Average read time: 4 minutes.
Mannywellz grew up around music. He is the son of famed and international gospel singer Kunle Ajomale. With his insatiable curiosity about what his father did, it was not only inevitable that Mannywellz would pursue music, but it was also pure destiny.
“I grew up on stage and was around music and always listening to it. I started performing from an early age. I was always curious about how songs became songs and I always wondered who produced records. At 15, I watched a video with Ryan Leslie where he was making a beat and I knew then that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” says Mannywellz, real name Emmanuel Ajomale. “After that, I downloaded fruity loops and started teaching myself how to produce, and then that grew into learning Ableton software to produce the music that I want to create.”
The Nigerian-born singer/songwriter has always had conviction. And it is the conviction that has been entirely necessary for directing his music career. He could have followed in his father’s footsteps and become a gospel artist, he may have chosen to sign with a major label but instead, he wanted to navigate his career on his own terms. And, he had the full support of his musician father.
“He’s proud of what I’m doing. My dad is a music lover first. He was never the type to tell us what to listen to and he was never strict with our musical choices. At the end of the day, we just fell in love with whatever he was playing. He loves music in general and he is cool with everything that I have been working on,” affirms Mannywellz.
His father’s journey in music would serve as a blueprint for the Maryland-based producer to build his career. Adding on, he says, “My dad was the first independent artist that I saw because he did really well for himself, especially in the Nigerian community. He had no major label backing so he was making the money and paying the band members and everyone else working with him. So, watching him was dope because when I got older, I realised that what I do is not very different from what he did. We both hustled and he influenced me and I did not realise it at the time.”
But having this kind of conviction to go your own way and commit to the music industry took a lot of bravery. He needed every ounce of it especially when he first was trying to break into the music industry. Mannywellz quit his job as a bank teller to focus on his music and used the money he had saved to finance his career.
As a self-sufficient entity, he was able to keep his production costs low because he writes and produces his own records. He also recruited some of his friends to help with the mixing and engineering elements of music-making and in turn, he gave them production and writing points until he could pay their fees. Mannywellz has made it a point to educate himself about the business behind the music industry and learned how to work in partnership with different brands and companies.
Speaking about his motivation to stay independent, the 27-year-old musician explains, “When I was younger, I always wondered whether an artist could have a big career outside of the normal music industry structure. I always think differently, and I wanted to make it happen. Creative control is so important to me.”
The road to independence has not always been smooth. One of the early mistakes he made was not releasing content frequently enough. But the more the artist understood the social media algorithms, the more consistent he became and the more the audience was able to connect with his music.
Currently, he has no intention of releasing a full album anytime soon. Mannywellz finds that releasing singles and EP’s works better for him at the moment. And while he has accomplished a lot, he still feels like he hasn’t reached his full potential.
“Funnily enough, I feel like I haven’t had the big break yet but being recognised by other individuals in the industry has been cool for me. I have done a tour with Jidenna. I had Wale reach out to me and he said he really liked the project. One of the best things for me is getting to create with an artist like Tems before she started taking over the world. There have been so many amazing moments,” says Mannywellz. And he’s just getting started. The best is yet to come.
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Words | Lee Nxumalo @lethabonxumalo
Editor | Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin
Images | SAPR Africa @sapr_africa