31 July 2010 (released)
31 July 2010
Behind the eyes of this young woman called Selah, there is a great determination to make music her living. Her phenomenal talent is undisputed as soon as she stands on the stage and the music is turned on. It’s all about the voice, and in the era of autotune, miming, Britneys and so on, it’s rare when you come up with a pure, clean and poweful voice like hers. She is only 21 years old, but she has many years of experience, and now is her moment.
Her journey to success started aged 10, when she appeared live on GMTV singing the lead vocals with her church choir. One year later, Selah was one of the youngest entrants in the National Voice of 99 talent show, where she came second. Since, she provided backing vocals for Ms Dynamite at the Brit Awards and was spotted by Lemar, for whom she performed at the BBC Maida Vale studios. The chart topper said Selah was “a star in the making”, and he was right.
From singing in her room in her humble Brixton beginnings, Selah has come far to perform on the same stage as some of the UK’s greatest talents. Working with Akala on his debut album, supporting the likes of Missy Elliot and lending her vocals to Ms Dynamite’s 2006 album have provided great experience for her.
What is your first memory of being inspired by music? Did your family support help you?
Probably being 6 years old and belting out ‘I Want you Back’ by the Jackson 5 in my kitchen! I remember watching video footage of them performing and thinking it would be fun to be where they are. My family's support definitely helped push me forward. They bragged to everyone about how great I sang! My mum automatically started putting me in after school performing arts clubs, music workshops and talent shows. She really wanted to nurture the talent she felt I had.
Was this your dream?
Initially it was just a past time. I sang because I had the voice to and I enjoyed it. But I became more sure of what I wanted as I got older and accomplished more musically. I realised that performing was something I'd want to spend my life doing.
From a young age you were part of important music events such as the GMTV, the voice of 99 and even singing the backing vocals for Ms Dynamite at the Brit Awards. What did you learn of all these experiences?
The main thing for me was the experience. It was an eye opener into the industry that I wanted to go into. Performing to audiences, appearing on tv I found really insightful in the long run.
Lemar is somehow your musical mentor. How did he reach you? He referred to you as a star, how does that feel?
It was a great feeling to be labeled a star by Lemar. He got hold of me through a Podcast which was put together for Ras Kwame's Homegrown show on 1Xtra. He had chosen four unsigned acts who he felt were ones to look out for in the future and I was fortunate enough to be one of the four. It was a lot of fun meeting the other artists and getting to spend the day with a major act.
You have also worked with Akala, Missy Elliot and Ms Dynamite. What kind of experience does that give you?
Working with Ms Dynamite was a good experience because it was nice to see how an established artist works. Her and Akala are two very talented and hard working artists so it was a pleasure to be given that opportunity. A lot of people seem to think that I've worked with Missy Elliot, but that's not the case. I opened up at her Bournemouth concert with Ms Dynamite & Akala, that's it. I'd like to, but that chance hasn't cropped up yet.
Up until now, what has been the greatest moment of your music career?
I've had quite a few memorable experiences, but one of my favourites was opening up at Missy Elliot's concert. The night on a whole was something to remember. It was one of the largest audiences I'd performed to, the crowd were screaming and very involved and we stayed in a suite at a nearby hotel. One thing I really can't forget was being at the after party and having Missy Elliot fans wanting to take pictures with us. It was the first time I'd encountered what being a star was like. It's an amazing feeling having people recognise and appreciate your work.
What did you feel when your single Because of You became single of the week on Sara Cox’s show?
I was extremely excited. The song had received such great reviews and so much support. Radio 1 is open to a vast audience, so to know my voice was being heard all over the UK was overwhelming. Especially being that Because of You was such a popular song.
When did you realize you could actually do this as a career?
When I was about 11, after performing in The Voice of '99 Talent Show. I'd put my all into that performance. I had backing singers and dancers, everyone had matching outfits. And we put on a really impressive performance. My set was very co-ordinated and I actually felt like it was my own mini concert. After that, I just wanted to make it a reality.
When is your debut album due? How does it feel to be recording an album with producers such as Chris Braide or Davinche?
There's no official release date on the album yet, but during this process I've been working with a lot of incredible producers. I've loved every second of it. Honestly, sometimes it was a little hard working with different producers everyday, because you don't always get a vibe with each one straight away but it definitely opens your eyes to how others work, that way you learn what you do and don't like.
What do you like to express with your music?
A lot of my songs are about love and heartbreak, they generally center around relationships and my own experiences. I like to be honest and speak from the heart, because I can relate to them better, but I do like to include a sense of empowerment. I think showing a stronger side is very attractive and inspiring.
Who is your main influence in music? And your favourite artists?
My main influence is Beyonce, for obvious reasons. She's a fantastic performer, vocalist and song writer. I admire all that she's achieved and would like to accomplish the same and more. Other artists I love and respect would be Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. They're all such unique talents and all in a league of their own, really.
Many critics have said you are the young Mary J Blige, which is a vast compliment. Do you consider yourself musically similar to her?
She's definitely someone who's music has influenced me growing up, but I'd say we are quite different.
What has been the hardest part in getting your music out there?
The hardest part is having so many other people striving for the same position as me. There's hundreds of other singers out there trying to be heard and because there isn't a large R&B scene over here, it really is a 'every man for themselves situation’. I guess with the right work, ethic and support around me, it will help to propel me in the right direction which got me the recognition I'd wanted.
How would you classify - if you can - your music?
It's commercial R&B. I'm a massive hip-hop fan, so I like to incorporate that as well. I do like to experiment with other sounds and genres as well, but without it sounding messy or lost. I'm an R&B artist first and foremost, and I like that to be apparent.
What's the best piece of advice you have received?
Good artists practice until they get it right, but great artists practice until they can't get it wrong.
Where do you expect to be in two or three years?
I'd like to have a solidified position in the music industry. To be recognised as a well respected artist. More than anything, I'd really like to achieve a platinum selling album, a few number 1's and Grammy awards. Once I've achieved those 3 things, I feel I'll be in a perfect position to continue moving forward and progressing to be one of the greatest.
What are your future plans?
I'm planning to be performing up and down the country. I'm still recording my album, so I'm mainly concentrating on building up the material for now.
Where can we buy your music?
I have 2 EPs already released called 'Growing Pains Vol. 1' & 'Growing Pains Vol. 2' which you can find on iTunes and on other digital stores. Woman’s World is out Monday the 2nd of August.