If you watched “The Sing-Off,” you know Michael Odokara-Okigbo (then part of the Dartmouth Aires) has pipes. His first solo EP drops today, so we thought we'd catch you up on some other things you might not know about the singer.
If you think you're too young to make a difference, just let Michael convince you otherwise. He started his own foundation, The Mugadi Foundation, when he was only 14 years old. Now, at age 23, the singer is still all about giving back. When he heard about the Boston Marathon bombings in April, he wrote “Champion Love,” and dedicated the song to those affected by the tragedy.
+ Listen to Michael’s song “Champion Love.”
To find out more about his upcoming EP, how his foundation is helping to change the world and more, check out our interview with Michael, below.
ACT: The last time we saw you, you were blowing everyone away on "The Sing-Off." What have you been up to since then?
MICHAEL: Since "The Sing-Off," I graduated from college, moved to L.A. and have been working toward finishing my first EP, In the Beginning.
ACT: You've traveled all over the world doing volunteer work. What experiences influenced you to start your non-profit?
MICHAEL: I started the Mugadi Foundation when I was 14, after meeting orphaned children in Nigeria. I was really inspired to help them, and I wanted to do whatever it took to help them go to school (even though I didn't really know how). I started raising money through lemonade stands at different festivals; from there, that's how the organization was born.
ACT: Can you tell us a little about your foundation?
MICHAEL: The Mugadi Foundation is an organization that helps pay for the school fees, books and uniforms of impoverished children all over the word. Since we started the organization in 2004, we have helped over 400 children go to school.
ACT: Why did you choose the word Mugadi?
MICHAEL: My family is from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, and Mugadi in the Igbo language means "I will live." I chose that name because the children I've met during my travels are some of the strongest children I've ever met, both emotionally and spiritually, and they fight for what they believe in. The name came from the spirit of the children we help.
Photo: (The Mugadi Foundation)
ACT: Why do you think education is so important for children around the world?
MICHAEL: Education is so important. Education is power — it's an equalizer, and it's the greatest weapon for ending poverty. Every child, no matter where they come from, should have that opportunity.
ACT: You recently wrote a song called "Champion Love" in the wake of the Boston bombings. What inspired you to write the song?
MICHAEL: I'm from Maine, and growing up, I would visit Boston to hang out every weekend with my friends. Boston is a second home to me. Watching the bombings happen this past April really made me sad, angry, and I really wanted to write the pain I was feeling away. I also wanted to help people in Boston who were still suffering from the effects of the bombings. "Champion Love" is dedicated to them.
ACT: You have a highly anticipated solo EP coming out soon. What do you want to tell us about the EP?
MICHAEL: Every song from In the Beginning was written and co-produced by me. Every song is really personal, and every song talks about an experience I've had, or something that I am still experiencing. I'm a 23-year-old guy still trying to figure stuff out, and In the Beginning is very autobiographical. The sounds and lyrics on this EP are vulnerable, but also strong. It's melodic, but also minimal. The EP is soulful, and light and refreshing. This EP is me, in every aspect of the world. It's honest.
ACT: We asked Sara Bareilles and now we want to ask you: Which artist would you challenge to a sing-off?
MICHAEL: You know what, I'd challenge Sara Bareilles, not because I think I could beat her, but because I'd want to tell her she's awesome, and her newest CD is dope. She was super-cool and really supportive during “The Sing-Off,” and gave really great advice about being humble and going for your dreams. So, yeah, I’d challenge her just to say thanks!
To help support The Mugadi Foundation or to give back to those affected by the Boston bombings, check out the action widgets below. You can buy Michael’s debut solo EP now. Proceeds from the EP go to The Mugadi Foundation.