TIMA GETS HER GROOVE BACK
I’M sitting in a recording studio in Bryanston with Tima Reece next to me. It’s a vast, elegant studio with walls adorned with images of music legends such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Bob Marley.
Despite a nine-year hiatus from pursuing her own ambitions of reaching similar heights, Reece is in high spirits, smiling as she reflects on her rollercoaster career that’s spawned both the euphoria of international acclaim and the dark trappings of record label failure.
It’s been 12 years since Reece emerged into the public spotlight with her debut album, My Body’s
Crying. Just before the album’s release, the New York-based record company that had scouted and signed her was liquidated. As a fresh-faced 19-year-old at the time, the ordeal ate at her and she quickly fell into a deep depression.
“I didn’t have anyone to coach or mentor me through that very dark time,” she explains. “It seemed like all my dreams, my hopes, my vision and everything that we were working towards had just fizzled out.”
During this period she met and fell in love with Kurt Herman, who was at the time the lead singer of pop group 101. The two are now married with two young sons and Reece credits him for pushing her to make a comeback. “He was actually the one who said, ‘I’m not gonna give up on you and allow you to give up on your gift. There’s no way we’re going to do that.”
Even with her solo music career on hold, Reece continued to be involved in the music business. Together with her husband, she’s been running a company called BluBerry Entertainment where she does work as a vocalist and vocal coach for a range of clients including Idols SA and The Voice. But even this didn’t quite fill the void of such a sudden end to her career. “Towards the end of last year, I had a look at my kids and realised that they are gonna one day ask me, ‘Why didn’t you try again?’ And I’m not gonna have an excuse,” she explains. “I didn’t want my kids to look back and go, ‘Well, mom, you didn’t bother trying so why must we reach for our dreams or go for our potential?” That was the wake-up call she needed.
She recalls an incident two years ago when, while driving to church, Eddie Zondi played her song on the radio and called out to her to produce new music. She intended to call him, but when she got to church, she completely forgot. He died two weeks later.
“I felt so guilty about it. I should have phoned him. And it’s not that I blame myself, but I just felt that here was someone who, over the last nine years of my career, still played my music. You
Should Know was on Metro FM every Sunday without fail. I felt like I kind of owed it to him to do something even if it was gonna be just one song.”
Her comeback album, 9, which was released earlier in the month, was named as such to commemorate her return after nine years out of the game. The first song she worked on is called
Starlight and it’s dedicated to Zondi. “That song just talks about never ending up with that one person. You just long for them and you miss them, and I thought it’s so appropriate for Eddie because he’s not here anymore, but the music and his legacy will always go on.”
She also has a beautiful song that she wrote for her kids, called Be Right Here. Much of the music on the album explores relationship dynamics and the resurrection of hope. Sinking Ships, the final song on the album, is an ode to her fans for their ceaseless support.
Getting back into her groove as an R&B artist after nearly a decade as a church worship leader was one of her biggest challenges. “Singing was never difficult, but when you sing a lot covers you tend to lose you originality and your voice… so when it was time to record my own stuff he (her husband) would scream at me like, ‘No, you’re not singing in church, stop singing like a church singer.’ ”
She found herself crying in studio as she struggled through the process. But her husband was her rock. “He is everything. I’m the songwriter and the singer, he’s the producer, the executive producer, he’s my video director, he’s my mix and master engineer, he makes the final decision and he’s my manager. I could never have done this without him.”
In finding her sound again, she had to be very careful to maintain her originality, while remaining relevant. Her producers (Llewellyn George and her husband, Kurt Herman) played an important role in her finding a balance between pop and R&B without straying too far off her original sound.
“They were saying to me, ‘We know your sound, we know what you need to do to develop that sound and write your music according to that sound.”
The album’s first single, also called 9, has a newly-released video that features Reece dancing and rapping over several dynamic backgrounds. It represents Reece’s very first music video and a coming out of sorts.
This is her coronation. Finally.
Despite a nine-year hiatus from pursuing her own ambitions, Tima Reece is in high spirits, smiling as she reflects on her rollercoaster career and the dark trappings of record label failure.