“That was a wild 36 hours in Santa Barbara,” singer-songwriter and Modern Christian Music hitmaker Blessing Offor tells Billboard, recalling how a gathering with five-time Grammy winner Jon Batiste in November 2022 on the Google Zeitgeist Convention led to an impromptu writing session. 

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“It felt like assembly an outdated good friend form of factor, simply instantly cool,” Offor says. “He requested what we had been doing that afternoon, and if we needed to do a session in L.A. My flight was supposed to go away that afternoon, however I used to be like, ‘Completely.’ I instantly known as my journey man and was like, ‘Do no matter it’s a must to do to maneuver my flight,’” he says, laughing. “It was only a nice inventive synergy. I’m unsure what is going to come of it, however I’d like to collaborate once more.” 

Collaboration has performed a key function in Offor’s profession thus far.

Offor, who earned a GMA Dove Awards nomination for brand new artist of the yr in 2022, additionally registered a three-week No. 1 Christian Airplay hit in 2022 along with his TobyMac collaboration “The Goodness” and has been featured on albums from Chris Tomlin and Lee Brice. He’s additionally co-written songs with Dallas Davidson, Breland, Tyler Hubbard and Corey Crowder, amongst others. Offor’s personal “Brighter Days,” the title monitor from his February 2022 EP, peaked at No. 2 on Christian Airplay.  

On Friday, the Nigerian-born, Connecticut-raised artist will launch his new full-length set, My Tribe, on Bowyer & Bow/Capitol CMG.

Offor, who co-wrote 14 of My Tribe’s 16 tracks, begins the album with a spoken-word intro that thanks his household nonetheless dwelling in Nigeria for his or her help. Later within the album, he contains “What a World (Akwa Uwa),” which includes a music he realized as a baby.

“In direction of the tip of the album-making course of, we had all of the tracks accomplished, but it surely felt like one thing was lacking,” Offor says. “What was lacking was a bit fingerprint of Nigeria, of my very own journey. Once I mentioned I needed to place that on my file, my staff was very supportive, although I feel we joked about how arduous it might be to search out whoever owns publishing on a music recorded in Nigeria within the ‘70s.” 

Offor was stunned by the success of “Brighter Days,” which he additionally contains on his new full-length undertaking.  

“We didn’t ship ‘Brighter Days’ to radio considering we’ve got an enormous music on our fingers, as a result of it doesn’t even say ‘Jesus,’” Offor says. “On this business, it’s simpler to market issues which can be crystal clear, I assume. I’ve gotten many a Fb message, Instagram message from individuals asking, ‘How dare you name your self a Christian artist? You didn’t say “Jesus” one time on this music.’ It’s been tremendous fascinating. I’m a theological nerd, so may I argue about it? Sure. However is it price it? No, most likely not. However as a result of it didn’t match neatly in a single specific field, it’s gotten to quite a lot of locations on this planet the place most songs that match so tightly into that field most likely don’t get.” 

Alongside uptempo, retro-pop bops like “Really feel Good” and “My Tribe” are soulful piano ballads like “Grace” and “Gained’t Be Lengthy Now,” which Offor calls “a mantra.”

“I like songs like that, that huge teams can sing, songs that we have to get by way of particular moments — songs like, ‘Don’t Fear, Be Pleased,’” he says of “Gained’t Be Lengthy Now,” which he wrote with Hank Bentley and Jessie Early. “Throughout the ‘60s, within the Civil Rights motion, individuals would say, ‘How lengthy?’ and the reply was ‘Not lengthy.’ That didn’t imply actually two seconds from proper now, however the truth that the arc of the ethical universe is lengthy, but it surely bends towards justice. The music is only a mantra to carry on by way of no matter somebody could be going by way of.” 

A Journey From Nigeria to Nashville 

The album is crammed with a mix of pop and soul and a relentless uplifting message flowing all through it — a testomony to his personal hard-fought journey. 

Offor, who’s legally blind, immigrated to the USA from Nigeria at age 6. He was born with glaucoma leading to nearly full blindness in his left eye. and his mother and father despatched him to stay along with his uncle in America to obtain remedy. Then at age 11, a water gun accident broken his retina, taking the sight from his proper eye.

Rising up in Connecticut, Offor, the youngest of six siblings, listened to a variety of music, together with pop, Motown and jazz, and started taking part in piano at age 9. Nonetheless, he says it took dedication and keenness to stay along with his unconventional profession path in music, particularly when his household anticipated him to take a extra skilled path.  

“For me, to be a singer-songwriter was not cool, you already know? My uncle has a legislation agency and for me, going to legislation faculty would have been a glide path after which I might be a lawyer and that will actually be the immigrant dream there,” he says. “No person would have been mad if I give up to do some white-collar profession, however I didn’t give myself permission to give up.” 

He attended Nashville’s Belmont College after which spent 5 years in New York’s eclectic music scene round 2011, “simply writing music and assembly individuals, working with the Snarky Pet guys earlier than they turned Snarky Pet,” he says. He made his approach to Los Angeles and was briefly a contestant on The Voice, earlier than returning to Nashville in 2015, the place he continued to showcase for labels and write songs.

After writing a music titled “Tin Roof” with Natalie Hemby, Offor noticed the music recorded by a couple of artists and hoped it might result in a publishing deal. The music did greater than that — quickly after, CCM luminary Chris Tomlin heard the music and recorded it for his 2020 Chris Tomlin & Mates album, that includes Offor’s vocals on the recording. Offor additionally signed a recording take care of CCM luminary Chris Tomlin’s Bowyer & Bow imprint, in partnership with Common’s Capitol Christian Music Group.

“After the music got here out, there was the dialog of a longer-term relationship with Chris and Capitol CMG. I mentioned, ‘You understand being a worship chief is just not my aim, per se. I’m a Christian who’s an artist, however I all the time write music my very own method.’ Chris mentioned, ‘All it’s a must to do is be your self,’ and I mentioned, ‘Effectively, I can try this.’ [Capitol CMG co-president] Brad O’Donnell and all the fellows at Capitol felt there could be a place for my music within the religion market, but additionally within the faith-adjacent markets and mainstream markets. And to this point, it’s been nearly as good because it sounded from the start, which is a extremely uncommon factor.”

For Offor, discovering his label residence meant heeding the recommendation he was as soon as given by a Nashville music govt.

“It’s humorous as a result of I’d do showcases in Los Angeles and they’d be like, ‘Cool, you may be the subsequent John Legend.’ However John Legend’s nonetheless doing his factor; we don’t want a subsequent John Legend. I’d showcase for nation labels and it’s like, ‘OK, we are able to do a soul-country factor,’ so there was all the time this concept of doing a hybrid.” Former Common Music exec Joe Fisher gave recommendation that resonated with Offor:  “He gave me the instance of Chris Stapleton — when he first got here to city, he was too soulful for nation and too blues for soul. Joe mentioned, ‘You wish to get a deal the place individuals are snug letting you discover who you’re. It’d take a minute, however when you construct your personal style, nobody can kick you out of it.’” 

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