ON A SOLO PATH: She came onto the music scene as part of the Blu*3 trio a decade ago. Four years ago, she embarked on a solo music career. She talks to Isaac Ssejjombwe about music and her relationship with Mowzey Radio.
Briefly describe who Lilian is?
Lilian Mbabazi is a singer, mother and a fun-loving person.
Speaking motherhood, how many children do you have? And who is the father, there has been a lot of speculation in the tabloids?
I have two children; a boy turning five years in September and a daughter who turned one in July. Moses Ssekibogo, also known As Mowzey Radio, is their father.
You are both musicians. Does Radio help you out in your career?
Yes, he does. He writes most of my Luganda songs and always gives me ideas on what to do concerning my life and career.
And who writes the rest of the songs?
I write some of the English songs and at times, some other people write them.
Is there any chance of Radio and Lillian releasing a song together?
I don’t know. It will happen when it happens. I want to first of all establish myself. If I’m to do a song with Moses, it will be later on. I don’t want to succumb to pressure because most people expect it to happen. I like to take my time. We are both busy, so maybe it will happen in future.
What do you like most about Mowzey Radio?
People know him as a rowdy guy but he’s actually one of the most down to earth people I know. He is a kind person.
What is your favourite song from Goodlyf?
I like Breath Away and Nakudatta.
Do you live with Radio?
No, I don’t.
Because he has his own life and I have my own. Once in a while, he comes around and hangs with the children.
How did you and Radio get together?
Life happens. Because I’m a very private person, I like keeping some stuff to myself.
Blu3 disbanded a few years ago and you embarked on solo careers. Are there moments when you miss the girls?
From time to time, yes. We had a very good time together and we had so much going on. We went through so much as a group, so from time to time, I miss them.
Do you think you will get back together as Blu3?
I guess at one point, yes. Right now everyone one is trying to find their own footing as a solo artiste, so maybe we could get back together in the future. We are all still young and music has no limit, so even if we are 50-year-olds, we can decide to be 50-year-old Blu3 singers. Obviously the communication hasn’t been as often as it used to be, but from time to time, we communicate.
How is motherhood?
Motherhood is amazing; it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s really refreshing and it has made me a better and more hardworking person.
When do you get time to be with your children considering the music industry can get hectic?
If I’m not busy, I spend most of my morning hours with my children, especially my baby girl because my son is at school during those hours. If I’m travelling out of the country for a long time, I try to travel with them. It’s been hard but I have a very good nanny who has been a blessing to me, especially when I need her for any kind of help.
Are you still a radio presenter?
No. I quit at the beginning of last year. I had to concentrate on my music and the radio career demands a lot of your time as well. I was very inconsistent because you would find that I had been booked to perform at a show yet I had to be on radio at the same time. It wasn’t fair for them because I wasn’t giving them the quality time they deserved.
There is a sudden change in the music you are doing now compared to your previous work. What do you call this type of music and do you think it has affected you career?
I call it Afro-soul and it’s a mixture of African music with an Rn’B twist, but mostly soul because that is the type of music that I felt would define me as a solo artiste and bring me out as Lilian Mbabazi. Blu3 was a pop group and I’m not a pop singer although, I’m versatile. On my album, you will also find a zouk song, I don’t limit myself musically and creatively. I try to give everyone a taste they will probably like.
Have you compiled an album yet?
Yes, I have an album that has 15 tracks. Four songs have been released; Simple Girl, Kuuma Obudde, Memories with A Pass and African Jump Around.
Some say, there is no money in the kind of music you are doing unlike other styles like ragga and Afro-beat where artistes command several gigs. What is your take on this?
I think Afro soul music lasts longer than other styles. I want my songs to sound fresh after five years. It’s nice to make money, but I want my music to have a long lasting impression.
Will you be performing the entire album tonight during the show?
No, I won’t. I’ll have songs from my past work like Vitamin and Danger then I’ll introduce some new songs on the album.
What should people expect during tonight’s show?
The solid show will last one and a half hours. There will be no curtain-raisers and the only artistes I will feature are those that I have songs with. I will also be performing with my band, the Sundowners.
We have always heard about Lillian and The Sundowers. Tell us more about the band …
I formed it in 2011. They know me in and out. They are four guys. One on the bass guitar, and the others are on the piano, drums, and lead guitar. Sometimes, I also use backup singers. I named it Sundowners because we were looking for a name that was unique and would give us that edge. It made some sense to us.
Why work with a band?
I prefer doing live music to playbacks. I encourage many artistes to learn how to play with a band because most festivals are live gigs and it makes you a better musician.
Why have you dubbed your show Lillian Upclose and Personal?
I wanted to give an experience where people are near me. I feel like I’m bonding with my fans that have supported me for a very longtime.
Why has it taken you this long to come up with a concert?
To be honest, I just don’t want to rush. Some people release a song it becomes a hit and next thing they do is stage a concert. I’m not that kind of artiste. I want it to be a good musical experience to people. I took my time so as to give people quality. I also wanted to grow as a musician.
How have you matured from the old Lillian of Blu3 to the new solo Lillian?
I now know who I am as an artiste. In Blu3, we were packaged as a pop group and we had to do this particular music. After Blu3, I found my niche in Afro soul just like Cindy did in dancehall.
What would you expect your children to become when they grow up?
I’m not one of those parents who is going to dictate what my children will do in future. I will give them as many opportunities as I can. I will just be there to guide them and make sure they don’t lose it.
You haven’t told us about your family and education background …
I’m the third born of five children. I have two sisters and two brothers. My parents live in Kigali but I’m Ugandan because I was born in Nsambya Hospital. I went to Buganda Road Primary School, St Peters SS Nsambya for one year and then went to St Lawrence where I finished my O’Level. I did my A’Level at Kabojja SS before joining Makerere University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences.
Why did you sign with Deuces Entertainment Group and what do they do for your career?
I signed with them at the beginning of this year. They saw my vision and they were willing to bring it to life. They have a good team that sees that my career goes to the level that we want. They basically manage my day-to-day work; take care of my schedule and everything in my musical career. I have done an album with them. I’m having my first concert tonight, so far three videos have been shot, basically, we have done a lot together this year.
What challenges have you face as a solo artiste so far?
To be honest it was more like people didn’t first take me seriously, they always demanded for Blu3 everywhere I went to perform. It took me a while to build my fanbase. Sometimes I would even not get paid.
Which artistes do you think have done well since the year began?
I like Irene Ntale’s consistence and A Pass. I’m also enjoying Nutty Neithan’s music.
How was the Coke Studio experience last year?
Awesome. I was sad they didn’t call me for Season 3, because I had done Season 1 and 2 and it has been one of the best experiences that I have had in my career. I got to meet so many people. I got new connections throughout the continent. I hope and pray they call me next year.
Which is your biggest song ever?
Vitamin because up to today people ask for that song yet its four years old … you can’t imagine. It’s like I have no other song besides it.
What are your future plans?
I want to open up a music school where people can learn to sing. I want to teach four-year-old children to play instruments and other stuff like that.
Lilian at a glance
What do you like doing the most besides music?
If I’m not busy, I like sleeping, watching TV or taking my children to swim.
Have you ever been embarrassed on stage?
Yes. We were in Nigeria during the Blu3 days and the top I was putting on snapped and I was almost flashing my boob but luckily, I ran off stage before anyone would notice.
And your most memorable time on stage?
The day I performed Two Wrongs with Wyclef Jean at Lugogo Cricket Oval.
What’s the size of your shoe?
That’s a random question. I wear five and a half.
How tall are you?
I guess 5.5ft.
I should be 60kgs.
Rice and anything.