On the September 2019 edition of The Cover, we welcome our queen of the alternative scene, Tems into the Accelerate studio. Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems is a musical artiste and a producer who is redefining the Nigerian music scene one note at a time. She writes, sings and produces her music by herself, and when she puts these three specialties together, it becomes a beautiful unique sound. We sat down and had a chat with her recently, and she talked about her background, her music and the inspiration behind her song “Try Me”
How would you describe the Tems sound?
I think I would describe the Tems sound as soulful, powerful, passionate and emotional.
As a female musician doing alternative music, what are the major challenges you have faced in the industry?
As a female artiste in the Nigerian music industry, I think the biggest challenges would be just trying to get as much respect, and there is more comparison, and you kind of have to work harder to get people to take you seriously.
What are the major misconceptions Nigerians have about the music industry?
The major misconceptions that Nigerians probably have about the music industry would be that it is organized or that there is a system or a formula that works for everybody, and you just have to do certain things but the truth is there is nothing that works, its only God and hard work, if you’re blessed then you are blessed.
Tems what inspires your sound?
God inspires my sound and He takes me through phases and He teaches me in the most amazing ways, there is no way I can fully describe it, I can only express it through my music.
So, take us through your music creation process?
My music creation process starts with me experimenting on my laptop, I prefer to produce my own stuff rather than just getting a beat and it really just depends on how I’m feeling and I just focus on whatever I’ve been thinking about or the mood I’ve been in for a while, there is usually something on my mind when I’m making music. I start with the drums sometimes or I start with the notes, then I develop it logically and map it out, do a freestyle, and then record it.
If there is one thing you can change in the Nigerian music industry, what would it be?
If I could change anything in the Nigerian music industry it would be negativity and the selfish orientation, I know that’s two things but it’s just a selfish thing, each man to his own, and I would put more real love not pretend love or fake love into the industry.
Who is a Nigerian or non-Nigerian artiste you would love to collaborate with?
In Nigeria, the artiste I would love to collaborate with would be Burna boy, and then outside of Nigeria the artisteS I would love to work with are so many but I’m going to go with Summer walker, 6lack, Daniel Caesar and Frank Ocean.
With regards the Nigerian artiste, why Burna boy?
I’ve always loved Burna boy, he lifts my spirit and I relate to him the most out of most people I know.
What is the most played song in your playlist currently?
Currently the most played song on my playlist would be “Juicy” by Doja Cat, not the remix with Tyga but the first one, I’m so obsessed with it, that’s what I use to get gingered.
What is in the future for Tems?
The future for Tems is a revolution,I want you to expect everything and more.
What was the inspiration behind “Try me”, and did you think it was going to become a hit initially?
“Try me” is about breaking out of your suppressed state, breaking out of suppression, you know when for a long time you’ve just been holding your feelings, and then you just want to calm down and chill but then something happens again. So the song “Try me” just simply shows that I’m not calm, I’m tired, but I’m not weak but strong and I’m going to stand up for myself, I’m going to do what I was afraid of doing before, it’s basically about overcoming your fears and being free and to be very honest when I released “Try me”, the song before the video, I was so worried because it’s different from most songs, the song might work out well or not but I knew I had to release the song. When I released it, I didn’t expect it to become as big or as crazy as it is now, I knew a few people were going to like it, but I was really expecting a lot of blowback because it’s so different. Everything just surprised me, it has been good.
Let’s rewind a little, what was Tems like growing up?
Tems was Temi and Temi was shy, extremely shy, I couldn’t speak in public because I would start shaking, I was very timid, I was afraid of everything and I looked up to everyone and I just always saw myself at the bottom, I had low self-esteem. I didn’t think I was worth anything, which is why “Try me” was so important to me, because for the people that knew me I think it was a shock, especially in the video, for me to make that video I had to break out to show people that if I could do it then they could do it to. I’ve never done anything like that before, ever, and I had to just let everything out and it worked. So you can be yourself and grow. You being afraid is only going to hinder your progress and you’re just hurting yourself, because at the end of the day what you’re afraid of is little compared to who you are and who you are going to be.
Photography: Michael Oshai
Stylists: Tokyo James and Joan Vincent-Otiono
Creative Director: Tokyo James
Interview Transcribed by: Oretha Chukwukere