Atwood Magazine spoke to Tems about her debut EP ‘For Broken Ears’, the journey that led her to music, and all the support she’s received since the release of the EP.
Stream: “Damages” – Tems
Tems’ music is like that warm cup of coffee on a Sunday morning which you appreciate slowly, sip by sip, and feel it taking over your body. It creeps into you gradually but all of a sudden, once you realise its power, you feel electric. It changes what’s going on inside of you, even if momentarily.
For Broken Ears, the Nigerian artist’s debut EP, is in equal parts suave and imposing. It tells stories of Tems’ life, her voice and lyrics never dimming her clear power, with songs that drift by and intoxicate you. It’s music that’s better pondered about than simply listened to. And while her songs envelop you, you can’t help but wonder about the project’s central character, the driving force behind everything you’ve been entranced by for the past twenty or so minutes.
And this is where we step in. Atwood Magazine spoke to Tems about her debut EP For Broken Ears, the journey that led her to music, and all the support she’s received since the release of the EP.
Broken ears means hard hearts that are about to turn into stone — people that almost forget they’re human…
Listen: ‘For Broken Ears’ – Tems
:: A CONVERSATION WITH TEMS ::
Atwood Magazine: What’s your first musical memory and when did you realise music was what you wanted to pursue a career in?
Tems: My first music memory was when I found a poem book belonging to my mom. And I formed melodies to the poems. I realized I wanted to start a career in music when I was 17.
You take pride in constantly reinventing yourself and your music, never doing the obvious or what people expect of you. What’s the best part of this constant reinvention for you, as an artist and person?
Tems: The best part is that you keep mastering yourself and you see the world clearer and clearer. And yeah, you can do anything, the more self aware you are. It’s an adventure knowing yourself and it never ends.
You went to university and studied economics while wanting to pursue a career in music - how did you handle living through the tension of studying to live the more clichéd, “normal” and mundane life and pursuing and discovering your own artistry? Was there anything you learned while at university that you think influenced your career or music?
Tems: I will say my real learning came after I had left university because when I was in school, I really didn’t know what the future held and I wasn’t in a position to do much because I wasn’t in Nigeria. And so the real struggles and the real story started from when I came back to Nigeria. I learned that you just have to do what you have to do. If your spirit is saying something, or if you feel a certain way, you have to go with it. And people are not as together as they seem. Nobody has it all right. So there’s no need trying to do something for any person, just to stay true to your purpose. That’s what’s really important.
Watch: “Damages” – Tems
From what I’ve read, making and performing music seems to be a very personal, profound, and spiritual experience for you. What did you discover about yourself while writing For Broken Ears?
Tems: I discovered that I’ve been through a lot. And I also discovered confidence, more confidence in who I am. I’m unapologetic, and I care only about my purpose and being a source of healing or hope or courage for others. And that’s, that’s enough. That’s good for me.
In an interview you mentioned that you’re here to “relieve people going through things”. When was the first time you felt this kind of relief while listening to music, and what was it like for you to experience that?
Tems: I haven’t, I didn’t feel it when I listened to music, but I did feel it when I made music. It’s a release for me. That’s my release when I make songs because it’s me pouring out everything I’m feeling into song. Yeah, that’s why I say it makes me feel alive. It’s a wave and I just ride it.
Why did you name your EP For Broken Ears? What do broken ears mean to you?
Tems: Broken ears means hard hearts that are about to turn into stone — people that almost forget they’re human — that’s what broken ears means to me. For me, this EP is meant to bring some kind of healing. It is to be a reminder that we’re human and that we are all going through things.
Considering it’s your debut EP, what do you think For Broken Ears reveals about you as an artist?
Tems: I think it reveals my perspective on life.
How do you think self-producing your music influences your writing?
Tems: I think it allows me to really tap into my sound and it helps me to be myself even more and express myself even deeper. And I feel closer to each song because I made it from scratch. So I feel a personal connection to each song because I’m involved in each process.
Do you have a favourite song on the EP? If so, which one is it and why?
Tems: I don’t have just one! My favorites right now are “Interference”, “Ice T”, and “The Key”.
What’s the perfect situation in which to listen to For Broken Ears?
Tems: In the night smoking a blunt or listening under the stars.
You’ve gotten so much attention and support from major outlets and companies like Spotify this year. What does this support mean to you, and what can we expect from Tems in 2021?
Tems: All of the support is a blessing to me and I am absolutely grateful for everything that has happened thus far in my career. The love and support has been incredible. And it’s only going to get bigger! But I am just grateful for where I am, for where I’m going, and that I feel loved. I feel like I have people that actually have my back. I am amazed, and I feel absolutely blessed.
📸 © Jerusa Nyakundi
:: Stream Tems ::