Complex artists make intricate music that resonates with people like us because of the authenticity. We feel their pain, rise with their highs and crash with their lows. One of the most genuine and relatable souls in the African music scene is singer/songwriter/producer, Tay Iwar. His cadence, lyric choice and sonics create a glass onion, but not in the fake deep kind of way. He’s got layers but he’s also refreshingly transparent. Tay is sensual, Tay is sensitive, Tay is stunning. He transports you to nostalgic and sometimes painful memories with his vulnerability; creating narratives and sharing stories that speak to the heart. We hear that in the single he released today, called ‘Undercover Lover’ featuring Twelve XII. It’s a prelude to what we can expect from the Nigerian native’s forthcoming EP: ‘Summer Breeze’, which is due on his birthday next month. Join me and let’s explore the world of Tay Iwar!
Gracey Mae: Hi Tay Iwar, welcome to F Word. How are you?
Tay Iwar: Hello, I'm good. How's it going?
GM: I am good. Congrats on your last single ‘Healing’ - it has me in my feelings. Is this based on a real life situation?
TI: It’s just healing from toxic situations. Everyone gets in toxic situations but this song is when you get out of that and then you're reflecting like “wow, I'm actually healing by not being in that situation again”. Whether it was based on a real life experience… I'll say, it’s based on multiple real life experiences. It's like a summary for how the brain feels when you're away from a toxic situation and I’ve been in more than a few. [laughs]
GM: [laughs] I can relate. What is some real life advice you would give on how to detach from a toxic situation?
TI: I think it's a mindset. You have to focus more on building rather than ruminating because what happens in situations that take over your whole life, which toxic situations know how to do, you keep thinking about that same position you're in and you keep going in a cycle. So I think the best thing to do is do everything to try and not be in that cycle. Once you find yourself in that cycle, do everything to break out of it.
GM: Oh! You’re touching a nerve. Let's talk about the forthcoming EP, is ‘Healing” going to be on it?
TI: Yes, it's gonna be on the EP. I think is track three on the EP. I'm not really sure but yes…
GM: What else can you tell us about the project?
TI: The EP is called ‘Summer Breeze’. It has eight songs, some features and it's got videos. It's a new type of sound as well from my end. I think this project has a lot more sunrise type of music. I guess that's why the first song is “healing from your stress” because it's like, let me have a release from all that toxic stuff. Then I get into building myself into someone that's in a positive light.
GM: Does that mean that EP is dropping in summer?
TI: Yes. On my birthday actually: 9 June!
GM: A birthday present from you to us. I like! In the past, you’ve said you produce 80% of your released records. How much of this project have you produced?
TI: Let me see. I have to count! I would say like 50% of this one. There’s more collaboration on this for sure. We have P2J, Juls, Bad Entity and LNK. He just did the new Rema release, ‘Holiday’. You should know about him. Bad Entity is someone I work closely with. We also do shows together but she’s my sound director. I have some work from The Caveman on there, specifically from Kingsley the bass guitarist.
GM: You just touched on Juls and he produced the mega track with you, Wizkid and Projexx with the ‘True Love’ which opened you up to a whole brand new audience. How has life changed since that Grammy nominated moment?
TI: It has been different, it's been more work. It's been more obstacles and more inspiration, just more everything really. It's one of those moments that happens and then your world expands which is a big change.
GM: And how have you dealt with the change?
TI: I'm living life. It's good. Change is good.
GM: You were blown before, now you’re overblown! Given that you've grown up between Lagos and Abuja, plus you frequent London, who would you say is next to blow?
TI: Twelve XII from Abuja is fantastic. There’s Bloody Civilian. There’s OdumoduBlvck. Zilla Oaks. Sute Iwar. There’s this girl called Inci, she's really good as well from Abuja.
GM: You snuck in your brother’s name just there so talk to us about Bantu (which you launched with both your brothers) and its impact in Abuja.
TI: Bantu was a creative collective that we established to spark a creative culture and community in Abuja, because there wasn't any before that. There are so many creators in Abuja so we decided that maybe the reason there's no community is because there's literally no central place for these people to relate with themselves so we created that. The impact is literally the creation of the first creative community to exist. By creative, I mean audio visual, we had people creating apps, we had graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and music studios, It was very grass roots, ground level creative work that we did. We were laying the foundation for Abuja.
GM: Keeping it in the family. Let’s chat about your dad. You both have the same name, right?
GM: How did he and your brother influence you musically?
TI: My dad is a jazz connoisseur. He's obsessed with jazz, and music as a whole. I credit him a lot because he's the one that makes the most noise. But it was both him and my mum that pushed for us to start learning musical instruments. My mum used to play the piano. My dad plays the sax. I think maybe he wanted to be a musician – it’s very possible. I haven't had that conversation yet, but he's obsessed with it and he supports so that's great. In terms of putting me on to hip hop, and music and recording and just the in depth world of music, I'll credit that to Suté - that was definitely his work. Because we were roommates and he's my older brother, I just watched him. I was like, “Oh, give me your library”. Like I used to take his iTunes library. I never had to search for music myself because my brothers just had huge libraries of music. Music is very much a family affair.
GM: Dad play sax, mum plays piano, and you play guitar and piano. Do we get a chance to see you play live during any forthcoming shows?
TI: If you were at the last show you might have seen me play the guitar Gracey but you weren't. You didn’t buy your ticket!
GM: See character assassination! I was in Nigeria.
TI: Okay, fair enough.
GM: What is the Tay Iwar live in concert experience like?
TI: It is psychedelic. It is otherworldly. It’s meant to transport you to a different place. I have very professional sound people around me and we give you a show. It's hard to describe. You have to be there; it's kind of like a jam session.
GM: Your music is very spiritual, and I will see you in concert soon.
GM: Your music is described as Neo-Soul/Alte. With you exploring new sounds with this forthcoming project, are these still fitting descriptors for you?
TI: I guess the title stays depend depending on the press people because I've never described my music as Alte. I don't know; genres are very tricky thing for me ‘cause I don't wake up thinking “oh, this song is very R’n’B”. I just make music. This new EP, if you have to give it a genre, would be Afro-Fusion or R’n’B. I believe I make R’n’B but my biggest song is an Afrobeats song so… it’s tricky.
GM: So you don’t identify as an Afrobeats artist even though you’re Nigerian?
TI: I don’t think being Nigerian makes you an Afrobeats artist. You actually have to make a lot of that type of music and I have like four albums and three are R’n’B so I don’t know. Does that make me an Afrobeats artists? I have to ask you guys because it’s the press people that always give the tagging and the label. I don’t know, I’m just making music. Would you call me an Afrobeats artist?
Tay wears vest + shirt BOOHOOMAN
GM: No, because I don’t think that your origin determines the type of music you make but because a lot of the word was introduced to you was through an Afrobeats artist, I understand the affiliation.
TI: This is why this question is difficult for me. I always end up asking the person asking me because I think Afro-Fusion is the safest bet for my sound.
GM: What does the rest of the year look like for you post project?
TI: The rest of the year looks like shows, looks like preparing for next year.
GM: What’s happening next year?
TI: Many things that I can't speak on.
GM: On the topic of shows, in a previous interview you mentioned that performing at the O2 Arena three times with WizKid was amazing but you actually prefer doing intimate crowds because you get to vibe with people. Is that statement still true?
TI: I don't know! Maybe that was true then but I like all shows honestly. It’s this tricky because, it's not really about the venue size in the end. It's really about how well the show went.
GM: How do you determine how long the show went?
TI: By the response of the crowd. If the crowd enjoyed it, then it was a great show.
GM: What happens if you come across a dead crowd who don't understand the music? Surely that doesn’t mean you didn’t do well.
TI: I feel like if you're a performer and you have an hour set, if 20 minutes in you realise the crowd isn't jumping and you don't make a change, then you failed at your job. In the end, you're the crowd controller. It’s your job. You should’ve done your research on who's in the audience.
GM: I'll give you that - I'll concede. Your first project was ‘Passport’. I know you like to travel. I definitely love to travel. Where haven't you been yet that you would like to perform?
TI: Ooh, so many places. California. The Pyramids of Giza. I think only one person has done that before the Grateful Dead - that would be a dream for me. Where else? I'd like to perform in South Africa, New York, Japan… many places even Accra - I've never performed in Ghana.
GM: Out of all of those, the Pyramids is the one that shocked me the most. Are you a historian? What's special about Egypt?
TI: I think it is a very spiritual ground, The Pyramids specifically, and because I find my music spiritual, I like to see how it will feel to perform in the presence of that.
GM: Okay Pharoah. Let’s make that happen ASAP. Do you have a final message for your friends, your family, your following?
TI: Stay true to you and your upbringing.
GM: Thank you so much for being on F word. What is your favourite word?