The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SHINGAI DARANGWA

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.

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