A Laurel resident’s inspired lyrics about self-discovery and self-esteem caught the attention of a famous music producer and landed him among 10 finalists in a national songwriting competition.
Michael Akinlosotu said his winning entry to the third annual Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter contest, titled “Liv,” was the result of a studio jam session.
“It was just a spur of the moment kinda thing,” he said. “I didn’t have pen, I didn’t have paper. I guess I just came up with the song in my head. I just got up and I was like “okay record me’.”
Akinlosotu, 21, was one of 10 finalists chosen from thousands of contestants by producer Don Was, who worked with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
On March 1, Akinlosotu will perform live at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood for the chance to win $25,000, new musical equipment and the opportunity to have his music produced by Don Was (real name Don Fagenson).
“[Winning this competition] would be confirmation more than anything,” Akinlosotu said. “You can work for years and not have anything confirm that you’re going the right direction. I’m just happy to be able to have a national spotlight and be able to showcase my talent. It means everything.”
Akinlosotu moved to Laurel from London at the age of 9 to live with his grandparents. He attended Laurel High School and enrolled in both choir and concert band at the same time.
“I knew my whole life that I wanted to be a musician,” he said. “I wanted to take being a musician as far as I could possibly take it.”
Akinlosotu said he was not able to afford higher education after graduating high school, so he began working at The Center for Arts and Media in Laurel. It was there that Carlos Garcia, the center’s owner and a former manager for Latin and Hip Hop artists in Miami, took notice.
Garcia had been interviewing for an open position when Akinlosotu’s band, Laurel-based Legendary Cloud 9, booked studio time, he said.
“This kid comes in and I’m listening to them and the music is amazing, and I was just blown away by the talent and how young they were,” Garcia said.
Garcia said he had given up managing when he opened his production company, but was so impressed by Akinlosotu and his band that he took them on in 2010.
“I see him as a household name. The kid is phenomenal,” Garcia said. “He’s my best find.”
Akinlosotu is the lead singer/songwriter for Legendary Cloud 9 and said his lyrics are inspired by his own life experiences, books, pictures, and cinematic movie scores. His influences include Florence + the Machine, Coldplay and Lauryn Hill, he said.
Jake Cheung, an executive producer for Guitar Center’s competition, said Akinlosotu is the first finalist from Maryland.
Around 10,000 artists entered the contest, he said, and Don Was selected the finalists from among several hundred that drew a lot of social media activity.
Akinlosotu said he was shocked when he received a call on Christmas Eve, informing him that he was selected. He said he is not so much nervous as he is anxious to share his music with the country on March 1.
”I’ve been practicing every day, getting ready,“ he said. “At the end of the day, I’m just blessed to be able to have the opportunity. I feel like I don’t have anything to lose.”