- Words Elle Evans
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One to watch artist Tay Iwar talks collaboration with WizKid, singing along to John Legend in his bathroom, shutting down the O2 and his 'Love & Isolation' project.
Tay Iwar, an award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer that has helped elevate and push the boundaries of the musical landscape. Having first stumbled across his love for music via production, more specifically FL Studios, the classically trained multi-talented force began nurturing his love for producing, engineering, and song writing, and in turn created an advanced skillset and artistry that has caught the attention of many worldwide. Lending his production skills to his elder sibling and rapper, Sute Iwar, his enthusiasm led him to network with other aspiring artists at parties around Abuja where he was studying. As time went on, Tay Iwar dropped his debut offering, ‘Passport’ at just 16-years-old and with that faced critique for his sound. Going against what was considered to be the norm in his culture at the time, this didn’t stop Iwar from wanting to explore his sound further and has since gone on to be a force to be reckoned with.
The past year has undoubtedly been an explosive one for Tay Iwar; from many boast-worthy features with Tamera, Sainte, and Juls, not to mention international star WizKid on his recent ‘Made In Lagos’ album, the Nigerian native has solidified himself as an artist to watch. Alongside what could be referred to as a spine-tingling year, Iwar unveiled his latest body of work named, ‘Love & Isolation’, a 5-track slice of heaven that showcases his silky tone, tender melodies, and candid lyricism. Collaborating with Asa, Xenia Manasseh, Lou Val, and Insightful, we journey through the atmospheric waves of ‘YOGA’, and stand-out single ‘PEAKING’, a harmony-led capsule that boasts Iwar’s vocal strength and vulnerability in one seamless 3-minute composition.
Notion got the chance to catch up with Tay Iwar over Zoom for a chat about all things WizKid, his ‘Love & Isolation’ EP, his journey thus far, and more.
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What did you get up to for New Years?
I’ve been great, thank you for asking! It was great, I got absolutely plastered on New Year – it was bad! *laughs*
What’s your go-to drink?
I’m not much of a drinker but I would say Henny is my go-to drink! But if we’re talking cocktails I would probably go for a Strawberry Daiquiri or a Pornstar Martini because I love passionfruit.
I’d love if you could take me back to the beginning! Talk me through your upbringing and your introduction to music in general?
Music has always been a big factor in my household, my dad is a huge music fan he’s a jazz connoisseur – he has so much knowledge on jazz! Every Sunday, we would have the speakers blasting and he would be playing music and that goes back as far as I can remember. I grew up in the mix of that, a lot of old school R&B and jazz from the likes of Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and my mum was more on the Prince side of things – she was more edgy and less smooth. I had a good mix of both sides! My second brother used to play a lot of hip-hop and we shared the same room, he would take my eldest brother’s iTunes library and transfer all the music onto his, I would then take his, combine them both and add it to mine every 6 months.
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Other than playing instruments from a young age, you were initially drawn in via production. What was your go-to genre or sound that you liked to produce?
That’s the thing, when I found music, it wasn’t about making it per-say it was about being cool! *laughs* I never planned to do R&B; I was on whatever music is going to make me feel cool. I started as a producer, I was very IT and techy with it. I was always having to explain to people what I was doing when they were looking over at my screen, they thought I was coding! Anything I could do to impress my friends and people around me I was on! *laughs*
This guy introduced me to FL Studio, which is a programme for production, I saw him using it and asked him what it was! He told me I could make music on my own through my laptop and at first, I didn’t understand what he was saying because I had no clue how music was made; I just knew people played instruments because I went to music school – I had no clue about production or beats! It blew my mind! I got the app, and I was on it the next day. At the time I was playing the guitar, so it was easier for me to understand what was going on on the app musically.
Now that you are an artist and having come in via production, would you say both sides are pretty head on, or do you put one in front of the other?
It’s pretty much all one thing now! I do go through phases though. Maybe one week I will be producing a lot and then the next week all I want to do is song writing. Although sometimes I might not be doing any and instead just advising people on their work – all of it is mashed up together now!
When was the point in which you realised you could sing?
There was two key points! There was a song I always used to sing by John Legend called ‘Ordinary People’, I was in the bathroom one day singing it and I really thought I was getting somewhere you know? *laughs* Our voices were merging in a nice way, but this was just to myself! The next school term I sang this song for some people and a girl I really liked cried…I thought, “Oh my god…I can sing!” it was mind blowing to me, I thought this is definitely what I am going to do forever! *laughs*
Especially if you’re making girls cry, it’s a no-brainer, right?!
Exactly! I felt like Chris Brown or something! *laughs* It was so surreal!
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Can you remember the first song you wrote?
I don’t remember the song exactly, but it was a collaboration! I had a friend that was creative and was great at story telling. I went to boarding school in Nigeria and there wasn’t much to do in your free time so he would come and freestyle stories for us! I had the idea to get him to write a song with me, we did that, and it was a good song at the time.
You shared your ‘Love & Isolation’ EP last year as well! Talk me through the meaning behind the title?
I was trying to capture the time and it felt like that was the biggest topics in my life at the time, love and isolation, literally! I went through a lot of names prior to that one but I felt like that was the most relatable title.
What was your intention with this project? Was there something in particular that you wanted to convey? Maybe a feeling or a message?
I wanted people to have comfort music, music that you could play at any time to feel good – real lounge vibes. I wanted to deliver a really smooth EP.
Did any of the tracks challenge you?
Yeah! ‘Peaking’ was hard to sing because I think I had tapped into a new style of singing with this EP. It was difficult but I pulled through! The mixing in general was hard because I did it all by myself and I didn’t have the right studio at the time because we were in lockdown, I was just at home. That was a challenge, but it sounds great! *laughs*
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You did several features, one of which on Wizkid’s album. Tell me more about how this came about and what it meant for you?
That was an amazing thing that happened. It started off as something for Juls, he sent me a couple of beats that he wanted on his album, we did four songs and that was one of them. After some time, he left that idea and he met up with Wiz, played the song for him and Wiz instantly wanted it on his album. He thought it was incredible. They called me up in that moment and asked me if that would be cool and of course I was down! *laughs* The song came out around two months after, which was very fast! Before then, I would usually wait for 6-12 months for a song to come out, but it all happened so fast.
You also came out at the O2 on his tour! How did you find that experience? Were you nervous?
Erm, it was mixed! I didn’t really have much time to think. On the first day, it was all very last minute and a lot of us were anxious. I remember being told “You’re going on stage now” and thinking oh damn! The second day was a little bit more comfortable because people were in the swing of things, you could tell on the first day that people were testing things out because they had been gone for a long time due to covid. The third day was amazing, it was epic! I was surprised at the whole thing. WizKid selling out three dates at the O2 isn’t normal, it puts a lot of things into perspective, but it was an amazing time.
What’s your favourite song to perform?
It has to be ‘Monica’ or ‘Chance’ with Juls! I’ve only been able to perform that twice, but both times were epic!
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Putting the music aside, what do you like to do for fun or in your spare time? What makes you happy?
Oh, I like to eat! *laughs*
That is for sure! It’s difficult because music is my hobby as well. I would say going to eat, watching movies at the cinema when I have the time. Back in Abuja in Nigeria, I would go hiking depending on the weather, or maybe even kayaking. I haven’t been back in a while though!
What’s something in your playlist that your supporters wouldn’t necessarily expect to be there?
Playboi Carti, I am a huge fan!
What’s your favourite Playboi Cart song?
I would say it’s ‘Rockstar Made’.
What can we expect to see from you this coming year?
I am dropping a single and an EP sometime maybe mid this year! Other than that, more videos, content, collaborations, and music!