Interview: Tempoe on Music, Upbringing & Motivations

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Play a TikTok video or an Instagram reel, and you will probably see people dancing to a Tempoe song. From Joeboy’s Alcohol, Omah Lay’s Godly and Understand to Ckay’s global hit record Love Nwantiti, this Nigerian producer has made some of your favourite records. As one of the most prominent producers in the Afrobeats scene, he has quite the impressive catalogue from working with the likes of Wurld, Amaarae, Reminisce and Blaqbonez. So far, his songs have amassed well over 1 billion streams as he continues to dominate national and international music charts.  In this sit-down conversation, we discuss his music, upbringing, and motivations while getting to know the man himself.

You are such a talented producer! How did you get into music and producing?

It was the church really. Music was the thing that drew me to church at the time because the music made going to church fun. It was just something that I liked to do; I was really keen on it. When I moved from the Catholic church to an Anglican church (because I had to stay with some of my relatives), the music in the Anglican church was sort of different from the type of music they play in Catholic churches, so I became really interested! I started playing the drums and learned how to play the guitar, keyboard, piano; I just wanted to do everything and control as much as possible but because I was the youngest in the band at the time, I really didn’t have as much control as I would have liked. So, I detached from church music and went out to find how I could bring my ideas to life (since the band at church wouldn’t let me) by getting myself a workstation. That’s how I started figuring out everything myself. I didn’t really have anybody to show me the ropes. I just figured out everything on my own, God connected me with the right people and it’s been like that ever since. I’m still figuring things out till today. 

You were clearly interested in music but production is a different beast, so where would you say the interest in production began for you?

I think I just needed an outlet. The church at the time was the only place I could just go to and find all the instruments – the drums, the keyboard. I didn’t have any of that at home. I think there was a laptop laying around so I went out to get games for myself. There, I found a workstation and just decided to buy it instead of buying the games – that was FL Studio. I didn’t really know it was production, I just knew I could make music on it. I figured out how to export the music and play it for other people. People really seemed to like what I was doing at the time so, I just kept doing it and I’ve been doing it ever since. I think not being allowed to do what I wanted in the church band made me go out and find another way to do what I wanted. 

Amazing! Who would you say is your inspiration production-wise?

Everybody to be honest. I listen really far and wide. I remember the first time someone asked me this question and I said other people’s music. He looked at me funny because I said other people’s music but really, other people’s music is what motivates me. If I start to make something right now and it’s not sounding good, I’ll go and listen to music. The way my life is set up right now, I can’t live without music. Even when I’m trying to get away from making music, I still have to drown myself in other people’s music and just be amazed at what other people are doing. I know they all have stories of their own too – both the producers and the artists themselves. I just really love listening to other people’s stuff. I listen as far as I can – really old stuff, classics, and the new ones from other countries and continents. As many genres as possible. So, if you give the AUX- bruh!

Nice! What were you doing before you became a full-time producer? 

I was in tech for a year because I really liked computers and laptops. I think that’s how I was able to even find the workstation (FL Studios) because I just liked computers. My love of computers, in general, led me to do tech for a while. I started making and developing websites then I moved into making apps. It didn’t interest me as much – I knew how to do it but I wasn’t happy doing it. It wasn’t fun for me, it was work. It was a really long time ago (before I even got into university) so I used that one year before school to do all of this. I would be at the office making music instead of coding or trying to meet my quota for the day. Towards the end when I wasn’t hitting my quota, I got caught by my boss making music. That just showed me what I loved to do and I’ve just been chasing that love ever since. I don’t care how much somebody else might think I know, I don’t care how little anybody might think I know about music, I just do what makes me happy. Every single time that I’m making something and it starts to sound amazing, there’s this feeling of euphoria – that happiness is really what I go for all the time.

Tempoe

So, when would you say your big break happened?

I think it was definitely Omah Lay’s Godly. When that dropped, it went crazy! From the minute that project dropped, the song just resonated with people and they loved it so, people started to look me up and search for me. I think that was where it started.

You’ve worked with so many amazing artists like Tems, Amaarae, and Omah Lay, what would you say your most memorable session with an artist has been?

I can’t even think right now! I think it has to be Understand – Omah Lay again! It was a really funny road up to that moment when we made the song. I didn’t want to go to his place that day, I didn’t plan to leave my house or do anything but, for some reason, I left my house. I didn’t know what I was going there to do. I didn’t go there with my laptop or anything, I just went there with my phone. I wanted to just chill and relax with my guy (Omah Lay). I got there and long story short, we had Understand in a couple of hours. It was really special because it helped me understand that God works really differently. I had someone in my house that day and I was telling her that I didn’t want to do anything and, in five minutes I was out of the house. In two or three hours, we had the song. The way that everything happened made me thank God that he plays such a massive role in our lives and in everything that we do. 

You also worked on CKay’s Love Nwantiti, which is certified Gold in France. It has over 1.1 billion streams and counting. How does that feel for you?

At this point, I’ve gotten used to it because it’s gotten so big! At the time when he went number 1 on Shazam, it was already crazy for me. CKay and I were texting at the time, telling each other how insane it was. Everything that has happened after that, has been insane! I’ve just been watching it all unfold while still creating more stuff and trying to enjoy all of this that is coming with the song. 

I heard that you’re working on an EP! I know these things are top secret until you’re ready to release them but, could you tell me a little bit about what that EP might be about or who might feature on it!

I really like to surprise people – surprises never get old! I know people are going to be surprised. I’m so sure! I really can’t say anything about it right now because I’m not sure about what’s happening. There’s so much in the works but, I really can’t wait for you all to hear it! I can’t wait to hear what I will choose even! I’m pumped too!Tempoe

I’m looking forward to it! I can’t wait to hear what it’s going to sound like. So, what motivates you to continue making music?

Everything that is happening currently! Every day and every week, it’s a new thing that encourages you to keep going. Now, I have every reason to keep going. If we could do something like that in a time like this, as young as we are, I can’t begin to imagine how much ground we will break or how many things we would have done for African music in 5 to 10 years. All of that keeps me going – my family keeps me going, my sisters keep me going. Every single person that has shown love in this music thing all keeps me going. I never let the pressure get to me. I always take my time to just relax. If I need to take out time from the music and just play games for a week, I’ll do that. I’m so sure what we are doing currently is motivating a young person out there to keep making music so, why not me?

What were your best and worst moments of 2021?

2021 has been amazing overall. Really, really early in the year, around the time Godly (Omah Lay) dropped, I was homeless for a while, so I had to get my accommodation in order. I was jumping from place to place. I would call that my worst moment. It was a really messy time because there was so much going on and the song was doing really well yet my situation didn’t make sense at the time! God, however, found a way for me and I was able to move into somewhere crazy and amazing! The success of a song like Godly was really important for me because it set the tone for so many other things to happen but, there is also the blow-up of Love Nwantiti. I would have to take the two of them as my best moment of 2021 as both of these things were not planned!

What is next for you? What should we expect to see from you in 2022?

It’s exciting for me because I’m exploring myself currently. I feel like a new person! I think people would definitely love to see me do some new things – I can say too much right now but, I’ll definitely be doing some fresh things!

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  1. Interview: Tempoe on Music, Upbringing & Motivations| The Culture Custodian – The Culture Custodian – BeatzzShopp Beats says:

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