The Voice Contestant Blessing Offor Exclusive Interview
The Greatest Gift Of All: Blessing Offor
Written by Mei Ling Nazar
Many people were introduced to artist, Blessing Offor when he captured the audience on the television reality show, The Voice, when all four celebrity judges wanted him on their team. While Offor is grateful for his musical career which has taken him to perform at the Kennedy Center and open for legendary acts like The Temptations, he knows that none of it would be possible without his parents. At a young age, Offor’s parents made the sacrifice of sending their youngest son from Nigeria to the United States for medical treatment and training. Risen sat down with this now completely blind, incredible talent to talk about the inspiration for his music and how he wants to not only give back to his parents, but to other children with undiscovered talents.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in Del Mar, California
Risen Magazine: When you were six years old, your parents made the decision to send you to the United States for medical treatment and training that you couldn’t get in Nigeria? What was that like?
Blessing Offor: I don’t know that you really appreciate what is going on when you are six years old. I just thought I was on some really great adventure. It was my first time flying to America. I remember thinking, “America must be in the sky. You go up on a plane and land there.” I was wondering why my parents were crying so much. I kept thinking, “Guys, calm down this is not a big deal.” They must have known something more than I did. Looking back, what they did for me was, and is, the most wonderful act of self-sacrifice that you could imagine. What parent wants to send their youngest child off? Thank God that they had the wisdom to do so. You never know what God has for you in the long-term. Sometimes we are so focused on the moment and how bad it is. I am grateful to my parents because they brought about all of this. Everything I have is due to the difficult decision they made for me. They showed me a lot of love by letting me go, which is a counter-intuitive thing.
Risen Magazine: You were born with congenital glaucoma and later lost sight due to an accident. How have those events shaped your life?
Blessing Offor: As a child, when I had a lot of vision in my right eye, it was minimal. I knew that I couldn’t see as well as everybody else and there was a lot of getting used to. I had to do things a little differently. I would fake things quite a bit and just try and get by on personality and charm. At eleven, when I lost most of the vision in my right eye, that was when I felt the impact the most. I went through a moment of growth in my own faith. Losing my vision made me appreciate things more. I started to pray like I was taught as a kid. I prayed for my vision to come back. But it never did. I didn’t feel like they were childish prayers. I wasn’t asking for a toy or to win a million dollars. I just wanted my vision. It seemed like a prayer that God would want to answer. There was a period of time where I was asking myself all these deep philosophical questions, “What is prayer? Who is God?” In my eleven-year-old mind, I was asking all these questions and learning all these things. I learned that God is not a vending machine. Just because I believe in Him and His infinite goodness does not mean that He is going to answer my prayers just the way I want Him to. Most adults have a hard time wrestling with these questions, let alone an eleven-year-old. At my age now, I look back and I’m grateful for that time because I see the makings of who I am and who I would like to become, that is someone who has faith in God even when He isn’t answering my prayers. To this day, when I am going through hard times, I ask myself, “Am I a man of faith?” Because if I am a man of faith, I need to conduct myself differently; I shouldn’t be without hope; I shouldn’t be without faith and joy. What I have gone through has impacted me in wonderful ways and I wouldn’t take any of it back if given the choice.
Risen Magazine: You were a contestant on The Voice. What was it like when all four judges said they wanted you?
Blessing Offor: It was really loud and I didn’t hear the chairs turn. When I first started, I couldn’t hear myself in the monitors. So for all my musician friends out there, when you watch the Blind Auditions, I couldn’t hear myself, so don’t judge me. I didn’t know that all judges had selected me until Adam [Levine] had said something. Everything was going crazy so I figured something good happened. But I didn’t know what it was. All you need is one judge right? I felt validated, that I was in the right place doing what I was supposed to be doing.
They showed me a lot of love by letting me go, which is a counter-intuitive thing.
Risen Magazine: You chose to go with the singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams. What went into your decision to pick that judge?
Blessing Offor: I really wanted Blake Shelton. Not to say that I didn’t want Pharrell; I love Pharrell. I went to school in Nashville at Belmont University for a year and a half. I loved song writing and I have developed an appreciation for the country music style of song writing, three chords and the truth. When I lived in Nashville, I did a lot of that. I wanted to head into some uncharted soul country territory. I was hoping Blake would tell me a little more but he seemed nonchalant. So I went with Pharrell instead.
Risen Magazine: A lot of times people only see the glitz and glamor side of being an artist. What did it take for you to get where you are?
Blessing Offor: I grew up with my uncle and he never said, “Blessing, are you practicing?” There was never anyone pushing me to practice or write a song. It was always something I loved to do. It was a very hands-off parenting style that worked with me because I am very self-motivated. Some kids might need a little more encouragement. You will practice as much as you want to do the thing. If you think you want to be a singer and in one week, you haven’t sung one song, then you have to question if you really want to be a singer. I really wanted to be a piano player and write songs. I was the guy that would skip parties. It wasn’t because someone forced me. It was what I wanted. At the end of the day whether you are thirteen or twenty-five, you will do what is important to you. You can choose to develop good practice or study habits, or you can just not do the thing you dream of doing. At the end of the day, it is really your choice.
Risen Magazine: What has been your favorite audience or stage to play on?
Blessing Offor: I played the Kennedy Center a bunch of times. It is a great venue to play because the audience is very attentive. I really like playing where I can talk to the audience. I like being able to communicate. Pop music is focused on escaping reality and I think music shouldn’t be meant as an escape mechanism alone. Self-reflection is really important and music that speaks the truth about the world that you are in and the social unrest going on. In the 60’s and 70’s, you had the civil rights movement going on and it had it’s own soundtrack. Part of me wonders why we don’t have a soundtrack going on right now. We are missing out on that. My favorite audience is the audience hungry for that soundtrack. I want to work hard as a musician to provide that soundtrack.
Risen Magazine: Where do you find the inspiration for your music?
Blessing Offor: I’m a lover. I love Motown and love songs. Whether it is brotherly, familial, or romantic, just to sing about things that promote love. There are enough artists doing the opposite, “This drug is cool.” So I don’t want to add to that. I would much rather write something that fifty years from now will still be relevant. C.S. Lewis says, “If you don’t concern yourself with telling the truth, you will find yourself unoriginal in no time.”
the success we have belongs to those that made the sacrifice before us
Risen Magazine: I love your song, Like a Child. What do you want your listeners to take from that song?
Blessing Offor: I love Christmas. As a musician, I don’t want to be a CCM [Contemporary Christian Music] artist. Not because I am ashamed of my faith, rather, I want to reach people that may not be Christian. The music I do will not be what they are used to listening to. I hope it gives them something to think about. Like a Child was my way of speaking to Christmas without beating someone over the head with Jesus. You can sing about, “For unto us was born a child both meek and mild.” That is the truth. The bridge says, “It’s peace on earth, are you listening?” You don’t have to sacrifice truth. I just want to reach more people. Sometimes in the Christian music industry there is a prescribed amount of times you have to say, “Jesus,” or the song isn’t considered “spiritual.” I didn’t want to come across as “holier than thou.” I’m imperfect.Risen Magazine: How would you describe your spiritual journey?
Blessing Offor: My journey has been messy and complicated. There have been times where I have been hot, cold, on fire, ice cold and everything in between. There’s always a North Star in me. I can go off course, but I know I am off course. I have several friends that are not Christians and they will ask me, “Blessing how do you know the Bible is real?” I say, “Ask me more questions. I want to hear your doubts.” I just listen to them. I challenge them to take a deeper look at it, because you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about what you believe. In the deepest recess of my mind, there is just that knowing. The North Star always pulls me back.
Risen Magazine: You have had the opportunity to open for some legendary acts including The Temptations and Tower of Power. What type of legacy do you want to leave?
Blessing Offor: I want to be able to make the type of music that my grandkids think is cool. I want timeless music. Even beyond music, I am working on a documentary right now about me going back to Nigeria, seeing my parents again, and doing a concert. I was given the opportunity to come to America and flourish here. There are so many kids in third-world countries that are disabled, but brilliant in some other capacity. While I got the chance to come to the U.S., so many of them don’t have that chance. I would love to start a non-profit that goes and finds those kids that have brilliant minds or talents and give them the same chance that I was given. I would love to be able to help them flourish with the talents God has given them. I would like to be able to go to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and find these people that are in cultures that aren’t aware or don’t embrace these types of kids. While I haven’t seen my family in twenty years, when I go home, my mom doesn’t have to worry about who is going to take care of me. I can say, “I’m taking you to America because I was blessed with this life.” It reminds me of the story of Joseph in the Bible, where he was sold into slavery, but later he was able to help save his family. I’m not comparing myself to Joseph. Rather, the success we have belongs to those that made the sacrifice before us. This is Nigerian culture. Whatever you do, you give back to your parents. I’m looking forward to being able to help my family and help others.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Spring 2015