If you are follower of the Alternative music scene in Nigeria, you must have come across the name “Tomi Owó” at least severally.
Tomi Owó is
A dynamic songwriter with a distinct vocal tone, Tomi Owó incorporates reality with substance, to make for the musical output she is coming to be known for.
The Alternative soul singer, with a formidable song writing prowess captures the soul of her listeners with music seasoned with dexterous lyricism, coupled with vibrant rhythm and a consonance of sounds. Recently, Tomi Owó started “Nostalgia Sessions”, a video cover of some of our favorite throwback classics, like Angelique Kidjo‘s “Agolo”, “Seun Rere” by Christy Essien-Igbokwe, “Time Na Money” by Mike Okri, Des’ree‘s “You Gotta Be”, and “White Flag” by Dido.
She got to talk about her music, inspiration behind “Nostalgia Sessions”, her creative process, what’s next and a lot more in my chat with her.
Tell us about Tomi Owó.
Tomi Owó : I’m a singer-songwriter, born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria.
What made you choose music?
Tomi Owó : My love for music and the arts is innate. I come from a musical family, and grew up being conscious of the wonders of music, and knowing I could sing. So, from a young age, I wanted to be able to bring my own form of beauty to the world through music. And as I grew older, I began writing in my privacy, and later on, I took professional music theory classes to solidify my knowledge of music theory, and learnt the keyboard and guitar. Although my tertiary education was in the Social Sciences, I knew I would take on music full time when the time was right.
How would you describe your music?
Tomi Owó : My music is first soulful, before anything. It’s in its own path, considering the nature of my vocals and the sounds that are best suited for them. I love to experiment with both live and digital instruments from various influences, to arrive at a musical place that is enjoyable by listeners, and best expresses my writing.
What inspired “Nostalgia Sessions”?
Tomi Owó : Nostalgia Sessions is a video cover series of select ‘throwback’ songs, and it was born out of a desire to appreciate music from years back, and the artistes who brought them to life. As musicians, we are blessed with this unique opportunity to document life, feeling and motion into a couple of minutes in time, and like your favourite old books in a bookshelf, these songs hold beauty that we will always recognize, no matter how many years pass. I covered three African songs, and three western songs in the series, and I aimed to reawaken the love for these classics in our listeners.
“Rora” feels like my best Tomi Owó song, how did that come about?
Tomi Owó : It’s also one of my personal favourites! “Rora” is a Yoruba word for ‘be careful’ or ‘take it easy’. It came about from my musings about life, and tendencies for us as humans to act amiss and run into the wild searching for faster rewards. It’s a simple reminder for us to think things through. I featured the talented artist and guitarist Femi Leye, who played live guitars and took the solo bridge.
How does it feel, being an independent, indie musician in an industry where signing record deals seems like a major career goal?
Tomi Owó : It surely takes a bit more effort working as an independent artist, but I see this time as an opportunity to develop myself as an all-round musician, and build muscle in the field. If the right company comes along right now, I’d be very ready to take on the demands of that new phase. Regardless, I’m focused on making magic with my music and taking it as far as possible.
We’ve not had new Tomi Owó music in a while, what have you been up to before “Nostalgia Sessions”?
Tomi Owó : Before Nostalgia Sessions, I did a lot of songwriting and recording for my debut LP, which is scheduled for release next year. It’s taken some time because it’s such an important project for me, and I didn’t want to rush any process. I’ll be releasing one song from the LP anytime now, and I’m really excited for 2018!
Who are your musical influences?
Tomi Owó : I’m huge on Brooke Fraser, Sade, Seal, Lianne La Havas, Chloe and Halle, Oh Wonder, Bez, and Asa. Our sounds aren’t completely similar, but they all have qualities as musicians and people that I deeply respect, and that inspire me in many ways.
What is your creative process like?
Tomi Owó : I see music in everything, so it helps me write from many points of view. I write and make melodies concurrently with my guitar or keyboard, and then head to the studio to work with the producer in creating the instrumentals (my producer brother, IBK makes this easy to do). I love being involved in the production direction of my songs, while also still giving the producer space to work his magic on them. However, if the instrumental/beat has already been created, I work with it also, and write to suit the emotion of the sound.
Has there been one particular moment in your musical career that you’re most proud of?
Tomi Owó : I’m most proud of my first effort at releasing music – in 2015, when I released my first single, Pieces. I’m very thankful for it, because it took a lot of courage to jumpstart my dreams then, and it has led me to this point in my journey.
Which would you prefer, a live band or a DJ set?
Tomi Owó : A live band, mostly always. Love the spontaneity that comes with playing with a live band.
What’s your secret craving?
Tomi Owó : Beach days, with caramel ice cream within reach. Not a secret anymore 🙂
What is a typical Tomi Owó day like?
Tomi Owó : I have a bit of a daily time table that I try to keep when I do not have performances, studio sessions, meetings, or my bi-weekly vocal training classes. On a normal day, work involves writing a new song, completing songs I’ve started, and learning a new skill/reading. It’s not also all work, as I love to attend select art & music festivals.
What are the mistakes you think a lot of alternative music artists make?
Tomi Owó : In this part of the world, where the dominant sounds are mainstream, it takes more effort for soul/alternative music to be heard. So, as musicians within this wave, we have to be bold, and see to it that our music goes places, because it’s good music, and it needs to be heard. It’s also important for alternative acts to be authentic, and continuously innovate as they grow.