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SCTR x Tamera

The North London based R&B & Soul sensation with the ‘Wickedest’ vocals, talks to SCTR grass roots journalist Vivian Iroanya about her career so far, retrospectively what she would have done differently and what the future holds, starting with her first sold out headline show!

Story by Vivian Iroanya

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Photography by Hamish Brown

In British’s R&B scene Tamera is making her name heard. Her vivid feelings are felt through every tune and her thousands of listeners are elated to feel every second of it.

Growing up in Gravesend, Kent in a small town outside of London, Tamera was inspired by two powerful women in her life: her mother, who constantly sang and played music around the house, and her grandma who was the minister at their church. As a child, Tamera was often called to start hymns in the service. “My grandma really pushed me when it came to performing live. When she led the sermons on her keyboard, I remember that I wasn’t very confident to sing in front of people. But she’d play a few bars of the song and then look at me and say ‘can you bring us into this verse, please.’ This would put me on the spot, but she helped me find my voice for sure,” she laughs. “The message my mum always gave me and my siblings growing up was to ‘be true to yourself, live your truth, and just always be real.’ We went through a lot together and now I feel this really transcends through my music as I try to come up with the most honest and empathetic songs I can.”

“The message my mum always gave me and my siblings growing up was to ‘be true to yourself, live your truth, and just always be real.”

From cultivating her own lived experiences to the emotions and stories of those around her, Tamera’s compassionate lyrics and vocal fluidity are felt through every note. “I find it quite hard to open up to people. When I’m going through things I’d rather just get through it instead of dwelling on the feelings. So when it comes to writing music that’s literally a therapy to me. All my songs are a shade of something that I’ve gone through, seen or want to talk about. So it’s all very personal to me.”

But it wasn’t until 2018 when Tamera felt the need to prioritise music that felt genuine to her. A conflict that came from recognising what songs she wanted to make instead of looking from the outside and listening to everyone else. “In 2018, before I released anything, I had all these songs that everyone around me really liked…“these are good songs you should put them out,” they said. But they didn’t feel super personal to me. It’s got my name on it and it’s about to go out into the world. But I wasn’t really connected or moved by any of them,” Tamera continues. “So, I locked myself away for two days straight and there was this beat that I really loved. As I listened to it on repeat, that’s when it all clicked. You can’t fake it. We all have to hold on to the things that make us feel real and alive. You have to bare your soul on these songs otherwise you’re not going to be proud of yourself. So after that, my whole writing process changed,” she explains.

''When it comes to writing music, that's literally therapy to me. All my songs are a shade of something that I've gone through, seen or want to talk about. So it’s all very personal to me.”

Indeed, much has changed since then. Her smokey debut 2019 single Romeo followed by the tuneful Don’t Phone and her 2020 breakout hit Flipside gained her widespread attention from gal-dem, i-D and BBC Radio 1Xtra. Recognised by Amazon Music UK 2020 ‘Ones To Watch’, Tamera has now over 150,000 monthly listeners and millions of streams on Spotify. After almost 18 months away from the stage, her debut solo live show next month sold out just hours before our Zoom chat, she ecstatically revealed to me.

Look 1: Jacket, Diesel - Jeans, &Other Stories - Shoes, Dr Martins - Rings, Seol and Gold - Pearl Necklace, ZARA
Look 2: Top, NII HAI - Trousers, Glass Onion - Jacket, Jehu-Cal - Necklace, Planet B - Rings, Planet B - Shoes, Airforce

''I locked myself away for two days straight and there was this beat that I really loved. As I listened to it on repeat, that's when it all clicked. You can’t fake it.''

When asked about her creative formula, Tamera explains she’s quite flexible and free in her artistic approach. “Whenever I go into the studio I’m like ‘whatever happens – happens.’ If I’m going through something or I feel rundown or stressed and I feel like I want to write about it, I’ll come to the studio and have a conversation with my producer to see if they can relate to it and maybe bring in another perspective on the subject that I might not have thought of. The songs are all quite conversational because I want to paint a picture in the listeners’ head.”

''I was thrown into the deep end. And then all of a sudden there were all these responsibilities to make a great album, to do radio and get numbers across the world''

However, despite the countless successes, Tamera shares how she wishes she took more chances in collaborating with great pop writers and producers at the start of her career. “When I first came into the industry, I was thrown into the deep end. And then all of a sudden there were all these responsibilities to make a great album, to do radio and get numbers across the world”, she recalls. “At the time, I didn’t want to make pop music and I knew that. I was like ‘No, no no stay away from me.’ I was being swayed to go in a direction that I didn’t want to go. But now, I feel like there’s a lot of stuff that I could have learned if I would have been open to it.”

Look 3: Trousers, Carhartt - Top, NII HAI - Jacket, Glass Onion - Rings, Seol and Gold - Shoes, Airforce
Look 4: Blazer, Tommy Hilfiger - Skirt, Tommy Hilfiger - Shoes, Adidas forum - Rings, Seol and Gold

“You just got to keep grounded, know what you want and where you're trying to go and remind yourself of who you are trying to be and what you want to achieve''

Thus, Tamera affirms that listening to your own voice is key. “You just got to keep grounded, know what you want and where you’re trying to go and remind yourself of who you are trying to be and what you want to achieve. It can be easy sometimes to get sucked in and just be like ‘okay okay okay’ and let people make decisions for you. But try your best to remember who you are and be strong. Life is so much easier if you know who you want to be because then you can live like that person.”

Alongside hoping to work with Drake and Frank Ocean, Tamera is excited to captivate thousands of fans ready to connect with her songs. “I’m really hoping to tour the world, have a number one, and a very successful album for more people to join and feel the wave.”

Tamera’s debut EP is due for release this Autumn!

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