In a bit of a work slump right now? Welcome to #PlayTime, Grazia Daily's new music feature. From just-dropped music premieres to cool covers and throwback classics, its the new soundtrack to your afternoon.
Born of one half Swedish, one half Gambian parents and now residing in Sweden, singer Seinabo Sey has been making some serious waves on both sides of the ocean with her first official release 'Younger'. Since graduating from one of Sweden's many equivalents of the UK's BRIT school, Seinabo has been putting in a hearty chunk of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours and, having recently signed to Virgin EMI, clearly reaping the rewards.
Having included the 23-year-old in our round up of the best rising female stars to check out at festivals this summer, when Seinabo Sey took to the stage at London's Notting Hill Arts club for her first headline show following a performance at Latitude last week, Grazia Daily just had to be in the audience. We caught up with her to to talk the all consuming importance of honesty, bridging the gap between human beings and her style icon, the effortlessly cool Erykah Badu.
Tell us a bit about you for those who don’t know…
I’m 23-years-old and I’ve gone to music school and been in the music industry for a little while now. [I’ve been] touring with Swedish artists and stuff like that and I just released my debut single in Sweden last year.
Your father was a legendary Gambian musician – how much of a role did that play in you getting into music?
Oh, everything. I mean I wouldn’t be a singer or anything like that without that influence in my life. Both my parents always played music around the house, it was always there as the entertainment and the bright and fun side of life.
Was there a turning point where you realized music is what you wanted to do professionally?
I’ve always been kind of one track minded… I’m not good at anything else and I never wanted to be good at anything else; this is what I know how to do. I moved out of the house when I was 15 and I stopped school at 18 so I was like ‘okay we need to maybe make a living here... how are we going to do that?’ This is my best shot at that.
That’s a pretty brave move!
I have a hard time seeing it that way. A lot of choices that I’ve made kind of felt like I didn’t have a choice. It all just felt natural to do but looking at it in retrospect I guess it was a bit crazy…
Your lyrics are stunning – can you tell us a bit about your writing process and what kinds of things inspire you?
I collect words a lot. I write down things a lot and I love writing down phrases that people say or words that sound good. I love when people say things that sum up a feeling, a sentence that really sums up a very complex feeling... I try to always find those sentences.
Your writing is very personal, we love that.
Thank you. It has to be hard for me to sing it. It has to be physically hard... I have to kind of get down to the real core of what I’m trying to say and what is actually hurting or what is actually making me happy.
Is there anything you feel too personal or is that kind of the whole point?
That’s the whole point. Music is where I want to push myself the furthest, the hardest, communication wise and technique wise. I’m trying to cut all the crap and just go to the essence of what I mean and what is important and what I believe people really feel. I just want to find the common ground with people. I just think we’re all kind of scared of the same things and we all kind of want the same things. That’s what I’m trying to talk about in my music.
If people could take one message or feeling away from your music, what would you want it to be?
Definitely to not be so hard on yourself and that you’re not alone. I mean that’s really the most important thing to feel, I think. Times are tough or whatever and you just have to really understand that there are probably a million people feeling the same thing and we should all help each other.
You mentioned you went to music school when you were younger. What’s the most important thing you learnt there?
Some singing techniques... not that much though because I really believe... I think it was Amy Winehouse that said singing technique is mostly in your brain, it’s just mental.
So you think it’s something you’re either born with or not?
It is talent but also super duper hard work. I just really started to realize that there’s nothing I can’t do, I just have to train. Like an athlete you have to really rehearse and you have to keep on rehearsing. There are techniques to everything, it’s all like muscle and breathing. A lot of it is talent and a lot of it is what you think you can do.
If there were one song ever created you wished you had sung which would it be?
‘Ex-Factor’ by Lauryn Hill.
Who’s your favourite designer at the moment?
I absolutely can’t afford it but I just looked at the latest Balmain collection. Those jackets… I cannot live. I’ve seen them and now my life is over.
Who’s your style icon?
Right now Erykah Badu is just killing it. And I think Lauryn Hill is wicked as well. I don’t love their style 10 years ago but now when they’re a bit older they’ve got wicked styles. Erykah Badu is always just the coolest person on earth.
Like what you hear? Follow her @seinabosey