The gift of performing on a variety of stages isn’t something everyone with a skill possesses. Sometimes an actor can’t just pick up a mic, or a dancer stumbles through comedy. However, that is not the case with Theo Ogundipe. Trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company, got his footing in acting but soon found himself creating with his sights set on another medium, music. Today, he’s revamped a few of his favorite songs on ‘Rework,’ but is looking forward to focusing on originals in the near future. We talked about that, parallels in his skill set, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: Just moving cities in the Los Angeles area is a culture shock so I cannot imagine what it was like to go from Nigeria to the UK. Being a kid at the time, were you more willing to adapt to the new world around you?
Theo Ogundipe: It was not a move I remember a whole lot about, as I was around two years old. It was actually when I went back at 21 for the first time that I realised how much I had subconsciously remembered, certain smells, sights and feelings were familiar. That was when I realised how much you take in as a baby. I stepped off the plane for the first time back and knew in my body I was home.
Kendra: You were in the UK, but musically it seems that your heart was in the US. Of course, artists like Michael Jackson were international must-listens, but how did you come to love Motown and whatnot?
Theo Ogundipe: It is very true certain artists are universal and global, they are so great you have no choice but to love them. I fell in love with Motown through my love of certain artists. I started following the breadcrumbs of artists’ journeys as an early teen. When I realized that Michael Jackson, as a child, was around people I loved like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross under the banner of this amazing company Motown and building Hitsville I was amazed. The whole Motown structure and the stories that come from it is still something that amazes me everyday.
Also my Mother’s record collection was where my love for old soul and jazz started for sure, I love vinyl till this day because of her.
Kendra: Before we continue with the music, let’s talk a bit about your acting because you’re like an actor’s actor having been in multiple Shakespeare productions. Was he someone whose work you found growing up?
Theo Ogundipe: An actor’s actor I love that. Yes, Shakespeare has been a consistent presence in my life for sure. I trained in performing arts after high school and then went on to study acting at Drama School.
So the in depth study of Shakespeare is something that has been in my life a long time long before I became an actor and played in many productions in my career. I fell and still fall more and more in love with his work every year, the more I grow and learn I feel I understand more depth to what is being said in his plays. He has also inspired me as a writer, I feel like playing Shakespeare at places like the Royal Shakespeare Company made me a better writer and rapper, as well as actor.
Kendra: When it comes to acting and music, what have been the biggest parallels for you?
Theo Ogundipe: The biggest parallels for me are just what we discussed in the last question, the power of and beauty in good writing. Actors love great writing, it is such an important component, and of course I spent a lot of my career working with the best; Shakespeare. This inspired my music, and always reminded me how important writing is in music.
Kendra: Now let’s talk more about all this new music you have going on. This year you dropped three singles, “JP,” CT,” and your latest, “Y.” Each of them were inspired and revamped for your EP, ‘Rework.’ What about the originals from Freddie Joachim, Miguel, and J Dilla did you find so intriguing that you just had to recreate them as your own?
Theo Ogundipe: I love these pieces of music. In many ways I think they are perfect. This was the intrigue as a producer myself, I was fascinated by what made them perfect and wanted to understand them. Also timing, each producer’s use of time and space in-between the beats and transients floors me, they find whole worlds in-between moments. I wanted to build in the worlds each of them had created. It was a labour of honour and love.
Kendra: Were there other songs out there you thought about reworking that you may do in the future?
Theo Ogundipe: There are probably hundreds or thousands of songs I’d love to rework. I loved the process of reworking these songs. I admire so much music from so many different eras and genres. However, I also have to spend time focusing on my original productions, I have to balance the time. But I would love to do more, especially if people wanted to hear them. I still have a few I am playing with, we’ll see if I release them.
Kendra: In “Y” you sing, “…please be an open book for me to read.” When starting a new relationship of any kind, it’s hard to do that because we love to keep our walls up. Have you found any sound ways of letting your guard down a bit in these instances?
Theo Ogundipe: Amazing question. I am still working on that to be honest, vulnerability is one of the hardest things to embody, but I think this is one of the keys. I try to exercise and express vulnerability and love as much as I can. However I am still learning the balance between this and self preservation.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Rework’ out now, what else can fans be on the lookout for as we wrap up 2021?
Theo Ogundipe: I have an exciting new EP on the way, I am so excited to share it! All my original productions, it’s shaping up nicely. It is a clash and amalgamation of many genres and styles, but very clearly my sound. So I am very excited to introduce another element of myself, the producer as well as the singer and rapper and writer.