of $10.8 million internationally to date. (3/21)