In Conversation with CalledOut Music
Christian music is written to express belief in Christ and Christian life. Themes often include praise, worship, repentance and lament. This might feel obscure or unrelatable. But it’s the stuff of our most mainstream pop music, with a focus that might well be healthier and a tone that is certainly more positive. Whether you believe in God or not doesn’t have to be important to enjoy or relate to the music – it’s more about believing in something bigger than yourself. Perhaps this is why Christian music so frequently inspires and informs Grime and Hip Hop, genres which focus on overcoming your immediate circumstances by envisioning and acting on something beyond them. It is actually the intimate relevance of Christian music to more obviously ‘popular’ genres that has propelled the rise of Samuel Nwachukwu AKA CalledOut Music, and made him in-demand as a collaborator with the likes of Stormzy and Wretch 32.
CalledOut Music is unlike his fellow Christian artists. The UK Christian music scene is dominated by such juggernaut collectives as Hillsong Worship and Bethel Music, worldwide musical groups featuring as many as a dozen seasoned. The former is backed by Hillsong Church, which has been appropriately described as a Megachurch, holding conferences at venues such as the 02 Arena and weekly service at a West End musical theatre, all to the soundtrack of hits which receive upwards of 300 million views on YouTube. The latter is supported by a ‘community of worshippers’; of which, if Facebook likes are anything to go by, there are millions. This should leave little room in the UK for Christian artist whose ministry (carrying forth of Christ’s mission in the world) is a bit more … singular. And yet, CalledOut Music has made room for himself, becoming one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular gospel artists. From beginning by having to balance making music with studying for an accounting degree, he’s now an award-winning solo artist mid-way through a world tour, and his 2017 single ‘My Prayer (Yahweh)’ has amassed over 3 million youtube views.
His stage name is designed, counterintuitively, to draw attention away from himself; to draw focus towards his ministry: to ”get people, especially the younger generation, to have the belief or mindset that they are called out for service to God”. Nwachukwu might hide his real name, but his talent is in plain sight; his voice is an energetic, youthful call out to non-believers, bending and jumping in sync with his uplifting beats. It’s Nwachukwu’s sense of joy, the excitement he has for his faith and his life (and yours), that shines through his music. It is his light which draws you in, turns you around, and brightens your view of a world which is, all too often, seen in darkness.
Following his single ‘Awesome Wonder’ dropping on June 1st, and ahead of the continuation of his global tour later this year (Paris Sept 7th, Lagos Sept 14th, Nairobi Sept 18th, Johannesburg Sept 21st, and Accra Dec 14th), we spoke to Nwachukwu about his ministry and music.
JL: How was the tour been so far?
SN: It’s been good. There have been peaks and troughs, of course. But it’s been an amazing experience, part of God’s more amazing plans for me.
You’ve toured UK and Europe already. What takes you to Africa later this year?
Just wanting to do something that hadn’t been done.
Wanting to push the envelope?
Exactly. We’re trying to push the envelope as much as we can.
Why did you call yourself CalledOut Music?
So that people would ask me questions like this! I established the CalledOut Music ministry in my second year of university. I didn’t want to use my actual full name because I wanted people to know it wasn’t about me. I haven’t been called out, wehave been called out.
You’ve swept up at the Premier Gospel Awards (the UK’s biggest Gospel Awards event), winning Best Male and Best Video. What more is there to do?
There’s always more to do!
Would you collaborate with non-Gospel, secular artists?
Potentially. But it would have to be right. The song would have to be right, and the artist would have to be right. I’m not interested in singing about crime, sex and drugs. And I wouldn’t want to collaborate just so more people hear my music. I was meant to be in the studio with Stormzy recently, to discuss gospel rather than make a song, but I couldn’t make it because I was working! I’d love to collaborate with Wretch 32 soon. You’ll be surprised how many non-Christians come to my shows already.
Historically, the most popular songs have been about the adoration of God. Now they’re about the adoration of a romantic partner. I found it interesting how ‘More’, an upbeat soft RnB track, could be about a romantic partner (‘I wanna be close, close to your heart’) up until you sing ‘Lord’. Was that on purpose?
Funny you should say that. It was not intended as such. That’s what I like about these songs; you get into it because of the music, listen to it, then realise and think about what it’s really about afterwards.
Obvious question: so, there’s a purposefulness to your music?
Definitely. I feel like I have been called to be a light. There are so many dark things going on. I feel like I have been called to be a light in people’s lives.
Have you got any advice for students pursuing music?
I’m probably the worst person to ask. But I think it’s important for people to have two streams in their lives. A beautiful thing is to be killing it in two areas of your life, work and music. So, you can be killing it at work, but also killing it on stage and in the studio.
Before we end, I’d like to say thanks. My sister is a Christian, and she introduced me to your music. I listened to your music all through revising for my university finals and it was really uplifting.
Wow. No problems, bro. That’s amazing.
‘Amazing Wonder’ is available on all streaming platforms now.