SINGAPORE: After selling more than 30 million records worldwide, acclaimed British singer Seal is releasing a new album of jazz standards.
The album, simply titled Standards, is released on Nov 10 and will bring to life classics such as Frank Sinatra’s Luck Be A Lady, Charlie Chaplin's Smile and Nina Simone’s I Put A Spell On You.
While hits like Crazy and Kiss from A Rose are synonymous with the singer, who has been in the business for almost 30 years, Standards is his take on jazz.
“I was given a wonderful opportunity by the people at Decca to record an album full of great songs. I just love great songs and it just so happens a lot of those great songs were done in jazz,” he told Channel NewsAsia, while in Singapore for his Grand Prix concert.
The new album sees Seal working with legendary musicians such as pianist Randy Waldman and bass player Chuck Berghofer, who have performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He also collaborated with renowned producers, including Grammy-nominated Nick Patrick who has worked with Tina Turner and Marvin Gaye.
Seal said the experience of working on that album was something he truly loved.
“Someone asked me the other day - do I hope that this album has the same success as the Soul album? And it was an interesting question because my immediate response was: 'It has already been one of my most successful albums',” he said.
“Because success is measured in the process, the time that I had in making this record. Commercial success, that’s another thing entirely. I have no control over that. Whatever will be, will be. But the thing I’m more interested in is the process of making the record, the time that I had the experience.”
“(They include) the challenges that comes with singing those songs, because they are quite difficult to sing,” he added. “They’re beautiful songs written for the voice. But because they are so focused on the voice and everything rests on the voice - it’s not about production - so the focus is on you. If there any imperfections, or if you are not telling the story properly, or if you are not conveying the narrative, then it doesn’t work.
“So the challenge of trying to get myself into position and in shape to sing those kind of songs, that’s the process that I love so much.”
“I NEVER REALLY THINK OF AWARDS”
On moving away from his usual repertoire of pop and rhythm and blues, Seal said he doesn’t define himself by singing in only one particular genre.
“From the day I started, my reason for making music hasn’t changed in the last 28 years,” he said. “There are two things I care most about in music: The song and the voice. And if you push me, it’s really the song that I am most respectful of - and that hasn’t changed.
“I don’t consider myself an R&B or pop singer or a dance music singer. I am a singer.”
The 54-year-old also has a string of accolades to his name. He won best British Male in 1992 at the Brit Awards, as well as four Grammy awards. In addition, he received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for Killer in 1990 and Crazy in 1991.
When asked which award he’d like to get next, the singer got philosophical.
“I think it’s always important to have dreams and goals, but more accolades - well that's interesting,” he said. “Accolades are like an award or being recognised for an award. I never really think of awards. I guess making this Standards album was like an accolade. To be able to just do the album - to me that’s an accolade.”
Going beyond the stage and the studio, Seal was the winning coach for the first two seasons of Voice Australia. He said the experience of coaching was something he really enjoyed.
“I was able to mentor these great young singers who were trying to get somewhere and I was able to learn from them and share some of my experience and help them circumnavigate and help them get to their dream.
“It was great, it was very fulfilling. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I love coaching.”
“DON’T BE SAFE”
He said that aspiring singers need to be single-minded in their music career to really get far.
“What advice would I give them? The first thing I said to them (the singers at Voice Australia) was I asked them why they were doing it. And they gave me varying answers. Some said I was doing this and it didn’t work out, but two people gave me the answer I was looking for: There can be nothing else.
“If you are looking to just have a hit, or to be famous, well anyone can do that, especially today - that’s not difficult at all. You tell enough people enough nonsense, then you’ll be famous, but if you are looking to have a career and if music is your life then my advice is - there can be nothing else.
“You have to be single minded in your pursuit of that. Be open, open to collaboration, open to learning, open to taking chances. Don’t be safe.”
And what would Seal be if he weren’t a singer?
“Probably a doctor,” he mused. “I have a propensity towards medicine; I admire doctors but if I wasn’t a singer, I don’t know - because I can’t imagine being anything than what I do.
“I love it so much, it’s so much a part of me. It’s not even a choice.”
Watch the full interview here: