Widely recognised as one of the most naturally reactive and intriguing new artists in the UK alternative scene, Femi Tahiru delivers his second release of the year, serving up an effortlessly smooth soundtrack packed with innate instrumentals, whilst deftly mixing creative wordplay and his overall signature sound. Femi’s ability to provide compelling and authentic storytelling atop seductive soul-influenced beats continues to push the Northampton-native into key UK music conversations.
Tell us a bit about your story: who are you and what has your journey looked like so far?
My name is Femi Tahiru, I was born and raised in Northampton, and I moved to Manchester around four years ago to start my music career after I went through quite a bit of trials and tribulations. I finished school, then went to sixth form for a year, then I dropped out. I went to college for a year, I dropped out. I didn't like that either.
Then I did an apprenticeship for a year, and stayed on for maybe six months, and then I left. I then worked full time, for another two years. At that time, I was just making music sort of half-heartedly, but it was pretty clear that was the sort of thing that I wanted to spend most of my time doing, and that's when I decided to move to Manchester, to study songwriting at a university. Ever since then it's just been non-stop.
Who inspires you musically and creatively?
The person that probably got me into production was Tom Misch. I heard his Beat Tape 2 on radio. It was Nightgowns featuring Loyle Carner, and that was probably the thing that made me think "I actually want to be able to do this, not just the the songwriter part, but the making music behind it as well."
Recently, I've been listening to a lot of 70's style music like Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith and Rotary Connection. The old style sound is definitely something that is more appealing to me at the moment. But in general, I listen to a lot of King Krule, The Internet, so a lot of my inspiration comes from the States. That's probably why I use a lot of guitars in the chorus, and that's the sort of sound you'd hear from people, from the United States.
What is the creative process behind your music?
It's always different when I'm making stuff, but with 'Comfortable', I had the beat for quite a long time. I made the drums, then recorded the guitars and the chords, and I just couldn't find anything that sort of fit the track, vocally.
As I went through making other music, I randomly stumbled across 'Comfortable'. It was at a point where nothing was really moving in my career, and what I was doing. I was pretty stagnant, and so a lot of the themes that you hear within 'Comfortable' were related to the time I was, in that period of my life.
It's a lot to do with not making any progress and being extremely aware of how you might be perceived by other people, making this big step to move out of my hometown to pursue a career in music, and it not really working in my eyes at that moment in time.
A lot of the content within the song is just about being a "failure", trying to spend as much time as I can on my craft, at the same time not really connecting with what I was doing, and just being very aware of the work I'm putting in, and it not doing anything.
What’s the best advice you’ve received during your journey?
It wasn't something that was directly said to me, but it always comes down to trusting what you're doing. I've gotten to a point where, because there's a few people so watching and I've recently been signed, I've almost attached all this pressure on me. Before, I wasn't really thinking about that. I was just making music, and now that there's other people involved, I second guess myself. You should never really do that, because if I carry on doing what I was doing before I got signed, then I'll be absolutely fine.
So trust yourself, and don't put so much pressure on yourself to be this person that you think you should be, because chances are, you're already that person?
How do you nurture your creativity?
It's a strange one, because when you're creating, you can't really make room or space for thoughts. It's very much like a meditation. You know all the choices that you make when you're creating and it has to come from a place stillness.
So I try and do as many activities that bring that out in me. So I go into the gym, run, meditate, and even read books that are designed to help with that. I've been reading Rick Rubin's The Creative Act: A Way of Being. He mentions a lot of things that I've just said, in his book, which really helps nurture your creativity.
And obviously, playing! You need to be consistent even when you don't necessarily want to, because those are the times when something does come up, and you might surprise yourself.
What do you hope your music will reveal to your listeners?
I hope that it will showcase my songwriting. This new chapter that I'm going through, I've definitely improved on my songwriting, and as a whole, trying to capture the feel that I'm about.
All the other projects that I've had out, they were from quite early in my career, especially in my creativity mindset. So I've definitely developed and grown as an artist, and I hope that they can associate a sound with my name. Whenever they hear it, on the radio or Spotify, they'll be like "oh, this sounds likeFemi Tahiru", and not like Steve Lacey or any of my influences.
Even though I do take pieces from all of these artists and bands, I hope that I've cultivated my own sound, and I hope they recognise that too.
Are there any upcoming shows or projects we can look forward to?
In May, I'm playing Dot To Dot Festival. It's two dates, one in Nottingham, and then one in Bristol. That's as far as shows go at the moment, but I'm sure there will be more once the project starts rolling out. Besides that, there's plenty of music coming, which I'm really excited about.
Is there any advice you want to give to new artists?
We can't do this by ourselves. We're living in an age where content is so important, long form and short form content.
So it's sort of raking your brains, trying to write the music, shoot the music video and come up with the content, and figure out how you're going to roll out. Seek help, because it would really benefit you mentally to not have all of that on your shoulders. Make sure that you're surrounded by people that you know and share the same vision, whether they're working in the videography sector or graphic design.
Come up with close people that you know you can share the vision with, that you care about, and you'll be flying.
Already having built a considerable reputation in the northwest, playing regularly at well-regarded venues Gorilla and Band On The Wall - as well as crashing into London consciousness, selling out his 2021 headline show at Paper Dress Vintage, Femi’s support slots to the likes of Chiiild, Pip Millett, Amber Mark, Nubya Garcia and Theophilus London, points to an artist making waves in the scene with some of the country’s most significant talents.
With plenty more music on the horizon, Femi Tahiru is feeling like an artist honing in on a distinct iteration of alternative R&B, and his second release of 2023 points to a new milestone for a genuinely new voice in the landscape.
You can listen to his latest single 'Comfortable' below !