Seay Interview: A Vocal Sea of Seay
Paying her artistic dues for several years, 2005 was the year that Seay’s debut solo album 1 Voice
was unleashed to the general public. The most notable attribute of Seay was the sea of Seay voices, at times over 84 layers of vocal arrangements, creating a choir of Seay’s. However, her talents are not just limited to her vocal capability as Seay is very gifted as a composer, pianist and producer making her a very valuable commodity in the sometimes cold and calculated musical business.
Two years later, Seay followed up her debut album with her seasonal affair A Winter Blessing
however the timing was a little off thus was re-released in 2008. A gorgeous blend of self compositions and a few traditional carols, A Winter Blessing
is one of those rare Christmas recordings that can be played all year round. Propelled by the ever optimistic composition “All Around The World” that encapsulates the spirit found on “We Are The World” and “Do They Know Its Christmas?” both the album and the song exude the message of hope, love, peace and joy. So much so that the latter will be prominently featured The Project Peace On Earth Foundation
with Seay schedule for a Los Angeles televised performance on September 19, 2009 at the Mangers Square in Bethlehem, Palestine.
Along with the above honor, Seay is also busy working on new musical material and while there is currently no firm date a new album may be expected sometime in the year 2010. Yet, despite her busy schedule Seay recently took the time to complete an interview with Mainly Piano.
Q: If I was asked to describe the artist Seay I would say a shot of Enya musically and touch of Annie Lennox vocally and a whole lot of Seay - this may help describe what someone could expect when listening to Seay. Where do your musical influences come from?
Seay: I grew up in a Renaissance environment in the Washington DC area. My parents exposed me to art, music and travel early on in life, especially my father. I grew up surrounded by a lot of music, and as a child, I studied piano from the time I was 10 (rewriting all the Bach minuets I was given) and have had voice lessons most of my life. My father is an opera and classical buff, my mother listens to R&B and Jazz, and to round it out, my brother listens to ACDC and Kiss. We also have a well-known opera singer in my family, my great aunt Margaret Harshaw, who sang at the Met and introduced The Valkyrie by Wagner to the US (Broom Hilda…need I say more?), plus my grandmother played piano and sang Jazz. My influences have been, to say the least, very eclectic! I think living in other countries has given me diverse tastes and a great appreciation for many genres of music. I lived in Seoul Korea and Tokyo Japan, as a child when my father was in the army, and later Madrid and Seville Spain and the United Kingdom after college. Probably my earliest influences came from Beatles, (Eleanor Rigby) Elton John, (early Elton John-Yellow Brick Road, Mad Man Across The Water, those string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster.) Peter Gabriel, Sting, Yes, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Samuel Barber, Steve Wonder (Innervisions), I’ve listened to a lot of music producers as well. Trevor Horn (Seal) David Foster. always loved Movie Music, and orchestration I also listen to a lot of vocalists and voices, torch songs, Billie Holiday, Streisand, and timeless songwriting, Duke Ellington, The Gershwins, Cole Porter, Michel Legrand and The Bergmans. (I really should do a torch album) It's interesting that I get comparisons to Enya, I’ve been called the “American Enya”, but the voice layering really became perfected from doing sessions and exploring my voice with engineer Don Scott Hare in Nashville. We started calling the voice layering "The Star Trek vocals".
Q: Perhaps that is why your music seems to defy a specific categorization. How would you describe your music to a potential fan?
Seay: That’s probably true… In recent years I’ve been creating from more of an artistic place, more about my own self-expression and not about what’s happening in Music today…. But isn’t that the beauty of creativity and self-expression, creating something out of an idea or thought, creating art. Our culture does very little to support the artist. What would the world be like without those individuals that have an artistic point of view or style that transcends categories, Art shapes us, moves us, inspires us…. It’s the truth that touches people… Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh, The Beatles, Michael Jackson…I saw an interview with Michael Jackson recently quoting Michelangelo and It sums up the importance and gift of the Artist and Art: “I know the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work." The artist’s work leaves a legacy and enriches the lives of others long after they’re gone.
Q: How would you describe your music to a potential fan?
Seay: My mother says its “smart people music”, which is very humorous to me. I guess I would in sincerity say, artistic, Music that evokes imagery and takes you places, Music that inspires, painterly. A unique voice, (as I think of myself as a singer first) dramatic, passionate, sensual, evocative, alchemical, soulful…music for the soul.
Q: It appears that your travels have extended to Asia and Europe. Has the cross culture mix defined or influenced your music and if so in which way?
Seay: Yes, influenced definitely. I’ve been very blessed to live in other parts of the world and travel extensively as my father was in the army finishing his medical residency, when I was a child I was exposed to many cultures early on in my life, I still travel extensively; I think I’m very multicultural and multifaceted and that has extended into my creativity, I think I’ve been willing to take more risks, experiment more and create something new and unique.
Q: Born and partially raised in England, though not trying to secure a biased response what was your experience like there?
I lived there for almost 5 years, studying art appraisal at The Sotheby’s institute and pursuing my music dream. So much to do, see, experience… the greenest countryside, lovely people, I can understand why so much influential music came from the UK. London is so diverse, multicultural, steeped in so much history and tradition, particularly with the royal family… My father’s side is English and Scots/Irish, we have a Lord Mayor in the family, a great great grandfather, so I think it made it more personal for me. I loved all the markets, Portobello Road, Camden Market, the Indian Food, Fish and Chips, Covent Garden. I still do my own version of Tea Time. I always thought it was amazing that Music in the UK was so eclectic, the UK Top 40 charts would have so many different styles of music, “Top Of The Pops”, and “The Tube” with Jools Holland were a regular viewing for me. It really worked to my advantage being an American there, a lot of doors opened for me and I met so many people, publishers’ songwriters, producers, I went to Live Aid and sat behind Roger Daltry, met Robert Plant, and Peter Gabriel and loved living in another country. That was a very powerful time for me I really got my start in music and singing on demos in the UK.
Q: Rumor has it that you have recorded with the great Annie Lennox. If true please share the experience and how it came about?
Seay: I should clarify I did do some work for Annie Lennox. We had the same voice coach, an amazing woman named Helena Shenel. When Annie reunited with Dave Stewart for a Eurthymics reunion tour, I was asked to do a series of vocal tapes for her workouts for her tour, so not the most glamorous work, but it was a thrill to know that she traveled all over the world taking care of her voice using mine!
Q: Your biography mentions that you also recorded with the late great Mick Ronson closely associated with his links to David Bowie and Ian Hunter. Was anything committed to tape and did you appear on his material?
Yes, I did a song demo with him called “Carry You Home” co-written with an old friend and incredibly gifted artist Judith Owen. What a wonderful and normal encounter I had with him, an amazing player, incredible feel, such a gentleman and very funny! That’s a moment I will always remember from my time in London. We did the demo in the living room of his engineer’s house, it was pouring outside and we drank so much tea I thought we would float away, one way or the other.
Click the album cover to read Michael's review.
Q: The year 2005 prompted you to release your first solo album 1 Voice. What prompted you do so and why then?
Seay: The birth of a new sound and style. I had been writing, recording, performing already for awhile with a large body of work and songs in my catalogue. A musician friend of mine became paralyzed with a brainstem stroke and when he passed away I decided to focus my music more on health, healing and using my voice and skills in a new way. I spent a year studying “The Power Of Sound” with Don Campbell author of The Mozart Effect and when that was over, I decided to embark on a journey of self discovery and create a new direction of work and hence Seay and I Voice were born.
Q: The production on 1 Voice is quite phenomenal. Share with us the creative process?
Seay: 1 Voice was a culmination of exploring my voice and music in a different way, while incorporating my abilities as a songwriter and producer. It’s definitely an artistic project, really incorporating the “Star trek vocals” and exploring different styles of vocal chant. I used Gregorian, Liturgical, Hindu, my own chants, with a world infused style of music. My creative process began working up my ideas in my home studio, which is more of a preproduction room. I work in Digital Performer; have a fantastic orchestral library, grand piano, lots of great samples. I’m not one to sample my voice I sing all of my vocals even if there are hundreds. It‘s a very tedious process but a lot of fun for me. I get into his zone and I can spend hours recording vocals. For 1 Voice I did all of the vocals with a wonderful engineer and great friend Don Scott Hare in Nashville. Don is one of the most talented engineers in Nashville. He gave me an incredible amount of freedom and space to explore. We spent countless hours layering up tracks. I traveled to Burbank Ca, over two summers to work with Jeff Silverman where we finished overdubs bringing in people like fretless guru Jerry Watts, mixing, and mastering.
Q: Though you are based out of Nashville, TN, the artwork, colors and photography (with the exception of the ocean shot) has a very South West theme to it. Was this just art for art sake or is there a draw and inspiration from the region?
Seay: There’s definitely an inspiration to the Southwest for me. I’ve spent a lot of time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I go there every year, sometimes twice a year. I decided to do some photographs there when I was working on 1 Voice, during one of my visits and I ended up using them as they seemed to be a nice fit to the artistic direction I was moving into. The ocean shot was taken in the Domican Republic.
Q: Big name fretless bass player Jerry Watts and engineer Jeff Silverman were captured for your recording only adding to the smooth sound of Seay. How did you manage this?
Seay: The music world is quite small, once you‘re in it… I’ve known them both for a very long time, over 20 years! I met both Jerry and Jeff in Los Angeles. Jerry used to come out and do live gigs with me, he’s such a mammoth player, and incredible… you should hear him play Jazz. I met Jeff through mutual friends and I did some session work with him. Jeff is a gifted songwriter and engineer. He really brought out the sound in my work on 1 Voice. He also mixed most of the album in 5.1 DTS which was apart of the Surround Sound launch on XM.
Q: I just about mentioned every song in the 1Voice review though overlooked “Siren Song” that is more of an interlude than a song. It is a beauty. Tell me how this little treasure was born?
I’ve been writing little piano pieces since I was a child. I’m often staying up late at night creating, tinkering and humming along with my pieces. I believe in the power of a melody. A great melody can communicate so much, sometimes when words cannot. "Siren Song" was born exploring my music and voice in new ways. It is kind of a lament, with a haunting and beautiful melody that I ended up placing vocals around the piece.
:Click the album cover to read Michael's review.
Q: Three years later A Winter Blessing was released. Though there are two obvious Christmas carols courtesy of “In The Bleak Midwinter” and your rendition of “Carol The Bells”, it really is an album dedicated more to the season than the holiday. It is a beauty that can be played all year encapsulated both lyrically and musically by “All Around The World” reliving the spirit found on “We Are The World” and “Do They Know It's Christmas?” Similar vibes can be felt on “A Christmas Heart”. Was this intentional?
Seay: A Winter Blessing was released in the fall of 2007 (actually two years later) and then again in 2008 with the video for “All Around The World”. It was recorded in less than three months. There were some incredible instrumentalists in their own right involved in this CD, all of them I've known for a long time and felt privileged to have them on board: Pat Thomi, Geoff Stradling, Jerry Watts Jr., John Billings, Jules Delgado and Scott W. Hallgren. Yes, A Winter Blessing is meant to be a seasonal project with elemental themes like “Snowfall” (written with Scott Hallgren), and songs like “A Christmas Heart” (arranged By Geoff Stradling) that reflect the time and spirit of year of which Christmas is a part. The song “All Around The World” really is something more; a universal song of good will that celebrates those common ties that join us: love, compassion and worship. I played all the instruments and recorded all the vocals at home. I decided later to bookend the CD giving it two versions and make it reflect the season and add all of the well wishers and voices in the world's languages saying Season’s Greetings, Peace on Earth, Merry Christmas.
Q: There are also two very inspiring instrumental songs courtesy of “Snowfall” and “Whispering Pines”. It appears you are equally at home with compositions with or without lyrics. How do you decide which require words to express yourself?
Seay: Great question with no concrete answer...only that I really go by if it feels right. ”Snow Fall” was written with Scott Hallgren, a great composer in Nashville, he had a melody idea and then I finished it. It’s fun for me to build a piece using my vocals as part of the arrangement and production. “Whispering Pines” is another of my pieces with an elemental theme… this one was intentional creating a mood, a feeling of a time of year, October, November, with my voice helping to convey a mood and paint a picture
Q: Your website includes “More Links” that you have labeled “Resources For A Better World” which include faith based websites that also require action (James 2:14-26) that would strongly suggest your faith in the intangible. Care to share or elaborate?
Seay: Faith intangible…no not at all… I have a very strong belief in a God, a divine presence, a higher power, a universal force. I believe there is a common thread in all religions. Many years ago, I took an oath to “comfort the mourner, and inspire the truth seeker.“ These principals are a part of my life and music. A great well known teacher once said “Love ye one another”, and I think it all comes down to love, kindness, respect, tolerance, service to others, and of course laugh often!! I believe there are and have been many great Teachers, Artists, and Composers on the earth. Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, The Dalai Llama, St Theresa, Martin Luther King, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and maybe Spinal Tap and Will Farrell. They all show us a path to follow, of self realization, of connecting to God, our humanity, and of course our humor. This is my belief.
Q: That said, care to elaborate on Project Peace On Earth Foundation and your involvement?
A daring idea to transform consciousness and a most amazing event and group of people. Steve Robertson is the executive producer, and founder of The Project Peace On Earth Foundation
, along with actress Rosanna Arquette. They are featuring my song “All Around The World” and the video. Very exciting and humbling. I’ll be singing September 19th at Mangers Square in Bethlehem, Palestine, for this epic televised concert that will also be in Los Angeles, featuring luminaries in music and in the fields of health and wellness. This concert comes right before Peace Day on September 21, a world cease fire day ratified by the United Nations. I’ll keep you posted. Visit Project Peace On Earth
Q: Your website is indicating that you have “…exciting new music in the works”. Care to give our readers some insight on the status as well as the short term future plans of Seay?
Seay: Yes, I’m getting asked this a lot now and I know it’s taking a while, I’ve been taking my time with it…there is new music, a new project in the works, some really great collaborations and it will be well worth the wait! I had thought about releasing a few singles but I may wait to finish the new project. With a little luck it should be ready by first half of next year. Perhaps, I’ll give you a sneak peak…
Q: I hope I did not overwhelm you but thank you for your time.
Of course not…and I certainly hope I didn’t overwhelm you! It was a pleasure and thrill to be interviewed by such an insightful and humorous Englishmen. We could continue our discourses via Facebook, or perhaps Webcam, and dinner, what do you say, Radrocker?