CJ Temple, known on TikTok as @caytemps, became famous for her voice — her mid-Atlantic accent, that is, which went viral on TikTok and, along with her other content, garnered her over a million followers in just over a year. Now, Temple is returning to a childhood passion: music and songwriting. Her debut single “This Game” is available everywhere October 29, but you can hear it exclusively on INTO at the end of this interview.
INTO sat down with Temple to talk about overcoming imposter syndrome, coming out in your 30s, and living in a school bus.
INTO: How would you describe your musical style?
CJ TEMPLE: Oh goodness, this is a question I’ve always had trouble with, because I get my influences from such a hodgepodge of stuff that I kind of just pick little things from everything. But the way I like to describe it is rainy day music. Also, I came up with this phrase, ethereal bedroom pop, which I feel is some of my stuff. I guess if you have to put it into a genre … pop of some kind?
INTO: I love pop of some kind! Who needs just one genre anyway?
TEMPLE: I never really felt like I fit into anything, even when I was writing as a teenager. I really love the folk genre and I wanted to be a part of that, but when I started writing, it came out … not that. And it’s evolved a lot since then.
INTO: Gotcha. So, obviously music is a big part of what you do, but you first rose to popularity on TikTok not because of your music, but because of your personality and your comedy, right?
TEMPLE: Yes, absolutely. I initially started on TikTok as just a viewer. And then in January of 2020, I was just like, “You know what, why not? It’ll be fun. It’s a way to blow off steam, express myself.”
Somewhere along the way, I brought out this mid-Atlantic accent that I can do. It’s like the old 1930s, 1940s Hollywood accent. I did a couple of videos like that and people wanted more of it. And it just — it blew me up. I had people from everywhere, and I did not know what to do with it. I was so confused and surprised. But through that, through TikTok and performing again — long story short, I’d stopped performing a long time ago. Then I started singing a little bit more and realized, “Oh my god, I have to do this again! I have to get back into this, I have to try.” So getting back into performing on TikTok really empowered me to start getting back into my music again.
INTO: What was it like the first time that you posted original music to your TikTok? Were you scared? I’d be scared.
TEMPLE: Yes, I was terrified! I was terrified. The last time I shared any music of mine was probably almost 10 years ago, but the last time I had performed an original was never. So I was really scared. But it got good reception. People were very kind; they asked me to sing more and I was like, “Okay!” But I have massive imposter syndrome. It was just hard for me to get it going after so long being away from a stage.
INTO: I’m glad that you’re feeling more confident these days! Where are you based right now?
TEMPLE: Actually, right now I’m building a skoolie! I bought a school bus in May, and I’m turning it into my little house on wheels, and I’m actually just going to go wherever I want.
INTO: Oh, that’s amazing.
TEMPLE: Yeah, I’m gonna go wherever the wind takes me and wherever the music takes me. I would love to be able to tour around with it, play shows — I’d have to get a band — but play shows and meet these people who have supported me and thank them in person.
INTO: I love that: life on the road! Okay, let’s dive into your debut single, “This Game.” What was the inspiration for the song?
TEMPLE: I write songs about and to myself as a way to confront things that I’ve done in the past, ways that I treated people, just to make myself aware that I’m capable of that, and to remind myself not to be that person anymore.
“This Game,” I wrote from the perspective of an ex of mine. Singing the song, I’m talking to myself. It’s about being in a relationship with someone, knowing that it’s over, but staying because you don’t want to be alone, and that’s what I did. This is a way for me to confront that and say, “That is possibly how that person felt when you did that. How would you feel if that happened to you?”
INTO: That’s a really interesting songwriting style! I don’t know that I’ve heard of that before, but it makes sense.
TEMPLE: Yeah, it’s different!
INTO: And of course, this is the first single from your upcoming album, “Smoke.” What can we expect from the album as a whole?
TEMPLE: The album is … how do I put this? I don’t want to say it’s a chill album, because it’s very emotionally involved. It’s about real life, it’s about depression, it’s about getting out of depression, it’s about heartbreak, it’s about hurting people, it’s about confronting yourself. So in terms of message, you can expect to learn a whole lot about me. But in terms of music, you can expect to want to cry.
INTO: Sounds good! I’ll make sure I get dumped before I listen to it.
TEMPLE: You don’t even have to get dumped. There’s so much in it.
INTO: The album will just dump me; it’ll be great.
TEMPLE: [laughing] Yeah!
INTO: I’m also curious about how you see your queerness coming through in your music.
TEMPLE: It’s actually really crazy — I didn’t come out until last year. All of the songs that I have written, I wrote when I was very, very deep in the closet. But I think that going back through them and being able to revamp these demos that I had and put me into them, I think that it helped me be more authentically myself when I created these songs. It imbued the entire thing with my truth of who I am. And that won’t be apparent to everyone. That won’t be something that everyone just picks up on immediately. But I think if they heard me say that and they heard the music, they would understand me a little bit better.
INTO: I think it’s a beautiful way to look at it.
TEMPLE: I’m still getting used to everything. I think a lot of people don’t really understand how it might be for people who come out later in life, who don’t even really realize it until they’re older.
I’m 34. I was 33 when I came out as a lesbian. I said I was bisexual for a long time, but I was terrified of that side of me, for reasons growing up. But as I learned more about myself and explored more about myself, I just realized that it’s always been present, I’ve always been this person, and getting used to the label of it is just strange right now. I’m going to continue to grow and learn and get more comfortable with my identity. It’s just, after 33 years, you need a little bit of time.
INTO: Definitely. And what does the future look like for you?
TEMPLE: The plan, really, is to just keep making music, putting out music, see what happens after this album. I have zero expectations, but I’m just excited. I’m gonna keep doing what I love to do, making music and sharing it.
INTO: And doing it all from a school bus!
Listen to “This Game” exclusively below, and stream it everywhere October 29. Pre-save here. The full album “Smoke” will be released in early 2022.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.