Seal tackles the ’ 70s with a soul of the age, writes Cameron Adams
Q: When you toured Australia in 2009 you’d just become a dad again. A: Yes, little Lou. She’s two now. Q: You’ll be back again in February. Are you bringing the family? A: No, not this time, they’re at school. Q: You’re about to release a second Soul covers album, titled Soul II, where you reunite with producer Trevor Horn. A: That was the deciding factor for me. Plus there were a bunch of new fans, people who hadn’t heard my music or my voice before, teenagers. The songs on Soul they hadn’t heard before, they associated me with those songs. Of course, I didn’t write those songs. But because of the new fan base, I wanted to make another album for those people. What I didn’t want to do was just repeat the theme of the first Soul album, the classic American songbook R& B tunes. That’s when I called Trevor Horn. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows my voice or is as responsible for what is perceived as the Seal sound as Trevor Horn. He’s literally the DNA in my voice. Q: What’s your definition of soul? A: It’s a broad term but I think if you sing music that is emotionally connected to your soul, you’re a soul singer. Bob Dylan, to me, is one of the greatest soul singers. Everything he wrote came from his soul. He’s the quintessential soul singer, perhaps not an R& B singer but a soul singer nonetheless. Q: Soul was mainly ’ 60s songs, Soul II has a definite ’ 70s vibe, doesn’t it? A: They’re songs from my youth. That’s where you come across songs like Wishing On A Star, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, Love TKO . . . I remember when those songs came out, I was 13 or 14. I’m looking forward to singing Ooh Baby Baby by Smokey and the Miracles – it’s in a register of my voice I’ve never used on record. It’ll surprise some people. Q: You cover Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – isn’t that considered untouchable? A: [ Producer] David Foster asked me to do that on the first Soul album and I declined. I only do songs I feel I can bring something to. My first loyalty is to the song, above all, the integrity of the song must be maintained. What’s Going On is a perfect song as far as I’m concerned. It’s sung by one of the, if not the, greatest male vocalists of all time. It has everything. It’s pop, it’s soul, it has a social comment. There was no real justification for me to do the song, as much as I love the song, but it’s perhaps more relevant today than it was back then, which is depressing. I didn’t want to do it unless I could bring an angle to it. Trevor came up with the idea of doing the first third of it with an orchestra with no drums, without changing the song for the sake of changing it. Q: You’re a fan of underrated ’ 80s bands such as The Blue Nile. What about a Soul
III of ’ 80s songs? A: It’s an absolute possibility. A friend of mine started selecting cover songs we’d do for another project: Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus and another of their songs It’s No Good, which is a bit later. What a groove on that. Also, The Cure. It is possible but right now I’m working on another original album. There’s a pattern, you do a covers album, then an original album. I love writing songs as well. Q: You’ve been linked to the judging panel on the Australian version of The Voice next year. Any truth in that? A: It may happen. I haven’t decided yet but it may very well happen. I’m a fan of the show, I think it’s great. I love the fact you listen to the music blindfolded, it’s all about the voice. It’s a great concept. Q: What’s the set- list like for the tour – soul covers and your own hits? A: Essentially. The thing I love about doing these [ Soul ] records is when you realise I’ve pretty much been a soul singer my whole life. People just want to hear good music, they don’t really care what genre it is. They just want to know it’s real and it has integrity and an emotional access point. SOUL II ( Warner) is out now. Seal will perform at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on February 15. Tickets on sale tomorrow from Ticketek.