With photos by Jake Owens
Vicky Greer
12:38 5th October 2021

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Tamaraebi’s latest EP, Spectrum, is an ambitious and accurately named project for the singer. A six-song exploration of every corner of his influence and style, it goes against all of the advice he was given at the start of his career. “The feedback I got from the people I worked with was ‘you’ve got to pick a style, you’ve got to pick a lane, you’ve got to pick a look’. Just pick one thing and go with it. But that’s not me. I’m more than one thing”, he tells Gigwise. “That’s why I love this EP because finally I feel like I’m accepting all the different parts of myself without shame”. Even his vocals refuse to be labelled, ranging from low to high, pop to RnB with what he calls his ‘multiple personalities’. There are many versions of Tamaraebi, and he accepts them all on this EP.

The Tamaraebi that I speak to over the phone is infectiously cheerful; he clearly delights in seeing the ideas in his head translated into music and visuals. Our conversation is free and energetic – even though he had been robbed in Brighton earlier that day. Even on the bad days, Tamaraebi is here to spread a joyful and powerful message of self-acceptance.

Spectrum is Tamaraebi’s second EP, and while it’s obvious that both records came from the same artist, there’s a prevalent feeling of growth and development on the new EP. This, he says, came from a period of reflection.“I’m a lot more self-aware. I feel like as a human being and an artist it’s important to know your ‘why’”. Spectrum is the work of an artist who really has himself and his music figured out. “They’re all a reflection of me. It’s one thing, like refractions of light – one source of light that splits into lots of different things but with one source of light. That’s like me, all the different styles, personalities are an expression of me, and I’ve got comfortable with that”.

The highlight of this artistic period is his single ‘Telephone’ which dazzled audiences and brought his visions to life. “It’s so nice to see the video that was in your head and have it come to life. And to have people enjoy it and get it” he says, adding that it’s his favourite video. It’s a perfect representation of the journey to self-acceptance that he speaks about, with all three of the ‘70s-inspired characters in the video representing a different part of his own personality. “All three characters are me”. he explains. “If I wanna wear makeup or a dress, I’m gonna do it. I don’t care what you think. If I want to wear a leather jacket with my twists out, I’m gonna do it. If I wanna comb my afro out and it looks crazy, I’m gonna do that.” The freedom of this attitude is palpable when Tamaraebi talks about his art. By pushing back against the ‘pick a lane’ attitude of the music industry, he puts across an authentic image of himself.

With such a strong sense of creative freedom, it might come as a surprise to learn that Tamaraebi almost went down a very different route with his degree in law. So when did a law degree turn into a career in music? Looking back on his education, he understands why his parents pushed him to study, but he knew it wasn’t for him. “I always knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to do law”, he says. “It wasn’t really a jump in my head because I was planning it mentally for the longest time. So the minute I had the opportunity I was out”. Still, it’s a good background to have in an industry that’s notoriously full of sharks, he’s the guy you want to have around when you’re trying to decode a contract: “I actually understand this stuff! Reading a contract is just like reading an article, it doesn’t faze me, I’m trained in that. When my friends who aren’t legally trained are stressed out I’m just like, ‘bro let’s just read it’. I’m really grateful for my legal education because I’m not so nervous when it comes to dealing with corporations”.

With the attention from critics that he’s received, it’s no surprise that comparisons were quick to come rolling in. Being compared to such massive names might have got on his nerves at one point, but not anymore: “Three years ago if anyone had compared me to Prince or The Weeknd I would have said ‘no, I’m so different to them. Why do they keep comparing me to these people?’ But now I get it. Everyone needs a point of reference for something new, something to compare it to. The Weeknd is sick, Prince is my dad, in my head. Getting compared to these geniuses for me is a compliment, I love it”.

In reality, his inspirations aren’t so obvious. “This is going to be mad embarrassing”, he admits when Gigwise asks about who has influenced him, “but you know the pop era in the ‘00s like Take That? I feel like I wanted to have that kind of vibe in my songs – feel-good and sad, and also musical and easy to sing along to; striking and iconic visuals”

Getting out on the road is his next big goal, and we can hope to hear Tamaraebi play his music everywhere from L.A. to Morocco. “I met some people from Morocco a few weeks ago and they knew about my music! So, I’ve got a plug to go to Morocco!” he laughs. He’s looking forward to letting loose and showing off his new self-acceptance: “now I’m owning every part of my vocal range. On ‘Brown Angel’, towards the end, I do some really big gospel, soulful type screams and wails and I think people will enjoy that in real life”. 

It's not easy to portray yourself with nuance on a six-song EP, but Spectrum represents Tamaraebi on a deep level. Taking different aspects of his sense of self, as well as decades of musical influences, he creates an intricate exploration of himself, while always staying true to that central source of light that creates the spectrum of colour.

Spectrum EP is out now.

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Photo: Jake Owens