Nigerian female singer, songwriter and producer, Seyi Shay, spoke to Global Excellence Online, on her lifestyle, music and future targets.
2020 and COVID-19, how did you get by financially amidst the lockdown and restrictions?
Well I didn’t make any money from shows or tours but luckily the way the structure of my work is, when it comes to renumeration I was able to survive off of my streaming income, plus I have done much prayer and fasting. I secured a publishing deal with Universal Music France. The publishing deal is basically the publisher gives you some huge amount of money while they own the licenses to every songs that you write for a period of time and then help you place the songs with different artistes all over the world, which helps with more streaming numbers and income. So, that helped me get through 2020 financially.
Any new project especially with the COVID-19 pandemic interference?
Well, the coronavirus happened, leading to a lockdown, restriction and collapse of many things since last year. I was supposed to have released a whole project last year with an international record label but it fell through. They withdrew their agreement because nobody knew what the state of the economy was going to look like, which was totally understandable. Rather than getting depressed and sad about it I decided to move the studio into my house, bring some songwriters and producers and we created two albums plus more songs. That is what I have been up and doing from 2020, the album I was supposed to release last year is what I’m going to release later this year. However, I would be dropping a few singles before then, the first one being the song titled “Pempe” featuring Yemi Alade. Pempe was taken from an expression called Peperempe describing something/somebody that is hot. We adopted the Pempe to suit the song more. So it is saying that we are too hot, you shouldn’t try us and we are basically coming back and lashing back at those trying to bring women down. It is not about pitting women against men, but simply lashing back at internet trolls or social media trolls and guys that talk offend about females.
Talking about the forthcoming album, when are you releasing it and how many tracks does it have?
There are 10 songs in the album. The album will be released in October, but between now and then I will be dropping some singles, with ‘Pempe’ featuring Yemi Alade dropping on February 12th, 2021. And you know, my music hasn’t really been released back to back, I take my time with my songs and take my time in the way I release them, which is actually something I want to do differently this year. I want to try being a bit more consistent with the rate at which I release music and thank God my new team both at international and local have given me the apparatus that I need to be able to do that, so we should see a difference in the amount of music I drop in a year.
What kind of sound should your audience expect from you this year?
To be honest with you I just make music, I don’t like to be placed in a pigeonhole. I make popular music that has soul, that has expression, I tell stories in my music. Some people just make pop music without caring about the lyrics, some care about the lyrics but the music is not pop, it is contemporary. I like to think that I cover a wide range of musicality because of my background. I wrote and released Yolo Yolo which is like afrobeat with salsa and it was a song that made me a lot of popularity and a lot of money, Baileys used it as their soundtrack and I got paid for that. But afrobeat, salsa is not something you’d say that is Seyi Shay sound. I released Right Now during the early part of my career, a typical reggae rhythm and blues music; Murda was very R&B, Bia is very salsa, Weekend Vibes featuring Sarkodie was very afrobeat; so I’m always experimenting with my sound. I am just making music that I feel different type of people can enjoy, which isn’t about to change. And looking at my song with Yemi, she is very afro in her music, she gets inspiration from French, East African afrobeat, now imagine putting somebody like me who is R&B and soul together with somebody that is predominantly afrobeat, the sound can only be massive. So we have a very nice balance musically on this song called Pempe.
What is your take on women supporting women, as it relates to having female-female collaborations in the Nigeria’s music industry?
I think it is really important for females to stand and be strong as they can, alone. I also feel there is a certain message that should be put out to other females that are younger, it doesn’t have to be musical. But the message should be that you don’t necessarily need a man for you to stand and be strong when you have a woman that can equally help you achieve that. And I think that what Yemi Alade and I are doing is a perfect example of what I mean; she is clearly one of the biggest female artiste in Africa, she has crazy numbers and a lot of success with her music, but she doesn’t feel intimidated, she doesn’t feel worried about collaborating with me, neither does she feel nervous or scared that she’s going to lose her fanbase or that it’ll be a bad thing because she’s collaborating with a female. She benefits, I benefit and together we are stronger. Therefore, Nigerians shouldn’t always look at it that without the men we can’t do anything or without them we can’t be anything, because Yemi and I are proving that actually that is not true. So female collaborations in the Nigeria music industry need to be louded because there is a message and a narrative that we have to put out to our girls, women and female fans and that is together we are stronger.
So recently and for the umpteenth time you posted a racy photo that got tongues wagging…
The pictures I post there are my escape pictures, pictures I feel that it is art. Some people may say it is too erotic, but to me it is art, it is an expression of me as being confident as a woman. But then again, my family like my big sister, I block them from that main Instagram handle where I post them.
How are you contributing in pushing upcoming artistes?
In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, I launched a campaign called “Seyi features” where I put out an ad for upcoming artistes to submit their music and when they do they should leave a space for me to do a verse song. We got over a thousand entries and so we partnered with audiomack, picked our top ten strongest out of those thousand and down to top five, where I featured on every single one of those. The winners included artiste such as Molazi, Tosin Robeck, Majid. These guys are up-and-coming, some are already established on the underground, but it was a really successful campaign and I plan on doing another one this year, this time wider for the whole of Africa. Hence, I always had contributed my own quota to encourage and push up-and-coming artists. With Meji Alabi, the fantastic and famous music video director, I was his first music artiste that he ever shot a music video for and now he’s gone on to shoot some of the biggest videos that Africa has ever seen. So I’m always looking for new talent, I put them on, I’m always working with a makeup artist or stylist that has never been used before and they always often go on to becoming very sort after. I am like that and I will continue to be that way because that was how I was found.
What can you tell a female act who is right now caught in compromising her standards and body to get recognised?
There is a lot of compromising in any industry from finance, media, music but in relation more directly to my myself, I have definitely been presented with proposals, mainly from men that are fans and want to be affiliated with. When a woman is in the public eye and just so happens to be a little bit sexy, she becomes more attractive when everybody wants her, that is when a man will want her. I probably would have been a lot more further in my career if I had succumbed to those things, then it would have been easier for me to have enough money to do all the things I wanted to do, but there is always a price attached. The price attached to doing such would be your esteem, selling your independence, need to continue at it, shortening your career span. I am not judging anybody, I mean you have to do whatever you got to do to get to where you want. However, my message is now it doesn’t have to be about that anymore, it can now be easier, it can literally just be about us as females charging forward, one female that is at the top pulling the rest up. This is the new strategy, the new way, this should be the new normal. So that if you’re a female that doesn’t feel like she wants to compromise anything, give her body or give into the dirty schemes or method of getting there, they don’t have to worry anymore because there is a female there, there is a Seyi Shay, a Niniola, a Yemi and they can help. And I think that once we start this trend, people will start to realise that there is not just one way to get there anymore because together, we are stronger.
It would appear as though teenage musicians don’t get much recognition in the Nigerian music scene, why is that so and what can be done?
I think whether you’re young or old, also with the one thing we females had in common that helped us to be put in the forefront of music, it is the team behind. The team including the management, the agent, the PR, the push behind them, social media push. So it is not about us not recognising kids, I think we just don’t see them because they are not being pushed in a way that speaks volume of their talent. It is not about age but your visibility.
Is it fair to say you have a career in Nollywood as well?
To be honest with you, I don’t know about acting career, I have only done one movie and it’s on Netflix and did just very well, and that was just a blessing. I never intended to go into Nollywood. Although I have been approached to do more and I’m thinking about it. We would see.
What’s the state of your relationship?
Well I am just very happy, I am in a place right now that only God could have brought me to. I had a lot of heartbreaks in 2019 but I’m not there anymore. I wanted to give myself a year plus to recover from the heartbreaks that I endured. I remember my mum telling me one thing a day before she passed away, which is I shouldn’t rush and that is something that a lot of Nigerian parents really do not tell their female children. She said, “don’t rush it o, make sure you live your life and make sure that you achieve something great for yourself, doesn’t matter how old you are.” Because she had me at 42 but she had already had kids anyways, she just said don’t rush because you don’t want to regret and you don’t want to make the same mistakes I made. So I am living my life to the fullest. Although I am ready to settle down o but I’m also happy right now.
Is there someone?
Maybe. I am sure there is.