Temilade Openi, popularly known by her stage name Tems is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and upcoming music producer. With only two official singles out, Tems brings to us a unique sound with a fusion of RnB alternative and Neo Soul genres.
“Tems Baby” as I like to call her poses a very calm personality, taking her time to talk and letting every single word roll off her tongue smoothly and completely with perfect pronunciation. In this interview session, we talk about who Tems is outside music, her life as an independent artiste, her love for the art of music, her inspirations, how she feels about the term “alte”, a bit of her background and yes, she lets us see a little of her goofy side while explaining how deeply in low she is with food. #laughs
- Tell us a bit about your background
I grew up with a single mom, my life was very straight forward, my life was happy and is still happy. I attended Dowen College, lekki and that was where I met my music teacher who inspired me to actually pursue music. I attended University in South Africa, returned to Nigeria when I was done and decided that I was ready to pursue music.
- How/when did you start music?
Unofficially, I’ve loved music since I was 5. I watched Destiny’s child, Beyoncé was like my babe and I always wanted to sing, always. I started making music or writing songs when I was 9 but there’s nothing I’ve ever wanted to do apart from music. I started “really” singing when I was 13 and started producing at 20.
- What’s the story behind the name “Tems”?
When it comes to names, I always wanted to be very real and I didn’t want to choose a name that I didn’t feel was me, and people have already called me Tems. So, I just stuck to it.
- Are you a signed artiste?
No, I am independent for now and I’m just enjoying this phase. I am not necessarily trying to get signed right away, I’m just trying to get all my options together.
- Has any label reached out?
A couple but I don’t know if I want to say which. I think it is more to do with me, I just would like to be free for a while. I don’t feel like I’m being choked right now, I don’t feel like it’s too much. I feel like I can still handle it.
- Mr Rebel is your first official single, right? What was the reception like?
The reception was much better than expected, I actually didn’t expect anything to be honest. I was just like, “I had been recording for so long and didn’t have any song out. Although the people that were helping me record wanted me to chill, I felt like I needed to have at least a song out”. So that if I met someone somewhere and claimed to be a musician, I’d have something to show. That was the major reason why I put out the song though, I didn’t think it would go anywhere. It was surprising how big the song blew because I didn’t promote it or push it in any way.
- Why isn’t there an official video release?
Honestly. I’ve just been going back and forth on my concept, I don’t want to give people a headache with a video that is too deep or too crazy. So, I’m still trying to figure out the best type of video, but it is definitely coming very soon. I basically just need it to be perfect.
- What’s the story behind the song, did any situation influence the lyrics?
A couple of people did, I think I went through a very confusing situation and I was frustrated and felt like I was being taken for granted, and that people were underrating me. Mr Rebel is basically like there is this other person that I liked or I gave my love to and because I decided to do that, he automatically thinks that maybe I’m weak or he can just play around or go around destroying things. So, Mr Rebel is like a “You’re nothing, I love you but I could get rid of you” song. It’s like a twisted love story basically.
- Looku Looku, has a similar storyline with Mr Rebel; is there a pattern to how you write?
Hmmm, yeah, I write what I feel. It only comes out because I feel a certain way and that is the only way I know how to make music. It is always emotional and I prefer it to be because I feel like music is a way to release my thoughts, I don’t talk too much but I sing a lot. Looku Looku and Mr Rebel are not necessarily the only kind of music I make, it’s not always about a guy that is destroying himself in trying to destroy me or like some dark thing about a guy. It’s not always about that, it’s just a sequel basically. Looku Looku is basically about a guy that misbehaves and unfortunately got himself in a bad situation, maybe he was dying, maybe he died, but all his running around led him to something. So, the song is about me being like “I told you, you were running around now look at you, busted brains and everything is gone”. So, it’s basically like “why? Why did you have to do it?”
- What are the challenges you face as an artiste?
Well, the thing is I have just two singles out but I also have other features, so I’m not really facing a lot of pressure right now. I don’t really have challenges, I think most of the challenges I face is probably more of my online presence and interaction with my fans. Another challenge might be that there are so many options, so many things for me to do next and it is just about deciding which to do. I guess that is the real challenge but the good thing is that I have help, I don’t need to really struggle.
- Outside music, who is Tems?
Outside music, Tems is a nerd and a goofy kid, I like weird things and I watch animal documentaries. I think it’s really dope, I could literally get popcorn and watch the jungle. I like math and if I wasn’t doing music, I’ll probably be a lesson teacher or a professor because I like teaching and math is very interesting and it is super straight forward. I like fashion, I like crocheting. I used to make crochet crop tops but that has been on hold because of my music. I like eating a lot, I have an issue with food. I am in a love-hate relationship with food right now. I love food so much and I am trying so hard to not eat right now but… Anyway, I am just a normal goofy kid.
- Does the term “alternative” bother you?
You see, I don’t know where that “Alte” thing comes from because I think “alternative” is different from the perspective of “alte”. I am “alternative” but I am RnB alternative. I’m still trying to figure out what “alte” means but until I figure that out and decide for myself, I don’t really think I am “alte”. Besides, there is nothing I am wearing that is unusual.
- Do you see the Afro Pop commercial music as a threat to your kind of music?
Threat!!! No, definitely not, I have some pop songs myself but haven’t released them because those are just experiments. I want to do me first but they are definitely not threats, everybody is different, everyone has their own thing and I think everyone is trying to be the best at what they do. I don’t think there is anyone that sounds like me, I don’t think anyone is dragging, I just think everyone wants to have their own unique sound. So, definitely no threats.
- Outside music, what else does Tems do?
When I first started crocheting, I was really into it but now, not so much. I am trying to get a brand, clothing wise. My focus has basically been going into creating a clothing line, I am setting up and working on that.
- You had a collaboration with Samsung, what was that about?
So, they wanted a campaign that basically shows off women who are not like the “obvious influencers” but have “a story”; women from different industries. The food industry, TV and Music, it was me and a few other women and it’s called “Discover”. Mine was basically about inspiring others to believe that they can get somewhere because there was a time that I also didn’t think that I would go anywhere. So, “Discover Tems” was about believing in yourself and being inspired.
- Who do you appreciate most in the Nigeria music industry?
I appreciate Show Dem Camp, those guys are my brothers, my Producers, IBK, Tejiri. My cousins and my mom, although they are not in the music industry. They are the reason why I post stuff, they ginger me. There are so many things that I wouldn’t think about doing on my own, they basically help me make good decisions.
- If you had to change 3 things in the Nigerian music system, what would there be?
I’d like to say that I want to change the vibe because that’s the only thing that takes everything into consideration. The vibe, just greediness and selfishness, shadiness and a lot of really unpleasant behaviours. I think there is like a general behaviour or attitude, it’s a Nigerian attitude because everyone in Nigeria is basically like “every man for himself, as long as I am good, that’s it”. I’ll like to change that attitude because it covers OAPs, Producers, Managers, and everybody you can think of. It is a general attitude in the air that you have to stop yourself from gaining. I would eliminate it and make it happy, selfless, and hopeful because I feel like there is a lot of talent in Nigeria and a lot of people can’t get anywhere because of the system and it is founded on an attitude that comes out in the behaviour of people in the music industry and if you close your eyes, you’d fall.
I’d like to create an environment that benefits new artistes, I am not even talking about myself but someone in a room in FESTAC right now that really wants to do music and is actually talented but gives up at some point because there is no hope. There is almost no hope, everyone is so closed minded and concerned about their own wins.
- Do you have a PVC?
Mehn… I fainted, I actually went to queue up in Lekki to get this PVC. I went there by 4 am and was still in line by 11 am. I hadn’t eaten or drank water, 12 pm came, the sun was on my brain and then suddenly, I couldn’t see who was in front of me, and it was just getting darker and darker. Then I was like “damn, I am about to faint” and I knew I needed to find a place because I was carrying a bag with my phone and imagined that if I fainted there, I’d just wake up and my stuff will be gone or I wouldn’t know where I was and I went alone. So, I had to go look for a place to faint basically #laughs. After that experience, I said “mehn, I’d just encourage people” because I couldn’t go through that again. Everyone should go and vote because I am praying, I tried but I couldn’t get it.
- If you were to give one reason for voting, what would it be?
Well, because I think I am like a lot of people who feel that voting doesn’t count but if I am voting and encouraging others to vote and that same energy is being dispersed, I will feel like I tried, like I had an option, like I actually did something. So, the next time I complain, I’d know I have a right to complain because I did something but it just didn’t work out.
- What’s the plan for 2019?
2019, more music, definitely more of Tems in your face. More life, more blessings, less food, definitely less food!!! A couple of features, hopefully with Dami Oniru, Phlow and someone I haven’t worked with before.