Sarah Téibo talks to Keep The Faith about making Official UK Chart history, touring overseas, and faith, love and family
Sarah Téibo made UK Official Chart history with an unprecedented debut at the Number 3 position on the Christian and Gospel chart. In a manner of speaking, she broke three records: she is an independent artist without major distribution; she’s female, and she’s gospel. “Being Number 3 on the Official Charts was definitely a pleasant surprise,” says Sarah. “I worked really hard on making sure all the admin was in place to report the release, and was just hoping to get somewhere on the charts; just some sort of recognition for the album, even Number 20 would have been a great result. So, to see the album ‘Keep Walking’ appear at Number 3 was truly mind-blowing, to say the least. I know several male gospel artists have been on the charts, but I’m the first female gospel artist to achieve this. I think it’s great, because one of my biggest drivers is encouraging other women to pursue their dreams. This is something I took from watching my mother’s example: she was an independent woman, who never allowed life’s obstacles to stop her from dreaming and pushing to see her dreams become reality. My sincere prayer is that more women would be encouraged to push through and have their albums make it onto the Official Charts.”
‘Keep Walking’ is the follow-up to her acclaimed debut album, ‘Walk With Me’. This amazing album incorporates a variety of musical styles and weaves them into a beautiful mosaic that speaks to her faith in God. It features guest performances from some of the biggest names in the USA and UK gospel industry, including Fred Hammond – the King of Urban Praise – and Muyiwa.
“The collaboration with Uncle Fred is an interesting story,” says Sarah. “It was definitely not something I could have imagined in a million years! It’s a long story, but it started with me looking for some support with Spotify playlisting for the original song ‘Like A Child’, released back in January. A friend of mine offered to assist, and sent it to a contact who could help. On listening to the song, he liked it so much that he recommended a collaboration with a US artist and, lo and behold, it was Fred Hammond! Fred listened to the song. He loved it and the rest is history, as they say.”
Other artists featured on ‘Keep Walking’ include US neo-soul gospel artist, Lisa McClendon; afro-gospel artist, Andrew Bellow; UK rapper, Tneek, and Jason Nicholson-Porter, who reached a whole new audience when he appeared on BBC TV’s The Voice. According to Lins Honeyman of Cross Rhythms: “Sarah Téibo’s second album is a classy affair and no mistake. Possessing a sleek, soulful but never overstated r’n’b feel – courtesy of producers Luke ‘GKID’ Grant and Shaun ‘Hypertone’ Barrett – MOBO-nominated Téibo’s impressively creative vocal performance lifts songs that cover fairly basic themes of faith to another level. For instance, the opener ‘Like A Child’, the neo soul of ‘Safe In You’ and the Afrobeat-tinged ‘Blessed’ do what their titles suggest but, thanks to the sizeable skills of Téibo and a big cast of collaborators, everyone involved succeeds in turning each piece into something spiritually uplifting and artistically dynamic.”
Sarah aims to take her unique brand of God’s music around the world. She recently returned from her first tour of South Africa. “I was honoured to be invited to perform on the annual CCFM Radio’s ‘Great Gospel Night Out’ and the ‘Unity Music Fest’ at Athlone Stadium,” says Sarah. “What a wonderful place and incredible people.”
She will be opening for Todd Dulaney’s first UK appearance at the Dominion Centre in London on 29 September. “Todd is one of the most genuine worship leaders I have come across in recent times, and I would have been at the concert at the drop of the hat, just to sit under his ministry and be led in awesome worship. To share the stage with him in London would be another milestone for me on this musical journey, that I count an absolute honour. I’m really looking forward to it.” Sarah also plans to tour Nigeria and the States. In her words: “I would definitely love to tour in as many countries as possible. I believe, not just myself, but UK Gospel as a whole, has so much to offer. We’ll be doing a lot of work this year, and hopefully through 2019, to see this happen.
“The ultimate venue I would love to perform at would have to be in the Holy Land, Jerusalem. One of the venues in Jerusalem that would be a dream come true to perform live at has got to be the Caesarea Amphitheatre in Israel, due to its unique setting – in a restored Roman amphitheatre in front of the Mediterranean. It’s not just about the audience and the ambience of the venue, but more so about the privilege of doing a concert in the Land of our Lord. What an absolute honour that would be.”
Balancing an international music career is no easy task with a family, a job and all of life’s commitments. We asked Sarah just how she does it. “It is indeed a manic balancing act on a day-to-day basis. But I try to manage this in a few ways. For example, I compartmentalise my day: my 9-5 fits into the ‘work window’ and when I’m back home, office work doesn’t get my attention. Having put my kids in a routine from birth, they have a set bedtime, which has also helped when it comes to picking up on my music and personal business in the late hours after they’ve gone to sleep.
“I also try to plan things ahead. My iPhone calendar is my best friend because, once I identify a task that needs to be done, I schedule it in my calendar and set an alert – sometimes as much as 6 months in advance! I’m also an excellent multitasker and, rather unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), a workaholic! So, I derive joy from being productive.”
It is both the joy of children and the sadness of loss that motivates Sarah to create songs whose lyrics aim to encourage and inspire.
Some songs were influenced by the personal tragedy Sarah experienced when her mother died last year. Wrestling with grief, anger, sadness and loss, Sarah found solace in her faith, which in turn inspired her music. “People are lacking hope. People are fearful and uncertain about the future. We all face crazy trials that are overwhelming at times.
“We need more positive, encouraging messages. Resilience, pulling through, fighting through – they are messages we need to keep hearing in music, and are messages I want to share with people: that no matter what, they can keep walking.”