He’s the world’s first musical artist powering 100% of his performances with renewable energy and he just released his debut album, “H E L L O | Again.” Often compared to having the raw live energy of Prince, Will Smith and Chris Brown, Ay’s goal is to go greener with more environment-friendly festivals. Samantha Ofole-Prince caught up with the energetic performer to hear more about this man’s mission to use his musical platform to save the planet.
You have powered over 800+ concerts in the past 5 years, including opening for Shaggy and T-Pain. What makes you so passionate about using renewable energy?
For me, renewable energy was the key to my outlet. After I got off `The X Factor’ [TV show] in 2012, I needed a platform to perform. I made a record called “Say Hey” and thought I was ready to tour in the big leagues. I didn’t have a deal or a major agent booking me shows. I also didn’t want to be just a street performer and wanted audiences to come to a show and feel the sound of a concert. Storing energy in batteries was the only option that made sense at the time, hence the name of the tour – “Battery Tour”. Generators are noisy and expensive, require maintenance, smell bad, and ultimately hurt the world. The goal was to spread love not carbon emissions. If it wasn’t for finding my own way to perform, I would never have had the opportunities to open for artists like Shaggy or Wycelf Jean.
100% of your performances are done with renewable energy – explain how this works and what challenges you have faced doing this.
Performing shows with renewable energy has been a huge challenge. Because concerts and music equipment draw so much energy, I have to have enough stored energy to handle the demand prior to the show, which can get very difficult. The wait time can be very cumbersome. After a performance, waiting on direct sunlight to recharge/story energy in batteries can be a process. It’s been great to partner with solar companies along the tour that power their buildings using renewable solar grids we plug into to store energy faster. The upside to all this is that the future looks bright. Advancements in battery technology continue to grow. Efficiency in solar is on the rise. I think what makes what I do so unique is the way I use renewable energy in the creative economy. It’s never really been done before and it wasn’t meant to be easy. Innovation isn’t always easy, but it is necessary for the growth and future of this planet.
The trend is changing, and many are slowly embracing solar, but what’s the quest been like in educating people about renewable energy?
Educating people about renewable energy has been tough over the years. When I look on instagram, I see girls posting yoga pictures as it’s suddenly cool to eat healthy, workout, be a vegan or shop organic. I’m hearing words like “sustainable” and “recycle” non-stop. With the birth of icons like Greta Thunberg and climate activists’ things are changing. When I started the Battery Tour in 2012 no one said I was being “sustainable”. People would just donate and label themselves as “OUTLET” plugged-in to the “Battery Tour.” I had never even heard of the word sustainability tossed around in mainstream media until roughly 2018. Picture an empty arena which is completely dark without electricity. The past 7 years feels like I’ve been on that stage with a microphone in my hand singing, dancing, performing, entertaining my butt off 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s what the quest feels like to me.
800+ concerts in the past 5 years? How challenging has it been and where have these concerts predominately taken place?
It’s been crazy challenging. I’ve performed in over 39 states across the USA and internationally in Honduras and U.K. I do 200+ concerts every year from colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary to stages, open mics, parks, house shows, street corners and festivals, wherever I can perform at to showcase my music and grow the brand of this “Battery Tour”.
What is your target market, and have you partnered with companies, individuals in the industry and if so who?
The target is the world. I aim to be the voice of sustainability seen through music. The niche with partnerships has been people, companies, organizations that believe in sustainability. I use my tour, “Battery Tour,” as a platform to promote, develop and deploy sustainable solutions. It’s also a platform for other artists, singers, rappers and even as a way to install solar in venues that may not have had it before we came. This year is our first real launch from being grassroots to something more. I released my debut album “H E L L O| Again” and aim to kickoff this tour Earth Day 2020 and I’m currently producing more records with Grammy nominated producer Jo Blaq.
Earth Day is around the corner, is this something you are excited about and how do you plan to capitalize on educating folks, especially those who doubt that global warming is caused by people?
I try to lead by action. As far as people who doubt global warming, I steer away from the direct conversation entirely. I like to just shine light and educate about what is possible. I’m here to show people a concert can be powered by renewable energy. To show through songs like “Save The Planet” from my album “H E L L O|Again” the importance of not throwing plastic in our ocean, recycling, or energy independence. I’m here to show what’s possible by example. To instill the notion that everyone is an outlet for change.
What are the benefits of renewable energies—and how do they improve our health, environment, and economy?
As my partner Thor would say, renewable energy is the primary solution for sustainability. Energy is the base resource for access to all other resources. Clean energy translates into clean air, food, and water which naturally enhance our quality of life and health. This clean energy also then supports clean internet and education, amplifying the benefits and creation of sustainable solutions. The key is that renewable energy is not always available. Therefore, we must store this clean energy in batteries, and other storage technologies, to power our lives and entertainment when renewable energy generation is not producing. The “Battery Tour” is raising awareness of this imminent necessity to advance renewable energy storage technologies as Mother Earth continues to intensify her ecological implications.
What kind of savings in greenhouse gas emissions and energy savings can the Battery Tour generate?
This project currently reduces approximately 1.6625 kg CO2(e) per 10-hour concert. 1330 kg CO2(e) reduced over 800+ shows to date. These savings are only to date. As we grow, these numbers will tremendously increase to offset any and all greenhouse gas emissions possible with a touring music experience.
Your mission has been to use renewable energy to perform, do you see concert promoters/artists/venues doing the same in the future and embracing this and is there a cost factor involved?
Coldplay just announced they will take off touring until they can figure out a way to tour sustainability and the world is aiming for a sustainable future. If we don’t do this now, we simply won’t have a future. The cost is always an upfront cost to produce technology and the changes and advancements necessary for process improvement and the health of any system. Akon’s work in solar for Africa is nationally known. The mission has caught up with the times. I know if I continue, I will connect or be connected to the growing number of innovators interested in renewable energy. Investing in solar can save on energy costs long term, but with a large upfront cost at times. Our company “Battery Tour” aims long-term to amplify this advancement so it can be more widely embraced.
What are your long-term goals and ambitions and how do you see the music industry sector changing over the next few years as a result of this?
As an entrepreneur, I want to scale my technology to replace the diesel generator. The “outlet” solar powered box my partner and I designed that we currently use to power all of the concerts. We hope to land a new manufacturer this year. As an artist, I want to sign a deal with a major booking agency or work with an agent that can deploy me on stages. I am currently working with Brian Kennedy as well as Jo Blaq on more music to take to this industry. The industry needs an artist like me as I came up from sustainability.
For more information on AY’s mission visit: https://www.aymusik.com/
by Samantha Ofole-Prince