By Kehinde Ajose
Oluwas Seyi Deborah Joshua known as Seyi Shay in the music terrain left a promising Sony Music deal in order to conquer new territories in the world starting from Nigeria. Born and raised by Nigerian parents in London UK , Seyi began performing at the age of six. Known for her amazingly vocal strength and stage craft, she has shared the stage with some of Nigeria’s biggest music stars as well as international acts like Rick Ross , Chris Brown. e.t.c.
Her latest single, ‘Chairman’ featuring Kcee had over seven hundred thousand downloads on one platform in over a week. The stylish songstress who was formerly a member of the girl group ‘From Above’ that toured with Beyonce in 2009/2010, speaks on how she’s married to her music, why she left Flytime Music, what her greatest fear is, and why she doesn’t read comments on blogs.
How did music begin for you?
My interest in music started from my very young age. I remember being five years old living in a house full of different musical influences. My mum was a chorister in choir , my brother was a radio and club DJ, my sister use to compose songs for TV.I remember my interest in music started growing from there .I was in my secondary school choir, and a community choir outside of school.
My choir went to Japan at a time, and I was the youngest member . I was given the opportunity to perform as the lead vocalist .The response from the choir in Japan was so high that i said ‘If it‘s like this now, imagine what it can be in the future’. So I decided to come back to London and tell my mum about my interest in music.
She supported me but she wanted me to finish school .I continued my education but I studied music at A levels college . I went to the university where I studied music business management .So it’s always been music for me really. I understand the business side of music too, so I can
read through my own contracts, do my own deals, and know what is good for me and what is bad for me.
How has your music business knowledge helped you in your music career?
Fast forward some years later am in Nigeria now, am not signed to any record label, am not part of any camp or any team . I do have my own team, a team I employed .I carefully selected the people that I wanted to manage me, I checked out their credentials and what they do. I selected my own road manager, manager, my own producers, my own PR .I told them what I wanted i.e. website, branding, logos, the kind of PR I wanted and they went out and they sourced everything .That kind of decision can only come from a knowledge of what it takes in the music industry to become a brand or a success.
Why did you leave Flytime Music?
In the beginning I was with Flytime as an independent artiste that Flytime will be promoting, because Flytime promotes that is what they do. So I joined them with the intention of being promoted by them solely, but I was still in control of sourcing my own management, my own production, sourcing my own PR and so on and so forth. They did a really great job of putting me on different platforms and shows.
The reason our working relationship ended is because I did not have the team that I have now, then. That is my road management, my management, my team , my engine .I didn’t have that. So I spoke to Flytime this is what I need, this is what I want, that I would like to be my own brand, .So how do you feel about that? And they said:’ Fine we will still support you, we will still promote you, we will still go out and source things for you .
If you want to do things your own way, you are free to do that.’ It’s not that we don’t have a relationship any more; we still do .But we don’t work together as
record company and artiste. I think that is the general misconception people didn’t actually understand.
So what defines your style of music?
I don’t like to pigeonhole myself .I don’t like to say that this is the kind of demographic I belong to, I don’t like to give my age either, because of prejudice. And the same thing applies to music, I don’t like to say am R n b , am soul, of course by nature I am a soulful artiste in person. The music that comes out of me , comes out of my camp is mainly whatever it is that is inspiring us at that present time.’
Chairman ‘ featuring Kcee which is one of my latest singles was inspired by the fact that Kcee was in the studio and my producer Del B had already composed the music, and it sounded like what a Kcee or a flavour could have flowed on. So we were inspired by that .We said we need one of this tracks .So I jumped on the mic and I just started singing, and then Kcee jumped on the mic and he did his thing that was after asking him to join me.
That’s how that came about. ’Irawo ‘ was inspired by a particular mood I was in at a time. I felt that at that time everybody needed to be encouraged , just to let everybody know that there is enough space in the sky for all of these stars that we see .In our industry, if you are a star, and I am star let us just shine together and shine bright .So there are different inspirations.
‘Killing me softly’ was written and produced by Del B.As soon as he played it to me, I knew that it was something that I needed to have. He played it to me and said this is what I made do you like it? and I said yes. I have always been interested in Timaya, he is the king of the dance floor. Just like everybody else in Nigeria will agree that he can make you dance.
Because ‘Killing me softly’ is a mid tempo song, I wanted it to have some ginger and at that time Del B played me something that he and Timaya had done, and I asked him if he could get Timaya to come on my own song and he said yes .I remember asking and begging for a few weeks he complied. Eventually he came to the studio and I trapped him. I took his car keys and told him :’You are not leaving the studio until you do my song’ and he did it because he wanted to go home . He got on the mic and did his freestyle .That is how ‘Killing me softly’ came about.
Why did you relocate to Nigeria?
I moved to Nigeria because the time I had spent with my former girl group” From Above” that was managed by Matthew Knowles Beyonce’s dad had come to an end. We amicably broke up. Some of the girls didn’t want to be in the group anymore .I was the only one that really wanted to do the music. Sound Sultan was in London that year, he heard some of my demos and said:’ You are really good why don’t you come and try this out in Nigeria” .
I had an opportunity to go to the New York that year and continued being managed by Matthew Knowles and sign a record deal with Sony, but after like a week of fasting and prayer the answer was so clear because just after that, Flytime Music called and said:” Sound Sultan has spoke highly of you, this is what we would like to do with you. Why not try and break into the rest of the world from Africa?, and do something different”. I am a believer in evolution, revolution, and change. I like to set trends. I said lord! after the fasting and prayer and I got a call from Flytime Music , it’s not a coincidence.
How has it been penetrating the music industry in Nigeria?
It’s not easy because there are so many female artistes and female artistes really don’t have that recognition , that power that male artiste do yet .But hopefully, it will change soon. It’s not been easy but thank God I have been blessed enough to bring something a bit different to the table which is my performances on stage. It’s been bumpy, I have had to do so many shows for free, had to fight for my voice to be heard .People think I just came and just started doing this. It’s because I am a proactive person .I get up and do what I have to do.
With the influx of female artistes in Nigeria, what stands you out?
I don’t know if I can answer that question .I think the public are the only ones that can answer that question .I am a female and I sing and perform and I record and write songs, My intention is to go into the world prosper and multiply the music and all kinds of entertainment related things. What sets me apart from the other females?
I don’t know if it will be fair for me to say, because I don’t know what the other females are like really. Musically, I feel like I always try and go into different sounds and styles of music, because I think that most females just stick to that one sound that they know is good for them. For me, I do different types of music .At the moment, Nigeria has only heard the afro-pop of me, but very soon they will hear the western , R n B, soul contemporary work part of me to .Because that is really where I come from
Whose advice has been instrumental to your career?
First of all, my mum before she died she said don’t let any man stop you or hold you back from your dreams. And by ‘Man’ she meant Men .Matthew Knowles, my former manager, he used to say things like: ’Practice makes permanent’ and he used to put us through extensive training –dancing, choreography, vocal classes and so on and so forth. He taught me the importance of tenacity , and faking it until you make it .
If it hurts just keep going until you’ve arrived .Sound Sultan taught me and told me to make sure I know and identify who my real family are in the industry. That way you will never get lost. He always tells me that I need to always remember God and pay my tithe and also sing from my heart not what everybody else is singing so that I will be a seasoned long standing artiste not just come and go.
What was your growing up like and how has it helped to shape your music career?
I grew up with two elder brothers and one older sister .I am the youngest and by the time I was born , my mother raised us as a single parent .My dad was back in Nigeria, she worked two three jobs, at the same time in the U.K to make sure she could provide everything I needed .Very much grounded in the church, I had everything I needed and had a lot of love around me .But I felt like a single child a lot because I happen to be the last born and between myself and my brother before me were nine years so I felt like a single child a lot.
But thank God for my mum she is strong and hardworking .She exercised tenacity .The way I was raised with a single mother that worked so well and worked so hard helped me to understand how important it is to work well not just hard but work well. For the fact that she ran a good race, it inspires me to run the good race too. I am clearly somebody that works very hard, that comes from my mum and it helped me to be grounded because I wasn’t born into a wealthy home .I was born into a humble modest home. No matter how many people know my name or know my song, I am just an ordinary girl trying to reach out to every other ordinary girl.
What are your favorite qualities in a man?
He has to be funny, he has to be handsome, and he has to be intelligent.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I haven’t achieved my greatest yet, but so far I have done some pretty amazing things like I have toured with Beyonce in 2009/2010 in her ‘I am” tour, I have won some pretty cool awards so far, City people, Next rated Silverbird awards, I have performed on the Big Brother Africa stage in front of over hundreds of thousands of people across Africa and the world. I have shared the stage with some of the world’s biggest superstars and am in my middle twenties and I can say that. I am a Nigerian black girl like how many of us can really say that? I have done some pretty cool things but God has done some pretty cool things for me.
What is that one thing people hardly know about you?
People don’t really know that I am still finding myself not only as a girl, but as an artiste. I think that am leaving this experience with my fans and they are helping me identify who I really am. Sometimes we have to look in the eyes of others, to see our own reflection. I feel that that is what is happening with me right now. I am looking at the eyes of my fans, I am reading their comments, their appraisals, their critique and am taking it onboard .It’s a great time to be alive, and it’s a great time to have so many people appreciate what you do.
For example my song ‘Chairman’ featuring Kcee has reached 700,00 downloads on one platform in over a week .I feel like people are listening now and so the people that downloaded the song are showing some interest whether it’s in me, the song, Kcee, whatever .The fact is they have shown an interest so my duty is to become bigger. So people don’t know that about me that I haven’t really found myself. Also people don’t know that I will choose Amala and Ewedu ,Gbegiri and Fresh fish over any food on this planet. They also don’t know that I crave to be in love with someone. That’s it.
How do you handle stardom?
It’s pretty cool, fine. Like I will go into Shoprite or Ikeja shopping mall and hear my song playing and some people look at me , some people come up to me saying :’Can I have a picture?’I like it am enjoying it.
How about the downside of stardom?
I don’t pay attention to negativity. I don’t read comments on blogs .I only read the comments of my fans on Twitter, Instargram because they are the ones that are important to me. I read the blogs but I don’t read the comments on the blogs. They can be very negative at times; in order to prevent yourself from being hurt you just avoid that. There hasn’t been much negative stories written about me basically and that’s just God’s grace. I try to behave myself as much as I could.
What do you consider your greatest fear?
My greatest fear would be the feeling of not wanting to do music anymore.Are you in a relationship?
I am not in a relationship at the moment. Marriage for me is definitely in the plan. It’s in my three years plan. So between now and the next three years I hope to get married. At the moment, I am married to my team-J management and married to music basically.