Kevin Olusola, beatboxer of the 3x GRAMMY® award-winning, multi-platinum selling a cappella quintet Pentatonix, has teamed up with author, life coach and entrepreneur Donovan Dee Donnell, for their inspirational podcast, "Imagine Faith Talk," which can be found on That Sounds Fun Network.
"Imagine Faith Talk" features two men on different paths: Donnell, a former male-exotic dancer turned life coach, and Olusola, a pre-med student turned musician who came together on the same realization: that you don't have to sell your soul to obtain your dreams and that the key to unlocking everything you've been dreaming to be was found through faith in God. The faith-based podcast features conversations for holistic success with each episode giving a deep dive into the Bible, as the two men discover how to maximize uniqueness, weaponize the imagination and leverage faith in God for success. The hope is to find the tools to optimize your performance through partnership with God.
Q: Kevin, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: you started out as a pre-med student, what made you become a music artist?
That's a great question, the reason I decided to become a music artist was because it felt like God was leading me down that path. There were two big opportunities that came during my junior year of college at Yale; One was a competition that Yo-Yo Ma hosted called the "Celebrate & Collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma Competition" and if you won that competition you got to do a piece with him. Now I didn't win but I did get second place. And he said what I did with cello boxing which is playing cello and beatboxing at the same time. He said that what I was doing was inventive and unexpected. And I was feeling the call then to decide to go into music.
The second thing that happened was I got an opportunity to cello box, if you will, opening for KRS-One who is one of the grandfathers of hip hop. I did that with a friend of mine who was a rapper and once we did our little mini set, KRS-One came to me and said you know if you continue to do this, I think you are going to change the way people see classical music and hip hop so I had two people at the highest echelon of what they do on opposite sides of the musical spectrum telling me something very similar. That's when I felt the tug of my heart to want to become a musician, but I didn't know how to pursue it.
My parents came to the United States as immigrants, and they had always thought of us having careers that were stable and safe and could provide money for us. Well, music is just not a path where any of that is guaranteed. So, I asked a friend of mine who was a PHD at Yale who was also Nigerian who understood culturally what I was going through, and he said music is something that you can pursue now while you're twenty years old, you're young. If you ever want to come back to medicine, it will always be here.
So that's when I got to my dorm at Yale got on my knees and prayed to God. I said "Lord, I have no idea why you're calling me to this. I think you're crazy, but I can't deny that you're leading me here. You're going to have to do it because I don't know how to." From that prayer, I knew that I was called to do music in some sort of capacity. Didn't know that it was going to lead to all this, but I'm sure thankful that it did.
Q: How did you become involved with Pentatonix?
In my senior year of college, I had a video of me playing cello and beatboxing at the same time go viral of a piece called Julie-O by Mark Summer who is the co-founder of the Turtle Island Quartet. When that video was going viral, Scott, Mitch and Kirstin, were looking to round out their sound so that they could participate in an a Capella competition The Sing-off, a tv show on NBC and they had already gone through four to five different beat boxers, but they saw my video and they realized I was the person that they needed to fill out the sound.
So, they contacted me out of the blue on Facebook and asked me if I wanted to be a part of what they were creating. It wasn't called Pentatonix at the time. They were just trying to create something for the tv show and I actually said no because I wasn't interested in being an a Capella musician. But they said, hey we'll fly you out, we'll pay for half your ticket. Meet us the day before the audition and just try it out. So that's what I did. I graduated. I met them the day before the audition, we sang a song and we knew that even in singing that song, it was Telephone by Lady Gaga. We knew that there was something special and that we were able to audition for the TV show The Sing-Off and we made it and the rest is history.
Q: Being in Pentatonix allows you to be part of huge tours and big successes. For you, what is the greatest highlight being a part of Pentatonix?
I think the greatest highlight for me is the amount of joy that we get to bring people, on a daily basis, through our music, through our touring. To meet these fans who have been impacted by what we do. Sometimes you feel like you're in a silo making content and then you put the content out and then you see these numbers rising on YouTube, but you don't realize that these numbers actually are associated with stories that people are having. Whether it's a breakthrough or maybe they're going through a tough time in their life. That number you see is associated with somebody's life being impacted. So, to finally see that translated in our VIP, in the people that are singing passionately the songs that we have put out. It just makes what we do so worth it.
Q: Talk a little about your faith journey, how and when did you come to know Christ?
I was raised in a Christian home, and I'm so thankful for the way my parents raised me because they made faith very fun. I really enjoyed going to church, being part of bible school, Sabbath school. I was part of something called Pathfinders which was kind of like the Christian Boy Scouts, so I had so much fun doing that as well. And my parents helped me exercise faith. For example, being in a high school's Christian fellowship and talking about certain aspects of the bible that might be a little bit more challenging to understand and having debate on those. It was really cool to exercise faith in those spaces. So, I feel like it was always a part of my life, but then when I decided to actually go into music, my faith had to get very very real, because I was going into uncharted territory, and I had to make sure that God was leading this whole process.
Q: You and Donovan Dee Donnell have a new podcast, what is the podcast about?
Imagine Faith Talk! is a podcast about holistic success. Success that is biblical based. What does God say about being successful in the call of our lives? So many of us have faith in God but the other thing that we also have to do is optimize our performance. As it says in the (book of James) in the bible, "Faith without works is dead" so we're trying to understand, what are some of the keys and the tools that the bible talks about so that we can optimize our performance whether it's clarity, time management, whether it's about keeping the main thing, the main thing, right? What does it mean to be productive? Because if you're going to be successful in this world you need those key habits and skills.
And we're going to be talking about what we've learned in our journeys. Donovan from being a male exotic dancer, to becoming an entrepreneur and author. From me coming out of pre-med to being a music entrepreneur with Pentatonix and my own music we've learned so much and we want to be able to share our own journeys of what we've learned as well and see how the bible helped us do what we're called to do.
Q: What inspired the podcast to come about?
I started a bible study in 2018 for friends of mine who were trying to understand how to be successful in Los Angeles and the world but keep the bible and Christ at the center and it was so electrifying. We talked about these ideals and we kind of talked about it on the podcast as well and Donovan was somebody who started to come to this bible study and he and I became close friends, fast friends, after that first meeting at the bible study.
Then the pandemic happened in 2020 and from that Donovan became an integral part in the leading of the bible study and as we continued this online, Core, who was our producer, he was actually seeking Christ, and I had met him ten years ago in Beijing on a bus and he said, hey you're one of the only people I know that is serious about Jesus. How did you build your faith? And I said, come to this Friday night bible study that we're doing online and as he saw it, he said to us - guys what you're actually doing is a podcast. I hope you understand that and know that. So, we said oh whoa I don't know if we want to do that - we're already so busy with our own jobs. And he said - just pray on it for one week and so we did and at the end of that week, we all heard a resounding opportunity we have to do this from God. So then throughout 2021 we developed the podcast and it's so exciting to finally have this podcast out into the world in 2022.
Q: How will this podcast help your listeners in their walk with Christ?
We hope our listeners get two things; one an understanding that maximizing their unique cells is the key to obtaining what God has called for them. Their quirks, their idiosyncrasies, everything that is beautiful from God right because God is the father of everything that is beautiful inside of us. Those are the things that God wants us to utilize to bring out beauty into the world for the success he's called for us and that we cannot run away from our uniqueness. More importantly, lean into it heavily. And the second one is to be able to maximize that uniqueness, you need to optimize your performance. Which we've talked about before, if you have the habits and the skills that allow you to level up, then you're able to bring out your uniqueness in a higher fashion, higher quality, so that you're able to produce more value into the world.
Q: Where can people find the podcast and stay connected with you?
The podcast is out everywhere you can listen to podcasts; Spotify, Apple, Castbox, Stitcher. Anywhere you listen to podcasts, it's there. Not only that, our website is a great resource as well, www.imaginefaithtalk.com and at our socials @imaginefaithtalk.