Interview with Seay–a singer and an artist

Seay is a unique personality, blending vocal and artwork. Her work is showcased in notable private collections and institutions such as Dreamworks Universal Music, The Songwriters Guild, and the ABC Lifetime Channel.

Seay was raised in a Renaissance environment. Though American born and raised, she spent her early childhood years in the army. She was in Korea and Japan and later studied in Spain and the United Kingdom. During her stay in London, her voice and talent was noticed and she began her music career.

Portrait of singer and composer Seay

Her debut album, “1 Voice”, was named a top 10 release of the year by R J lannan on the World New Age Charts; #7 on the world charts; spending 40 weeks on the chart. Her second album, “A Winter Blessing”, was named A Top 30 album of the decade 2000- 2010 by Michael Debbage on MainlyPiano.com; #4 on the world New Age charts; nominated for a LifeStyle Music Award for best seasonal album. Seay lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

We had an email interview with Seay.

Q1. Music is usually picked early in childhood. Tell us about how you got into it?

I would have to say in all honesty that I was born this way with Music and creativity choosing me (though not always easy…) I think I came in like this!  I grew up in a cultural renaissance household. I was exposed to a lot of things early on in my life: Music, Painting, Theatre, Dance, and Travel. By the time I was 10 years old, I had lived in the Orient, Korea and Japan, and traveled quite a bit. I grew up surrounded by a lot of music. I have played the piano since I was 6 years and also have had a lot of voice lessons. I was a natural at everything, rewriting all the Bach minutes I was  given playing and singing by Ear!

Q2. What was the main point that got you into songwriting and composing?

I was living in London studying art, and art appraisal at the Sotheby’s Institute. During that time, I was introduced to a lot of amazing musicians and artists and I started writing songs, singing and experimenting with my music. I think I was always moving in this artistic direction. Everyone has important life changing moments and influences in their life; for me, it was my time in the United Kingdom. I met Peter Gabriel. I went to “Live Aid” and sat in the VIP Box behind Roger Daltry. I did vocal tapes for Annie Lennox when I was singing with Helena Shenel, and sang demos for some incredible writers and producers and publishing houses. It was an amazing time. I met some incredible people, and I will cherish it forever.

Q3. Did you have a formal training in music? Tell us about it.

I have had a lot of voice training, music studies, voice coaches and wonderful mentors. I’ve been fortunate in that way to work with some amazing people: Helena Shenel (London), Seth Riggs (Los Angeles) Ray Hyson (Washington D.C). I have graduate studies in Voice from USC, University of Southern California, in Los Angeles California.

Q4. When it comes to writing songs, how you choose a theme or a setting on which you let the words flow?

Great question Vivek, with no concrete answer! I guess it depends on  what you’re writing for:  a specific project, audience, another artist, your own artistic project. I think it’s important to stay open. I’m very influenced by life, the human condition, the elements, the seasons. I think a lot about the state of the world, human beings and the things that drive and move us. As an artist, it’s what I’m inspired by, what moves me, where I am in the moment, the journey, and is there something I’m compelled to communicate or say.

SeayQ5. Songs often have two broad categories—one where the words dominate; the other where music dominates. When you compose music, do you have a preference for any of them or it depends on something else?

I tend to think of the craft of songwriting as a marriage of melody and lyric, but I have music and ideas going on in my head all of the time. Many times, I get  finished pieces, vocals, arrangements, compositions and completed ideas before I sit down to write them out. If I’m focused on composing, I always begin with the music, a melody, a music idea. I get titles and concepts and the lyrics or vocal ideas come afterwards. These days I’m experimenting a lot using my voice in different ways. My preference is really the marriage of the music and the lyrics, or the music and vocals. A great song with a beautiful melody or catchy hook can move you, excite you, make you cry, make you dance!

Q6. Your personal traits are more of a naturalist’s. How do you feel technology helps bring music closer to people who might not be able to attend concerts, live-shows, performances, etc?

Firstly, I think I’m an environmentalist. I feel the Earth is a beautiful and sacred place that we should protect and preserve.   In regard to our technology, I think it’ a great vehicle for discovery, for information, and exposure. It can connect us in incredible ways. There’s nothing like a live-performance, but you can experience and discover great music on the Internet. You can stream a live concert right from your computer. I just watched on Vimeo an amazing interview and performance By David Lanz with Gary Stroutos for the new album “Liverpool”. It was incredible to hear the commentary, see them in the studio and watch the recording process and performance of some of the pieces. With our technology today, with video, and the social networks, the new phones like the iphone, you can find anything, discover, learn and connect with anyone anywhere at any time all over the world, and all in the palm of your hand…Let’s hope we never lose those satellites.

 

Q7. Tell us about your some musical moments that you really like to remember.

One of the most exciting music moments for me was my music was part of Radio History on XM Satellite, the creation of the first ever channel in 5.1 Surround Sound called “Finetuning”. I had 7 songs playing in Heavy rotation on the channel along with Sting, Steeley Dan, Ray Charles, Norah Jones,Yes, Moira Brennan, and Enya. It was very exciting for me to hear my music in Surround Sound played with so many amazing artists. One morning, I turned on the channel and The announcer came on and said “Music for the 21st Century” and then my song “Love is the Ocean” came on, and right after that Sting! As you can imagine…It was very exciting…

 

Another amazing moment in my life was performing alongside a well-known American singer named Michael McDonald, who is one of the great male vocalists in our country. I had the chance to sing back up with his band; it was such a blast and what a voice! I also had another chance to sing one of my own pieces alongside Michael McDonald and another singer Christopher Cross; it was a moving day and huge thrill.

Q8. What about your daily schedule of practice, preparation and creative thinking?

I do something everyday, play the piano, practice, vocalize, and work on any creative ideas and projects that I’m involved in. I have notebooks and folders that I keep creative ideas in.  I also have a recording studio in my house, so I spend a lot of time there working on ideas.

Innovative musicians: David Lanz, Seay, Paul Speer, RJ Lannan
David Lanz, Seay, Paul Speer, RJ Lannan

Q9. Given that music often crosses geographical boundaries through collaborations with different artists, do you like to create music with other artists? Tell us which ones you would like to collaborate with?

Absolutely I think collaboration is a wonderful experience; life is about relationships, and there is room for everyone! Collaboration is a great way to help you expand, and grow; in fact, I’m collaborating with a really great composer right now! I’ve had the chance to create with some wonderful artists, vocalists and instrumentalists. I guess if I had to pick a few artists, I’d love to work with Beethoven or Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday (were they alive) Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Composer James Horner, Producer David Foster, Seal, Sting, Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Cellist Yo Yo Ma, so many… The Music Community is small and if you have the chance to collaborate, you should, I think it’s important to come up with other artists, grow and create together.

Q10. How much you like to experiment to be more creative? There are lots of versions on music, broadly named as fusion, that give lot of opportunities for experimentation. How you feel about it?

I think experimenting is important as it keeps you open creatively. That’s the important point: to stay open and let it flow, and express that. That’s the beauty of Jazz, Jazz-Fusion, and World fusion. it’s all about self expression and experimentation.

Q11. Do you feel music has a deeper connection with human psyche? Simply saying, entertainment can be purely for spending some time in leisure and pleasure; but music; it can have a far better impact on humans. What are your thoughts?

I think you’ve already answered your question, Vivek! Music has a great and profound impact on humans. Music and the Arts are the deeper connection with the human psyche. I spent a year studying Music Therapy with Don Campbell, Author of “The Mozart Effect”. Research has shown that music has the power to change our emotional states, shift our mental outlooks, change our physiology, and impact spiritual awareness.  Certain types of music, devotional in nature, can also have the power to transform individual and collective consciousness into the heightened states of love, forgiveness, compassion, and physical healing.  These heightened states of awareness are also what empower us to seek, create and implement solutions in life.

Music has the power to create movements and call people into action. Music has the power to speak to the heart, transform our thoughts, and to create new and inspiring visions. Music may hold the key to inspire each person to search within and to  collectively connect to making our world a better place.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“Music is the pathway to the heart”

-Voltaire

Music should be healing, music should uplift the soul, music should inspire; then there is no better way of getting closer to God, of rising higher towards the spirit, of attaining spiritual perfection, than music,

-Sufi Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.

-Ludwig van Beethoven

Music is mediator between spiritual and sensual life.

-Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Seay's portraits
Seay’s portraits

Q12. Apart from music, what else keeps you occupied?

I’m also a visual artist and painter. I love to travel; I am a Scuba Diver; and Equestrian; I have a wonderful garden; and I am very interested in Astronomy and Astrology.

Q13. If it had not been music, what else would you have chosen to do?

I come from a family of doctors and teachers, so a doctor or teaching. I came very close to becoming a doctor, something I still think about. I’ve taught art and art appreciation through the years and created several art programs where I live. I also have a great interest in International affairs and thought about the school of Foreign Service and working with the United Nations.

Q14. Any message for our readers and music enthusiasts?

Go for it!! Don’t be afraid to dream, learn and work hard. Cultivate those things that bring passion to your life and move your heart!  Find peace within yourself and remember there is room for everyone.

Above all else, express yourself!

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time,  this expression is unique.  and if you block it, it will never exist,  through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it”.

Martha Graham

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