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around the world… from a performance point of view it really helped as well, ‘cause I was able to get into that headspace of performing to the crowd. Leon from Rudimental was telling me, “Perform to the crowd. Be more confident.” He’s like a fireball on stage.

So let’s talk about 16-year old MNEK writing and producing for Te Saturdays – how does that even happen? I mean, I know your relationship with EMI started when you were about 14, didn’t it? Yeah, I signed my publishing when I was 14 and that’s how I’d gotten into the industry. For the first two years, I was kind of just developing and having a few sessions here and there, ‘cause I was still in school, so I couldn’t do much. So when I left school and got into doing it full-time, I was getting lots of work, doing more sessions, meeting new people and actually growing as a writer.

Did you always get absolute respect from everybody, given your age? I don’t know; I think a lot of people respected me, but there was always that thing of like, ‘right, he’s 14’ [laughs]. ‘He’s a child and he’s trying to tell me…’ Me telling people what to do was just a bit of a mind fuck to be honest!

Yeah, you must have had some big kahunas to pipe up! I had to! I had no choice; I didn’t want anything to sound rubbish [laughs].

No, course not – it would have been a really short journey, wouldn’t it? For sure, exactly. Yours is one of those real web 2.0 stories: you were found on MySpace. Cynics berate artists who’ve come via talent shows or the internet – how do you respond to that? Erm, I think there is no right or wrong on how to get into the industry. When you’re in, you’re in. But at the same time, as long as whatever you’ve done has been on the merit of your talent, or the music you make. I’m thankful that

24 / July 2014/

in this new generation those kind of talents are found on the internet and other places; it’s amazing, and I’ve made a lot of friends via the internet. And on the X Factor, they’ve made some great stars too; so these talent shows are great platforms for producing artists who go on to do something they’re really passionate about. I’m all for it, either way.

To have achieved so much by this age, do you set yourself particular goals, or has it had its own momentum? People always ask me what I want to achieve by a certain time, you know ‘what do you want to do…’ I just go with the flow. All I can hope is that I’m successful releasing music that I’m happy with and can be proud of. I’d

the first group of friends that are my age for a long time, ‘cause even when I was at school, I kind of preferred the company of older people. But now my friends – like Becky Hill and like the Bondax guys, Kate Stewart – they’re in my age range, so it’s cool to hang out with them. Tey’re in the industry, they get it; they understand what we go through but at the same time we go through things that teenagers go through, so it’s not out of the ordinary. I’ve got a great band who are a lot of fun and like performing. We’ve only done about four shows now, but I’m really enjoying them because they’re such good fun, and cool people.



never want to be the position where I’m making music that I don’t want to put my name to, and wouldn’t champion. Don’t get me wrong, I was very impatient, but at the end of the day, it was about me being ready. Now that I’m getting to a place where I’m releasing my own music, and getting my album art done, getting the image together and the live show – all of that signifies the next step, and shows that I am ready.

I read a great quote from you that was about your live show, and your band; you said, “the vibe is great ‘cause we’re all young.” It’s great you haven’t lost sight of that, that even though you already have so much experience, you’re still young and you need to enjoy it. Yeah, I’m learning that more and more and more. My group of friends are now

Now lastly, let’s talk about your threads, because you’re becoming as known for your style as much as your music. I know it’s homage to your Nigerian heritage, but have you thought about taking it further? Maybe doing a full

Russell Simmons and releasing a clothing line? I collaborate with my stylist, Carri Munden who goes under Cassette Playa. She used to work with M.I.A., so she understands the idea of bringing your heritage into your clothes. I felt like if I wasn’t gonna have any Nigerian influences in my music, or any West African influences, at least I’ll bring it into my fashion somehow. I’m always collaborating with designers and getting them to do custom stuff for me, not only ‘cause I want to get custom stuff, but also ‘cause I’m big and tall! My own fashion line? Definitely later on down the line, ‘cause I love fashion… but I’ve got to get this single popping first!

Emma R. Garwood

MORE INFORMATION MNEK plays as part of the Latitude Festival bill from 17th-20th July near Southwold, then ends the summer at Bestival on the Isle of Wight from 4th-7th September. For tickets, go to and

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