There is a current of old world tension and modern angst captured in the music of Akouo and that energy, as embodied in his debut radio single ‘Everything Is Gonna Get Better’, has got listeners enthralled. It's time the world learned more about this intriguing jazz artist.

Some artists try to scale their way to the top of the music industry by personal flamboyance (or inscrutability). Others work the business like hardened politicians and hope that money and fame will redeem whatever compromises are made along the way. But a very few can do it by a golden amalgamation of originality, musicianship and talent. Akouo is such an artist. Currently residing in Eagan, Minnesota, Akouo has been fast attracting recognition and honors, and one recent critic's account of his award-winning work probably explains why: ‘Akouo has his musical finger on several pulses - jazz, R&B, funk - 'Graceful Journey' encapsulates the spirt of this album, while 'Everything Is Gonna Get Better' is part of the current music scene!’ You can hear the authenticity in every chord and verse of his new jazz single, which undoubtedly explains its rapid ascent up the charts. Independent reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with Akouo to talk about his history, musical influences and exciting plans for the future.

LILY: As an artist on the rise, what is one thing you are most excited about and one thing you are most afraid of happening in your career?
AKOUO: As an artist on the rise, one of the things that excites me the most about my career is the prospect of having global reach with my music. That being said, I am most afraid of becoming artistically static. Like my music, I want my career to have forward movement and motion.

LILY: Your song ’Everything Is Gonna Get Better’ is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
AKOUO: When I first heard my song ‘Everything Is Gonna Get Better’ playing on radio, it was surreal. My initial reaction was a combination of humility and euphoria.

LILY: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
AKOUO: The inspiration behind my debut radio single grew out from reflections I had about social ills and their diseasing effects on individuals and relationships. I wanted this song to convey a message of hope, assurance and reconciliation.

LILY: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
AKOUO: Yes, I have faced difficult experiences in my life. Invariably, I sought to find solace through the music I created. Even today, I am creating music for self-help and self-healing. Thus, I refer to music as ‘internal medicine’.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving, complicated…)
AKOUO: As an artist/musician, I would characterize myself as observational, reflective, intuitive, caring and fun.


LILY: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
AKOUO: My experience working with the other people on my team has been educational, both professionally and personally. Many of those interactions turned into opportunities to influence how I approach songwriting, arranging, producing, and even life.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
AKOUO: My family is from the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans. Historically and culturally I come from an incredibly-musical background. In addition, my parents exposed my siblings and me to all forms of music – Bach, big band, bebop and R&B. So, yes, there are many other musicians in my family – both past and present.

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
AKOUO: What I find most rewarding about being an artist is knowing that the music I create to express myself – and, oftentimes, to help myself – may also inspired and help others.

LILY: Who are your role models in music?
AKOUO: My primary role model in music is my grandfather, trumpeter D’Jalma Garnier, who led the Camelia Brass Band in New Orleans and taught a young Louis Armstrong. I grew up listening to a lot of television and movie themes, so my role models are composers like Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, Lalo Schifrin, Paul Williams, Gene Page and Dave Grusin. As a bassist, my role models – while too many to mention – include Carol Kaye, Darrell Wright, James Jamerson, Stanley Clarke, Paul McCartney, Verdine White, Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Tony Garnier, Larry Graham, Chris Squire, Bootsy Collins, Marcus Miller and Will Lee.

LILY: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
AKOUO: My best or most memorable performance was in January 2014, in the city of Minneapolis. I had a 27-piece band, which provided the listening audience with the full breadth of my musical creativity.

LILY: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
AKOUO: My advice to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance is to ask lots of questions. They should align themselves with seasoned artists who have attained a reputable and respectable level of success in music and the music business. Also, it is important for them to maintain a high level of musical discipline and personal integrity, which will more greatly ensure career sustainability or longevity. With this in mind, every artist should always be his/her authentic self.

LILY: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
AKOUO: Currently, I’m working on a 15-song project, which is scheduled for release in January 2018. It’s a concept album, called ‘Churchman’. From that project, I am certain a new single will emerge.

LILY: Very exciting, I can't wait! Thank you for taking the time to let us into your world as an artist. I wish you continued success in your career.


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