One of his first dreams was to be Chuck Norris, but he ended up playing piano and making music. Blessing Offor is full of humor, warmth and humility as he shares his journey.
Originally from Nigeria he talks about what it was like being a refugee, why he came to America, and what it was like when he chose music for a career. After an accident, he became blind, and he talks about how everything happens how it is supposed to. In fact, hear what Blessing Offor said when Chris Tomlin called him and wanted one of his songs on his album.
Blessing Offor: I had this mentor as a kid that would say to me, like, you need to write songs every day so that writing becomes a muscle. It becomes an exercise. So, because he goes, if song writing is going to be your job, you can’t wake up one day and be like, I don’t want to go to work today. You know? You have to write songs. And he says the goal is to make sure no one can tell whether a song took 45 minutes or it took four years.
Sarah Taylor: That is Blessing Offor. Might be a relatively new artist for you and me, but he’s actually been doing music for a long time and we’re going to talk about it. And I am just so excited about today’s conversation with him. We start by pulling him out of the session room, actually. Sorry about that Blessing. You were doing what?
Blessing Offor: I was in a phone booth. I was in, I was in a vocal booth, and I was like, oh my gosh, I’ve got my interview!
Sarah Taylor: What were you doing in that vocal booth?
Blessing Offor: I was recording some stuff.
Sarah Taylor: Nice. I love that you say phone booth. I’m sure. For all of our 20-year-old listeners, they’re like what? I saw one of those in the movie one time. Let’s start at the beginning with your powerhouse song that you had on the station when it was Christmas time, called the hallelujah. Tell me all about
Blessing Offor: You know, one of my life goals Sarah, is to put is to get a Christmas song and the Canon of Christmas music has done that in a long time. Like I love Christmas so much. Like I love obviously the story of Christmas, the significance of it. I love Christmas music in that it catches this timelessness and this like, Truth in a way that’s just so celebratory and fun and timeless. Right? So, I just to get a song to jump into that Canon of song, I think the last person to really do it was Mariah Carey with that, you know what I mean? So, get a song in there is like a life goal. So, you know, we’re, we’re here.
Sarah Taylor: You’re going to give it a good run with this hallelujah song. And you know it too because it caught the attention of Chris Tomlin.
Blessing Offor: Shocker. I got it, I got the text from Chris, and he goes, Hey, man, I really liked this song. Like I want this on the record. And I was like, yes, let’s go!
Sarah Taylor: That is the only appropriate response when you get a text from Chris. He said he was recently on the air, and he said that he asked you to drop box from a few songs, and you drop box to him, how many?
Blessing Offor: I feel like it’s in modest for me to say. It was a lot of songs.
Sarah Taylor: He quoted 500.
Blessing Offor: Honestly, it was, it was not too far from that number. I have a, there’s a pile, there’s a, a veritable plethora that I’m always sitting on. So, the poor Chris had to run through a lot of songs. He found hallelujah, and he found Tin Roof, and he found that he’s just really, really digging through those through the pile. So, I appreciate that.
Sarah Taylor: You are the second artist signed to his record label.
Blessing Offor: Yes. Yes ma’am.
Sarah Taylor: I mean, that’s, that’s, he is the most performed songwriter in the world. According to Time magazine. He knows a thing or two about musicianship and songwriting, and he doesn’t mess around. So how does that feel?
Blessing Offor: First. I was like texting all my friends. I was like, okay, don’t forget what Chris Tomlin’s coming to my apartment. And he’s just an unassuming guy. And I kid you not, I was like, can I make Good, Good Father jokes? Like, are you a good, good father? Can I say that? Or is that weird? And we, we, we, it was quickly apparent that he’s just the nicest guy ever, and he does not mind the good, good father jokes. If you guys see Chris, just be like, Blessing says it’s okay to go there.
Sarah Taylor: So, you’ve got his endorsement on so much of your music. He says you’re one of the best piano players he’s ever seen. How long have you been playing?
Blessing Offor: Man, so, a funny story about the piano. Third grade I started playing piano because my crush in third grade played piano, and I was like, I want to play piano. Rachel plays piano. And then really in third grade, my dream was to be Chuck Norris. And so, my friend did karate and I was like, I would like to do karate. And my uncle was like, I’m not letting you do karate. You’re going to play piano. And I was like, he’s the meanest person in the world. And fast forward 25 years, and it turned out he was right.
Sarah Taylor: That’s incredible. You ever go back and say thank you?
Blessing Offor: Oh, my gosh, constantly.
Sarah Taylor: Let’s talk a little bit more about your story. It’s pretty powerful. You’re the youngest of six siblings.
Blessing Offor: Yes. So, we have this huge WhatsApp group. My family, cause most of my family is still in Nigeria. So, we have this WhatsApp group and I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I said to them, Hey guys, I’m going to, I’m going to be a singer songwriter. You know, immigrants were supposed to come to America and get advanced degrees and, and like make a ton of money and blah, blah, blah. My uncle is a lawyer. My siblings are all doctors and stuff. So, it’s like, when you say to them, I want to be a songwriter, it’s like the needle dropped on a record. If you know what I mean, they’re like, you’re going to do what I mean, like yeah.
You know, singing and writing songs. That’s what I’m going to do. And they’re like, no, I was like, no, I swear to career promise. So, it took them a very long time. But honestly, the name, Chris Tomlin would help. They were like, oh, he’s good then. So, this now like that
Sarah Taylor: It’s already, you got one knock against you being the baby of the family to get taken seriously.
Blessing Offor: Oh my gosh. You know, they’re all really smart and, you know, theoretically, I shouldn’t be too, too slouchy and the intellect department and I’m supposed to be a lawyer, but you know, here we are writing songs.
Sarah Taylor: But you’re not, because Blessing, you listen to your music and like within the first couple of lines, you realize you’re doing what you are made to do.
Blessing Offor: I’m just grateful for the chance and God is good. And here we are.
Sarah Taylor: Let’s talk about, you were born with glaucoma in your left eye, and your parents sent you to America because they wanted to have you receive the best medical care.
Blessing Offor: I mean, what better parents in the world than that to say? You know, we, we really, we love our son, but what’s best for him is across the world. So, I feel like the whole, I mean, I don’t have kids, but the older I get, the more amazed I am at like how, you know, how deep a parent’s love is that it can even like let go of their kids. You know what I mean? So, I feel like I, I tell them that you didn’t have to do that. And they were like, well, when you have a kid, you just do what’s best for your kid. You know, even if that means. Letting go of your kid, you know?
Sarah Taylor: And then I read that a couple of years later, you actually, there was an accident that damaged the retina of your right eye. And so that’s how it, that’s how you’re completely blind.
Blessing Offor: The eye, we came to fix, got hit with a very powerful jet of water, which acted as a wrecking ball in that eye, and just like messed up everything in it. And it’s funny when I tell people, like, if you could take me back in time, I would be like, now, where do I stand to make sure that same thing happens again? Cause it sounds crazy, but it’s just like, you know, where I am right now is exactly where I want to be. And if that didn’t happen, you kind of wonder where things would be. You know what I mean? So, if you could rewind time, I would literally look for where that gets my, where was I standing for that? You know, because. Everything happens, like it’s supposed to happen, you know?
Sarah Taylor: Was, was the accident coordinated with you when you started playing the piano?
Blessing Offor: Yes, I started playing piano probably a year and a half or so before that happened. And you know, it was like most kids, I was kind of half playing piano, half running around and not taking it seriously. So, all of a sudden that accident happened and I had a lot of this time to just sit and focus, and had a lot of energy that needed focusing and thank goodness, you know, music was right there and the piano was right there.
Sarah Taylor: Then you did some music in college and decided to pack up your bags and head to…
Blessing Offor: New York city. Of course. Why not? Yeah, that was again, one of those stories, one of those decisions you make where everybody’s like, wow. I always tell people, I did my starving artists years in half New York city and half Nashville, just because, you know, I could, I knew how to survive on $3 and 50 cents of food in New York by buying a New York pizza for a dollar 15, a dollar 25. And then, so that’s one slice of New York pizza is a really big slice. So, I would eat that around 1130. And then I’ll eat another slice around 6:00 PM. So that was kind of like a lunch or breakfast, lunch, and a lunch dinner.
Sarah Taylor: What would your mother say about this?
Blessing Offor: She didn’t need to know. Honestly, like my first apartment in New York was in Flatbush and the first night a rat ran across my foot several times.
Sarah Taylor: And that, what did you think?
Blessing Offor: Well, you know, it’s funny, like the things you do when you’re like 21, 22, and you’re like, man, I’m really living the dream of rat just ran right across my foot. And like, I was already pictured my behind the music, like some kid reenacted, but as a rat, right? Like you’re like when you’re, when you’re a kid, you’re just so dumb. Don’t rats have rabies or anything. Where I was just like, wow, this is real. You know, was like, I was like honored by that rat.
Sarah Taylor: Okay. Everybody said that you were very optimistic, but that just proved it right there.
Blessing Offor: I mean, I’m not saying I didn’t squeal. I’m just saying like, in my mind, my I’m a, I’m a seven on the Enneagram. And my brain was like, oh my gosh.
Sarah Taylor: Yeah. And for, for anyone listening that doesn’t know what a seven on the Enneagram is, that is someone who is looking for fun. If you’re going on a road trip, they say, shotgun. If you fall down a flight of stairs, you go, well, I sure made it quickly. I got down quickly.
Blessing Offor: That’s one way to get down. Yeah. So my seven-ness was like, a rat across my foot? Amazing!
Sarah Taylor: Oh, my word. Okay. So tell me a little bit, well, what it’s like to navigate New York city blind?
Blessing Offor: You know what I gotta, I gotta say no one believes me, but New York city is easier to navigate blind than 95% of cities. Because if you think about it, it’s a grid, at least in most of Manhattan. It goes up and sideways. So if you’re looking, if you’re looking north, right, if you go, if you go left to right, you’re going west to east, right? If you’re going up and down, you’re going obviously north and south. So, if you’re on 6th and 18th, and you’re looking north, if you go straight ahead, you’ll go to 19. If you make a left, you’ll go to seventh, if you make it right, you’ll go to fifth. So, it’s the easiest thing in the entire world, the subway system.
And actually, when I moved to New York, I ended up memorizing the whole subway. But even to this day, I have the subway map of New York in my brain. So, one of those random useless facts and, you know, it was just, it’s one of those things where you, you want to live in New York, you can’t not be able to travel independently. So you just, you have to do the thing. Yeah.
Sarah Taylor: Now that you say that makes perfect sense.
Blessing Offor: Completely. Yeah. It’s the thought of doing it with your eyes closed, freaks people out, but when you really explain it to them. It’s you know, they go, oh yeah, that makes sense.
Sarah Taylor: So, a five-year stint in New York made your way to Nashville…
Blessing Offor: … and then did some more starving artists, things in Nashville. Did 2015, 16, 17, 18. You know, a bunch of years in like obscurity, and then just like, you know, you never really know when things happen. All I, all I really ever knew in Nashville was that every day I woke up, I wanted to go to the piano and write songs and get better at songwriting and get better at singing. You know, I just left the rest up to God and just trusted that this is the gift he gave me, and I needed to figure out and be patient for everything to kind of unfold. Like it’s meant to him. Ooh. I mean, in hindsight, it’s obviously like, you’re like, yeah, we did that. But like during that time, it’s, you know, you definitely have your moments where I’m like, should I go to law school?
Sarah Taylor: Right now, it’s making me think of a documentary I saw on Amazon prime. I think it’s called, it starts with a song. And it’s singer songwriters talking about how, when they’re coming up with, you know, a new piece, it’s a lot less like writing it and it’s more just like receiving the song.
Blessing Offor: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry, keep going.
Sarah Taylor: No, if that gives you thoughts. Tell me,
Blessing Offor: So, I remember writing tin roof with Natalie Hamby and we talked for probably an hour, an hour and a half before we even got to the piano. And the song happened in 45 minutes. And, you know, it’s I had this mentor as a kid that would say to me, like, you need to write songs every day so that writing becomes muscle memory. It becomes an exercise. So, because he goes, if songwriting is going to be your job, you can’t wake up one day and be like, I don’t want to go to work today. You know, like you have to, you have to write songs and, and he says the goal is to make sure no one can tell whether a song took 45 minutes, or it took four years. So, part exercise and part just like a gift songs or gifts. So, it’s like when we wrote tin roof, it, and not that her and I don’t have years of practice behind us, but the song was just there. And we, we plucked it out and we honed it and sharpened it and shaped it. But man, I think her and I, she would tell you too, that it was just one of the easiest writing processes either of us have been in. And sometimes it’s just like that. It’s just like it was waiting there the whole time.
Sarah Taylor: Do you ever wake up in the morning and you have lyrics or a melody?
Blessing Offor: Actually. Yes. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s the, I took a day off yesterday because my, the writer on my calendar was, was sick and he couldn’t write, so I took the whole day and I was just like listening to songs and just replenishing my pile of ideas. And just once in a while, lyrics would just pop into my head just because I was listening to some other songs. And, you know, the creative process is just one of those things that feels good, and you can’t really quantify it. And because you can’t quantify it, it’s like, it’s this exciting thing. I think that’s why the seven in me is so into it because it’s never the same thing twice. You know?
Sarah Taylor: Tell me about hallelujah.
Blessing Offor: Hallelujah. I love Christmas and I’m always one of my favorite Christmas songs is this Christmas by Donny Hathaway. And I love, you know, I love Christmas songs that are like celebratory, you know? Like this person was like, yeah, that’s a really different. And so I love, I love fun Christmas because there’s always like, Ballad Christmas and buy, make you cry Christmas. And I just, you know, the, the, the idea that God himself would come to earth in the form of a helpless child is such a huge idea. I don’t know how you could ever write enough songs about it, and it was a summer, and I was like, I want to write them up tempo, Christmas. And I started with that little, that little piano lick. And I said, what is the, what is I, you know, my, my process is like, what’s an interesting angle to get into the story. What’s the first shot in this entire process. And I thought, what if we follow the wise men? You know. And so, wise men following the brightest started on the Bethlehem.
They came far for the coming again of the one that’s ever been. You know what I mean? So, you find, you find your little storyline and then it’s just a couple, a couple, you know, you play some word play game. And when they found it fell onto the ground and you rhyme found him and ground, and you know what I mean, which is kind of and when they found them, they fell onto the ground and joined the angel shout and singing all around them.
And then you get into the celebration that is, you know, these guys finding who they know to be God, and then celebrate. What else do you do but celebrate?
Sarah Taylor: Oh, it’s just the perfect reaction. And I just, I, when you get a couple lines, like the ones you just went through, and when you get something so good, but you don’t have the song finished, is that your motivation? Like, oh, I can’t just leave this undone.
Blessing Offor: Yeah. Like you, when you, see I’m getting excited, you can hear that. I’m like, but when you, when you start something like that, you always think to yourself, wow, the bar is so high. We can’t slouch now. So, you know, so you just have to keep pulling the string, and then when you finish, it’s just like the weight, lifted, you know? The weight’s been lifted and you’re like, I did that. And then you forget about it and start again. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Sarah Taylor: Who are a couple of your musical influences?
Blessing Offor: When I came to the states, my uncle was always listening to like really older music, like 50 seventies, eighties. And he grew up in Nigeria and he was a, he was a famous soccer player back home. And Lionel Richie was a huge love of his. So, when I came to America, everything that was playing in the house was always Lionel Richie, Motown, jazz. So, like the stylistics. So, I grew up on very, very, very, you know, 60, 70 eighties influenced music. So, when, when I’d go to school, like in 2000 or ’99, I’d be, I was like in third grade, fourth grade and my friends would be like, did you hear NSYNC? I’m like, did you hear the stylistics? What are you talking about? I’d bring in like, you know, the four tops. My uncle was listening to that stuff. And my friends were like, who are these old people? I’m like, they’re amazing! My influences have always been that stuff. And then obviously you kind of, you know, the older you get, the more you kind of put your ear to what’s happening at the time. And so, you know, all the, all the Bruno stuff, and Ed Sheeran’s stuff. So, I just, I love craftsman.
Sarah Taylor: Oh, well then you are just going to love that documentary, I mentioned. We’re probably going to have to have a up conversation about it. Okay. I’ve only got a couple of minutes left with you. Is your family all still in Nigeria?
Blessing Offor: My uncle and I, and my aunt and my cousin, Veronica are here in the states. The rest of us are still back home.
Sarah Taylor: When is the last time you saw them?
Blessing Offor: So, I haven’t seen them in since I was six. So, like 25 years. It’s been a minute.
Sarah Taylor: And how is that for you?
Blessing Offor: You know, it’s funny. I just talked to my brother, and he goes, he said to me, I just, I just, my wife’s just had a daughter couple of days ago and I was like, oh my gosh, I have another niece. So, to say it’s difficult is an understatement. And we have a huge family reunion, God-willing, next year sooner rather than later.
Sarah Taylor: Wonderful. My final question for you is how did you get the name Blessing?
Blessing Offor: It’s funny. My name is Blessing. My sister’s name is mercy. I have another sister named peace and I have three brothers whose names are equally just like those names. So, my parents are just, you know, they love them some Jesus.
Sarah Taylor: I feel like it’s just the perfect representation of who you are. Thank you so much for your time. Then your album comes out next summer. Is that correct?
Blessing Offor: Yes. Ma’am. You guys should keep an eye out for it. Please follow on all the socials. You know, all the usual things you guys are probably sick of hearing by now, but they really, really, it all helps a ton. And man, I cannot wait to be out there and play for you guys. Just meeting person.
We’ll link up to everything in the show notes for ways that you can connect with Blessing and his music. No doubt we’ll be hearing from him for years to come. Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode. I look forward to seeing you again in two weeks.