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A name is powerful, it conveys and creates meaning, connects one to their identity and individuality. Blessing Offor — the birth name given to him by his mother — is living proof that names matter.

The church is the early musical teaching grounds for a great number of Black singers. Aretha. Whitney. Sam Cooke. Teddy Pendergrass. Ray Charles. If his name didn’t give it away already, Offor is no different.

But let’s rewind. The youngest of six siblings, Offor was born in Nigeria. Glaucoma left the singer-songwriter nearly blind in one eye. At six-years-old his parents made the difficult decision to send him to live with relatives in Connecticut, with hopes of him receiving the best medical care he could. He spent a lot of time in the hospital as child, having multiple surgeries on his eye. At 10, a water gun accident involving his other eye left him completely blind.

His circumstances didn’t prevent him from learning to play the piano and guitar. He had the natural ability to learn music by ear and his early influences included Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, and The Commodores. He shared his love of music and taught youth choir at his church while still in high school, although he was often more excited about it than the children he was teaching.

“I would spend a lot of time to get these arrangements done,” he tells SoundExchange while smiling. “I try to teach it to these kids, and they could not care less. They did not want to learn all the slick arrangements. I’d have them all circled around a piano and I’d be like, ‘Ok, altos,’ or whatever it was, right? Man, it was so frustrating. The kids, they didn’t care. I loved music but that didn’t mean they loved music.”

After high school he headed south to Nashville and attended Belmont University. He left college early to move to New York City, where he lived for five years. He moved back to Nashville following his 2014 run on the seventh season of The Voice. The following year he released Roots under Sojourn Records and in 2022 released his EP Brighter Days.

When asked about the draw of Nashville he becomes excited. “I love country music,” he says, explaining that he would listen to the country music station in Connecticut and really connect with the lyrics. “I would be like, there’s something well-crafted about these songs. I could tell, even as a kid, and when I got to Nashville I said, ‘Teach me your ways.’”

Offor doesn’t limit himself to one sound or one type of music.

Genre is an outfit that you can put on anybody,” he says. “But a well-formed body is what music is. Genre has never really been a limitation in my mind. It’s just a different outfit.”

“I really feel like we spend a lot of time isolating things, and things do best when they’re together,” he adds. “I don’t think there’s anything contradictory about soul music, singer songwriter, afro beats, afro-pop or whatever the case is. We’re all full, well-rounded humans.”

Offor loves Motown and jazz just as much as he likes country. And it’s the amalgam of blending those genres that informed his 2023 full-length My Tribe, his first for the Bowyer & Bow label. The album is about human experiences that can’t be confined or put in a box. It’s soul, pop, R&B, and Afrobeats. “We all have a little bit of spirituality, a little bit of pain, and a little bit of joy,” he writes on his website. “These lyrics are my words from my life.”

The album is also spiritual. He wrote every song and played piano and guitar throughout. The title track is about his chosen friends that make up his village, and it’s about his own Igbo tribe in Nigeria. The 14-track album has something for everybody and has earned him two GRAMMY nominations for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album and Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song for the My Tribe track “Believe.”

I wanted to make music for my friends in New York, [the friends] that I grew up with in Connecticut could understand, my Nashville friends could understand, my church friends could understand,” he says. “It was an effort to speak to everybody. I think it was an effort to be as human and honest as possible.”

In October, he released Like a Child, a three-song Christmas EP.

I love Christmas,” he says. “It’s my favorite, but I think we forget the innocence of it all. I always think back to Christmas back in Nigeria and about family and food and togetherness, and all of that sounds cliché unless you’ve actually felt it, then you realize that it’s what matters.”

“So, everybody will go do this thing where they’ll make a 15-track Christmas record. And quite frankly, nobody will listen to all those songs, and so I said let me make three songs and treat them really special. And then next year I’ll do another three and next year I’ll do another three. And that’s the way I will make a Christmas record.”

Dressed in a light blue crew neck and black jacket, Offor is taking this interview from his cell phone in Pittsburgh in the midst of a tour, but never once does he seem rushed or tired. The reality is that touring and appearances and making music keeps him busy, and he likes it that way, explaining that after a few days at home he becomes restless and ready to go back out on the road.

A noticeable trait about the singer is the internal joy he carries despite everything he’s overcome. At some point he plans to return to Nigeria and to make a documentary about his life. In the meantime, his music will continue to be an extension of his name and his life — blessed and a blessing for those who need it when they need it.

A record like My Tribe essentially says, ‘Hey, Blessing seems to think that happiness and joy and all of these things are things that are not external, but are internal,” he said. “And maybe even are only deepened by struggle. The joy and all of the good stuff is rooted in wrestling with hard stuff, you know?”