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Seinabo Sey Sees The Colour Red

Upcoming Swedish singing sensation Seinabo Sey has set the internet alight with two incredible tracks produced by Magnus Lidehall (also known for his amazing Mapei work). The day after an incredible London live debut, we caught up with her to talk her collab with Magnus, songwriting and her ballsy ambitions for the future. Let’s first remind ourselves of the brilliant ‘Hard Time’, then chat to the lady herself.

Seinabo Sey – Hard Time

Notion: So, what is Seinabo Sey all about?

Seinabo Sey: Good question, I don’t know. I mean I’m a singer, I love to sing. I’m bad at answering that question. My main focus is to sing as well as I can and to convey some kind of message in every song that I have. That is probably my main focus.

N: So what’s your story then? Tell me everything.

S: I grew up in Stockholm. I was born there and then grew up Gambia as well as a very small town on the west coast of Sweden. I’ve sung all my life. My dad was a musician so I grew up listening to music and not really saying that much. But I was always around music and musical school and stuff like that. Music has always been a part of my life, the most above anything else.

N: When did you start treating music professionally? When did you think, I’m going to have a go at this?

S: I just feel very bad with that whole mindset, I still am. Music and singing and writing has always been a part of my life. I guess I was 18. I moved out of my mum’s house when I was 15 and at 18 I stopped school so I didn’t get any money anymore so thought I need to try to make a living and the only thing that I’m good, fairly good at, is this so I’ll try it out.

N: So take me back to that moment when you wrote the songs that we all know, ‘Hard Time’ and ‘Younger’. Tell me about each of them – what was going on? Where were you? What are they about?

S: I remember, I have another a friend of mine who’s a singer and we were really frustrated and being like now we have to sit down and focus. Now we have to really write some songs. So we sat at a table and said every 30 minutes we have to have written one song. It can be crap but we have to have written one song. And ‘Younger’ was one of the songs I came up with then. That was really just about my initial career and I was a bit down I think. ‘Hard time’ I think I wrote around the same period, about two years ago or something like that, and it’s about a relationship I had had with a friend and what was going on, and we’d had arguments. We’d worked together as well. I took a bit of my frustration from that and exaggerated it quite a lot.

N: What kind of mood do you have to be in to write?

S: Well, it comes from all different places. You know like sensory deprivation, when you’re in the shower and when there’s a lot of sound. That helps a lot. It calms me down. Most times I need to be by myself but there’s no telling. I could be walking down the street and I just see a word.

N: So when did Magnus [Lidehall] come on board? Because there’s the incredible production of his on those two tracks. When did you start working with him?

S: Probably around the same time, 2 or 3 years ago. I remember with ‘Younger’ I got a lot of support from him. I was frustrated with myself because I hadn’t sat down and done anything with it. And I just thought I couldn’t let this chance go by, this guy is amazing. And if he’s taking the time to work with me at all, why am I not doing anything? That’s kind of the frustration that went into ‘Younger’. But I met him around 3 years ago. We’re definitely a collaboration, I could not do it without him.

N: Do you come with songs and then you talk through exactly where it’s going to go?

S: Most times it’s better if we work separately and then we get into the studio at the final stage. He doesn’t really care what I do and I don’t really care what he does. We’re both very strong willed and a bit arrogant. He thinks he’s right, I think I’m right. We’re like okay whatever, let’s just do whatever we want and it turns out quite good. But we don’t really jam things out. I don’t even really say what I’ve done, just like ‘record it’. Okay, good, great, thank-you.

N: Is the whole album collaboration with Magnus or are you working with other people?

S: No, just Magnus. We’re totally a duo. This is as much his music as it is mine.

N: What would be on the mood board for the album? Musical Inspirations? Colours? Clothes? Patterns? What comes together on this album?

S: I have this idea, I always see the colour red everywhere all the time so that’s the colour, I don’t know why. My only thing or motto that I have is that I can’t be scared. Like any influence that I hear, any genre or sound I like I have to give it a chance and not be like I can’t care less because it doesn’t sound like a certain particular genre. We don’t think that way. And really just in terms of the lyrics, I’m trying to get as many aspects of life in you know? And not write songs about the same thing. If I’m going to write a love song, it has to be a very well thought through one.

N: So do you look for an angle into an emotion or something like that or a type of song? So if you write a love song, what kind of angle would you go for?

S: I try to just be as true to myself as possible. I tend to, when it hurts, when I can barely sing the words because it’s too personal or too real or too much like the raw truth, that’s when I know I’m right. It has to be striking. It has to be hard. Some of the lyrics to some of the songs I’m like I can’t sing this, this is the truth to me, and I’m telling people about myself too much. I think that’s where the message really comes across. But it’s honest.

N: So what’s the ambition for this album? And not in the kind of, I want to release it and tour next year. What’s the balls-out ambitious dream for it?

S: I want to be 50 years old and put on that album and I want it to feel timeless and I want to be proud of what I wrote about. That’s my only goal. I want it to stand the test of time – for me mostly. I want to listen to it and be like I can remember my life now when I’m older. And I want to see a good body of work as well as good individual songs.

Keep an eye on Seinabo Sey  as one to watch for 2015.

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