“My sons are turning out to be better men than I’ll ever be”
High-achieving women in the public eye are asked this all the time, but less so the men. By way of correction: how do you balance work and family? That’s a great question. Balance is the one thing I don’t have enough of. I try to maintain it, with certain rules. If it’s one of the kids’ birthdays, I’m there – nothing gets in the way of that. And if they needed me? I don’t care if I was onstage, I’d stop the gig and call them to make sure they’re all right. You once described yourself as a creature of habit. What’s the one thing you do every morning to set up your day? Well, exercise most days. Let’s be honest, it’s not every day. [The] most important one is my vocal lessons. Do you recall a moment growing up when you realised “Oh, my god! I can sing!”? There was a teacher when I was 11 who believed in me. Mr Wren. He sang and I just wanted to be like him. But was there a single moment? No. I can’t remember ever not singing. When I opened my mouth, it made me feel the whole gamut of emotions, so I never questioned it or thought of it as a particular ability. It’s a source of life to me; to make a living out of it is incidental. You still take lessons? Of course! I work with a maestro… via Skype. You’ve been an industry fixture since the early ’90s. What’s the best development to occur during that time? And the absolute worst? Digital distribution and digital distribution. On one hand, it’s brilliant that you can reach so many people and get instantaneous feedback. But on the other hand, the fact people can essentially get music for free has changed it for the worse. A lot of stuff that’s being created now is disposable. So, some of today’s hits won’t be around in 30 years? Ninety-nine per cent are not going to be around next month! You’re just about to drop a new album of standards, covering the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. What made you turn to jazz? I don’t see them as just jazz, so much as really great songs that have withstood the test of time. They’re a symbol of excellence. I’ve always had a natural propensity towards that kind of music. Even before my first album, I’d always be leaping around singing Sinatra. You are sitting out the next season, but you’ve spent a lot of time in Australia as a coach on The Voice. Do you remember your first visit here? The first time I came was right at the beginning of my career, to do promos, and I didn’t have a very good time – I actually went home early. But that was more to do with where I was in my life. When I came back to do The Voice, I just felt like I was coming back to do a TV show… and ended up having one of the most profound, life-changing experiences. Are any of your children starting to display traits you recognise as your own? Only the worst characteristics. Those are the glaring ones. But I’m so fortunate with my daughters, and thankfully my sons are turning out to be better men than I’ll ever be. Their teen years are on the horizon. Are you braced for a time when they start mocking you mercilessly? They didn’t need to wait to grow up to mock me – about my music, about everything. They’ve been doing that for years.
Seal’s new album, Standards, is out on Friday. He will play Bluesfest on Sunday, April 1. Tickets are now available at bluesfest.com.au.