Who is UCHé?
UCHé (oo-chay) is a Nigerian-American singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, and model who commands the stage with a bold fiery persona colored with an edgy style laced with influences from music legends, David Bowie and Prince. He has opened for pop star Demi Lovato and Grammy-nominated rapper B.o.B. Standing six feet five inches tall, at first sight, one may not believe that UCHé would be agile and nimble enough to deliver the energetic “leave it all on the stage” performances that he delivers during his live show.
UCHé never flows one way when it comes to the feel or style of his music. The vibrant young artist’s dark raspy voice, like his music, does not take on one consistent tone or style; instead, it soars and dives in color and timbre, uniquely evolving throughout the melodies of his music. His debut EP, entitled “My Generation” was released June 2017. It is a musical biopic chronicling UCHé’s descent into a world of hedonism fueled by excessive drug use and subsequent spiritual awakening that he credits as saving his life. UCHé exclaims, “My Generation speaks of the issues I have with my own generation. I meant it to be a musical vehicle that provides fiercely honest social commentary on my generation’s dulled social conscious, its fascination with living a life of ‘excess’ and the rampant drug use that powers this ever popular ‘YOLO’ spirit.” Interestingly enough, he manages to cleverly cloak ‘musical sermons’ meant to tell stories, bring social awareness, and call to action his generation, utilizing electronic dance music and funk.
Before the music, UCHé was a particularly eccentric kid raised by his caring and passionate mother, a United States Public Health Service officer, and loving and ever-present father. They lived in “Small Town,” Minnesota later on moving to Houston, Texas where he was originally born. UCHé describes himself as the interesting “class clown”. UCHé hasn’t always been singing but believes that “God’s plan is always revealed.” He began his entertainment career as a dancer and actor at the age of eleven. For the next three summers, UCHé would visit Nigeria and perfect his dancing skills. Then finally he heeded the advice from countless casting directors and agents and began singing.
UCHé’s music career received a big boost when he won the ACUVUE 1-Day Contest resulting in the release of his original single “Shoo Fly” along with a music video sponsored by ACUVUE and mentorship by Joe Jonas. When Joe Jonas was asked “what one word describes UCHé?”, Joe exclaimed, “Energy!” UCHé is a musical force, a powerhouse performer, a dynamic movement of song and dance destined for iconic status.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
You come from a small town in Minnesota and now you’re a very successful performer. How do you keep yourself grounded?
I don’t… LMAO JK. My God and my friends and family do. Honestly, when I think about this whole music thing and my talent, I’m just like… this is one of the few things I’m good at. There are people who can do it all or have skills that are way more impressive. I just sing and dance well. Those are the things God gave me. I couldn’t efficiently solve a math problem without a calculator or create a cure for cancer but I can do this thing here. That’s pretty humbling… real talk.
If you could perform on stage with anyone, who would you choose?
I would love to have shared a stage with Michael Jackson… or Janet! I would honestly just like to watch and study them face to face in their element on stage.
How did you come up with your unique persona on stage? Did anyone or anything specifically inspire you?
It’s been a process. I’ve always been A LOT on stage. I remember in high school I was in a musical and there was a dance portion and they put me on top of this pyramid but I kept dancing way too hard and the director was like “UCHE STOP UPSTAGING EVERYONE” but I couldn’t stop. So she took me out of the scene. I had to pull it back and tailor it to who I am physically. I’m 6’6″. I don’t have to do as much to get a response or grab the attention of the audience. It’s taken time and a lot of studying of other great performers.
What did you take away from the experiences opening up for stars like Demi Lovato and B.o.B?
It was my first time putting together a full professional show. I realized how much really went into it all with all the moving pieces… especially when you’re me and want a full production every time. I also learned how much sleep I can look forward to missing in the future.
What goes through your head when you take the stage? Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I sit still and chill out alone, remind myself that God has given me everything I need to kill it and get my head right. It’s like I coil up the spring/energy and then let it explode on stage.
What is your songwriting process like?
It depends on how I’m feeling. The most efficient way I write is to just let it flow and not think the first run through. I always have to remind myself that I can go back and edit lyrics or melodies but that first pass, when you just pour out your soul, is like the ‘bread and butter’ for a badass song.
Your debut EP was released this summer. What was the recording process like? How long did it take to complete?
The recording process was dope. I worked with Eddie Ferguson & Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter Zeke Listenbee out of Houston on the project. It was cool because they let me be myself in the music and sound. [The EP] is definitely a musical representation of who I am.. or who I was at the time. The first track we worked on was “Do It All Louder” and that was a full year before we finished the rest of the EP, which we completed in three-ish months (Summer of 2016). Every time we started a new song in the studio, Eddie would go through his sounds and let me pick the ones I liked. I would pick the sounds that felt like the song I was trying to create. Almost like picking out the ingredients and then he would whip it and flip it and cook [it up].
Your record touches on some dark and hard times from your past and the ultimate spiritual awakening that saved you. How does music help you get through these particularly dark moments in life? What do you hope listeners will walk away with after earing the EP?
Honestly, it depends on how you use music. When I was going through [dark times], really into drugs and the turn-up, the music I chose to listen to enabled me. Lyrics praising everything I was doing didn’t help me… it made me feel better about it. I was like, “This guy on the radio is telling me to take another shot and another bump… that’s a bet!” It was God who opened my eyes to what I was doing one morning and He was like, “You gotta chill.”
After people listen to my EP I want them to feel enabled to say “no.” Some people may be telling them they could turn up. I want people to say “f*** a YOLO. I’ve got ish to handle and a badass long life to live.”
How does your religious background impact your music?
There’s always a positive undertone in all of my music. Even in the most “salacious” ones. Because of my love for homie in the sky, I’m a message-driven person. I just can’t put out some “bubblegum/superficial BS.” That’s not my style.
Where is your favorite place to perform?
I like performing anywhere people will have me. BUT the bigger the stage… the brighter the lights… the bigger the production… yuuuhh.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in the music scene?
Find out who you are… and then build your brand around that. If you do that, you will stay authentic. People can smell authenticity.
Besides your performance and music style, you also have a unique style. What’s your favorite place to shop? Who are your style inspirations?
Catch me at your local thrift shop. I’m inspired by anyone whose clothes I can’t picture on the street. I like novelty and originality when it comes to clothes. If I can picture everyone in my DM’s wearing it, then I probably won’t wear it.
You perfected your dancing while spending the summers in Nigeria. What was that experience like?
We went to Nigeria every summer for a few years when I was younger. Those were some of the most fun times I’ve ever had. Being in the heart of my culture where movement is a huge part of that culture. I’m pretty sure all the dances we are into now… my aunts and uncles overseas were doing it first, killin’ it in the village.
How did you get involved with Austin Music Foundation?
I met Jennifer [Dugas] from AMF over the summer and she was so warm and real. She told me more about AMF and what they do and it didn’t seem real. An entire organization that just wants to help artists… like what?? So I’ve been trying to get as involved as I can. Honestly having [AMF]’s support in all of this really means a lot.
What does it mean to be named AMF Artist of the Month?
We live in Austin, the “Live Music Capital of the World”… There has to be music from like 70 billion artists in this city to choose from. I feel so special… It’s a huge honor.
What’s next for you?
**Photos by Ismael Quintanilla III Photography**