Tare Okiri Harrison, popularly known as Harrysong, is one of Nigeria’s topmost songwriters and recording artistes. He rose to fame after his tribute song to Nelson Mandela won the Most Downloaded Caller Tune Award at The Headies 2013. The Delta State-born artiste, in this interview with EDWIN USOBOH, shares how he turned his company, Alterplate, into a business conglomerate and how he conquered his much publicised depression
As we approach the yuletide period, what should your fans expect from you?
Of course I know my fans are expecting the best from me, they are expecting a single from me and my management is set to drop my next single titled, ‘Report Card’, so I know they are expecting a lot from the video and audio. Basically they want the best from me and I can assure them I will not disappoint.
Can you give us a total view of your 2018?
My 2018 has been a total blessing to me and the entire management of AlterPlate. I prayed to the Lord and yes of course we had some challenges, ‘major’ challenges but we conquered and here we are today. Still grinding and pushing harder.
Why do your songs have strong old school vibe, what influences this choice?
I influence like 80 percent of my production basically. And about the message, the inspirations from the messages are from life itself; everything that happens every day is my inspiration, what is going on, the ups and downs. Life is like my biggest inspiration.
For some time now you have been running your record label, how has it been for you as the Chief Executive Officer of AlterPlate?
As President of Alterplate, it’s been amazing! I am not just a free man but a responsible man. Not responsible for just myself alone but for other people as a team, as a company, as a family and as a movement. It feels great to be a source of empowerment as the President of Alterplate.
Again, I would say to the best of my knowledge, I know that in 70- 80 percent we have served as a very huge content provider in Nigeria Entertainment circle.
What has managing Alterplate taught you differently from being an artiste?
It has taught me that being an executive is not just about the label or the platform. It is also about giving back and about an expansion, making and remolding yourself and that is what we have been doing over the years. Creating new contents, expansion and making and re-making ourselves and that is why we have younger people under the platform who we are building to become ‘Younger Kings’ to take over the industry and be a blessing basically.
So far, can you give a total number of artistes on your record label and which of them would you say is ready to explode?
Right now, we have Lami Phillips signed on by ALterplate. We’ve signed in Lami Phillips for a while now and we are trying to put a lot together for her. And then as the platform Alterplate Music, we have about three artistes that we are grooming right now that will be officially unveiled soon.
How do you keep up your energetic stage performances?
It is a course I have chosen to follow and I am a professional in this business and I have been here for a while so I do my job when I have to do my job in spite of how I feel, and I know that the output always have to be 100 per cent because I know where I’m coming from and I know where am going to I always give in my 100 per cent.
Do you see yourself going overseas for greener pastures or to expand your music career in the nearest future?
Music has taken me round the world, from one show or the other. I am not looking for greener pastures, I am very comfortable where I am and besides from where we are, we are inspiring the world and people come from every part of the world to book us for shows and events, we go and do what we have to do to still make money, merry and return to base. So I don’t think I am going to look for anything else abroad. We are grounded to inspire and also move and compliment what is going on so it is about what is happening, I think we should be complemented for being an inspiration. On the hand, my management is also considering me doing something outside the Nigerian space, but definitely, not relocating completely.
Aside being an entertainer, one very strong aspect of your skill is writing. What inspires your writing generally?
Writing has always been part of me! My life is a testimony, my life is enough for me to write about till I die and so, like I said earlier when it comes to performing, I said life is my biggest inspiration so it goes to singing, it goes to writing. So my biggest inspiration is everything that is happening every day, the ups and downs, if it is working well it inspires me, if it is not doing good it inspires me. However, sometimes, my writing is inspired by my mood at a given moment, sometimes also, I understudy the life and craft of the person I am writing for, these and many other factors serve as my inspiration when writing and creating a song.
Let’s go back a little, what really went wrong between you and Five Star Music?
I and Five Star story have been over flocked! We have talked about it severally; Alterplate is about two years now! Going back to that is trying to spill the wheel all over again. We had our good times, we had our rough times, we have moved on, so we should let it go and just progress. If it is of the will of the people and the will of God that someday Harrysong and Five Star Music can still do business together, why not? The door is always open.
You talk about the will of God, how religious are you?
God has been good to me. I am a Christian and I love God passionately. And in case you don’t know, I attended a pastor’s school and graduated.
What is that thing that stands Alterplate out?
Alterplate music is different because of our sound definition, business strategies and our large capacity to execute and meet deadlines.
While growing up which artist or music were you listening to?
I listened to old school music, gospel music and the likes of R-Kelly and Kirk Franklin; those are the people I listened to. Michael Jackson was also one of my favourites. Those were the kind of music that defined and molded me today. They even mold the final production of what I am putting out. My grandma is a major influencer in the final work that I am putting out as well.
Sound keeps revolving in the music industry. What do you think is the problem with the way Nigerians musicians handle sound?
It is a challenge; I don’t see it as a problem because many are called but few are chosen and the challenge with the way Nigeria musicians handle sounds is that, when there is a new sound they over use it and at the end of the day, it becomes a problem and the fans get tired until we have another infusion before there is a relief. For me, it’s what is going to continue even outside the shores of the country, it’s what is working for them. So, at every given time, we have the sounds that come up and everybody will vibe on it until someone else will create something else. So it is normal.
What is that one sound that you are yet to explore and you really wish to explore?
The sound that I am yet to explore is the Caribbean sound because the Nigerian platform is still covered with the copy and paste style. Yes, we cannot leave the Afro beat sound 100 percent but artistes are scared to leave their comfort zone. But I am approaching that Caribbean sound and we are going to get there. We already have a test run that we did and it is like 60 per cent in the market already. There is possibility that it is going to work. So we are working to improve it.
What is one of the greatest lessons you have learnt being a music director?
The greatest lesson I have learnt all my years as a music director is to work. Don’t stop working, don’t stop evolving, don’t stop doing your research, improve on your musical knowledge. Nobody is the best; we just get better as it goes. Music is bigger than just the sound, music is life, and music rules the world.
What is the most embarrassing moment for you as a music director?
That was when I was in Church of God Mission and I was supposed to work with a set of choir in CGM. They didn’t believe in what I was going to offer, they heard so much about me and they saw me as a young man and thought they needed to school me before the session that I wanted to work with them basically. That rehearsal was supposed to take like five hours but it took three hours just to prove myself and to prove to them that the person that they are underrating is actually their teacher.
Could you shed more light on the ‘King Maker Concert’?
King Maker Concert is first of all a platform to make younger kings, a platform to build, to remake, to give back, to be a blessing and to build younger businesses. Every time the concert comes up, there are smaller businesses that will grow to become big business. That is the purpose and it was history for us when we did King Maker Concert this year, in the Warri City Stadium, next year by His grace we want a bigger concert, the team has been putting a lot together already. It might be in Lagos, we are working towards that and we will try as much as we can to improve on what we did this year.
Who are your favourite all-time Nigerian musicians?
They are Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Rex Lawson and Tuface Idibia. I love their legacies and inspirations.
Recently you shocked the world with your depression message and a lot of people where really worried and bothered about what was actually going on. Can you shed more light on what you were actually going through?
What I was going through was pressure. It was more than I really envisaged. I was depressed basically, then it was pressure and I needed to speak out to also help myself and help others. It was also a lesson not just to me but to others and thank God I am out stronger and back to business.
So how were you able to conquer your depression?
Because I was real to myself, it was a big challenge for me. So, I tried as much as I can not to focus on myself but to the works that needed to be done and lives needed to be affected and people that are looking up to me. So I tried as much as I can to put 20 per cent on me and 20 percent on the people around because at the end of this whole journey, the goal is to be a blessing to my generation and to also live a fulfilled life. Thanks to my manager and the rest of the team.
What is your advice to fellow musicians who are probably going through depression and afraid to speak up?
We have a very good challenge on social media; there is so much competition and pain there. We are normal just like the average man on the street, we should try as much as possible as celebrities, as role models to be real, be truthful to them and preach love.
As an artiste, what will you like to be remembered for?
I will like to be remembered for my works and the message that passes through my music, the work that I have done, and how it has affected the people. Basically, I would like to be remembered for doing evergreen songs.
Are there other businesses that you are nurturing or some that you already have that are working for you?
Music is my life, but of course, I have other businesses that I am doing. First, I want you to know that Alterplate is a business conglomerate; we are into other things aside music. Currently, we are working on my clothing line called Kingmaker Clothing Line (KCL) and also working on the Kaywaters that would be out shortly, I am also into Real Estates big time. Yes, music is number one but, there other things.
How about fishing? I learnt that you used to be a fisherman?
Yes. I am half Delta, half Bayelsa and I grew up in Port Harcourt. It is natural. I used to be a fisherman, but music got the better part of me and here I am today. God willing, I will go back to the business of fishing someday.
Do you see yourself at some stage moving into the gospel music genre?
It depends on where the message hits me. It depends on what I really have to do at that point in time, it depends on the calling, and it depends on the direction. My career is built on God’s grace, blessing, hard work and good will from the people. I would not have come this far if God. Then, I am also working on something huge with gospel musician and my brother, Tim Godfrey, watch out for it.
You recently did a remix of ‘Selense’ and there were some controversies or some disagreement around the artiste you were to feature. What actually happened?
‘Selense’ was already a hit song and I decided not to feature Kiss Daniel for the remix. We did the remix with Iyanya and Dice Ailes. The original song was with Kiss Daniel and Reekado Banks. But I didn’t shoot the video because, at some point in the project I realized they weren’t falling in line with the original idea of having them in the song, so I moved and I am happy I did. I still love them regardless.