Sevyn Streeter is both the songwriter behind some of the most well-known hit singles and the singer defining her own “version of R&B”
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m excited!” says Sevyn Streeter beginning what would be an honest phone conversation getting to know her beyond the music. “It’s my first time here, I’m literally in awe of everything.” A day before her first ever show right here in London, she sat down to talk to me about her new single Yernin and look back on her musical journey up until this point.
Singer-songwriter Sevyn Streeter, deserves to be penned as one of the more respected songwriters in the game with her natural ability to write songs fitting for almost any genre. How does she do it? By bringing herself into the music, in a very raw and uncut way that’s almost like “telling on herself” as she describes. With the release of her first studio album last year, her most recent single and an upcoming project in the works, she has really taken strides to mark her place in R&B’s vast history. Not only as a songwriter, but a powerful soloist too with songs like It Won’t Stop being certified platinum or her debut album Girl Disrupted, which debuted at number one on the iTunes R&B charts. Sevyn is regarded as a “five-time ASCAP Award-winning songwriter, singer, actor and writer”.
She has Grammys under her belt too, after writing seven songs on Chris Brown’s award-winning album Fame and two songs on Alicia Keys’ album Fire. A ‘walking talent’ surrounded by fame and accolades you could say, which when encountered has the potential to change anyone. Yet, Sevyn is one of those celebrities who is living proof that you can have what the public may see as “everything” and still remain humble. Through past trials, tribulations and hardships she continues to bare her soul in her music. Vulnerability – something which many may shy away from is part and parcel of what makes Sevyn Streeter such a relatable artist.
Let’s go straight in with your new song Yernin. What inspired it?
The inspiration behind Yernin really is just creative freedom, honestly. Like, I’m just in a really really good place. It’s a very confident, feisty, you know a lil spicy record. It definitely represents and describes how I feel right now, I’m kinda like in my own lil bag. My own space. I’m just happy about that. I’m just in a really really good free space. No time for negativity. I’m just really focused on being the best artist that I can be, you know.
That’s definitely the sort of carefree feel I got while listening to it and I think that’s conveyed quite nicely through the video too.
Yeah and that’s just the lyric video too. The actual video will be out next year. It’s just a quick lyric video. My street team and my fans were like literally cussing me out. They were like, “we need a visual!” So, you know I was happy to give them a lyric video for the time being.
I get that, I guess you’ve gotta give the fans something. Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a sec and discuss your musical journey. You’ve transitioned from being in girl groups TG4 and RichGirl to having solidified yourself in the music industry with such a strong solo career. How did you find the confidence to step forth and take leadership role in your career?
You know what, I wish I could say that it was super intentional or that I had this whole plan. But, I’m like a really really big believer in God and I just take advantage of whatever he lays in front of me. Being in girl groups – that was great. I loved being in girl groups. I learned so much. I learned how to be selfless, how to work really well with others and how to be creative with other people. This all led to me to become a songwriter. Obviously writing for Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Brandy and a couple others. It kinda just took on a life of its own. I wish I could say that one day I just woke up and was like “I’m gonna be this artist, or I’m gonna be this”. It just happened. I’m no stranger to hard work and to hardship, unfortunately. You want situations to work out, sometimes like girl groups and things like that. Sometimes they don’t and when they don’t, in my case when they didn’t I only had one choice – that was to continue to be creative. My plan was always to never stop doing music. I just love music and wherever music takes me I will follow.
Do you think in this day and age that enough credit is given to songwriters, as is given to singers or rappers even? Since songwriters are as deserving of recognition and play such a crucial part in the process of bringing a song together. What’s your take on this?
I think that they’re both really really incredible art forms. I think songwriting is…it’s hard to say…just as special as being an artist. I personally can’t choose one over the other, which is why I love them both so much. But, I think that songwriting is behind the scenes for a reason. You know what I mean. That’s just the nature of the job, you know. You choose, or we choose when I was a writer, to write records and create records for other artists. When you do that, you get joy out of it. I think the recognition that you get as a songwriter, you feel very fulfilled when Alicia Keys or Chris Brown or Ariana Grande or Brandy sing your songs.
I know for me at the time when songwriting was at the forefront of my career, I never felt like I needed more recognition than what I was getting from all the songwriting. Because, that was just special enough for me that those artists would choose to sing words that I would write. I was just so appreciative. Then you have companies like ASCAP and BMI. We have own our award shows and ceremonies that honour songwriters and things like that. I think that songwriters definitely get their just dues, especially songwriters who write songs that go on to win Grammys and Tony awards. All different kinds of things. I think they get their just due.
That’s true. Your music is very vulnerable and raw. Obviously, to be that vulnerable must be very hard and take large amounts of courage having to share the contents of your heart with so many listeners. How are you able to do that so boldly?
Again, by trial and error I think. Every time I have a session, every time I go to the studio that’s always the objective – for the records to be as honest as they can possibly be. Even if that means telling on myself, which I do a lot. It’s worth it at the end of the day. I’m not the only person going through these things. I think a lot of times, just because we’re artist’s people think we don’t feel certain things or struggle with certain things. I’m here to tell you, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Literally, like my struggle with depression was real and every day it’s still a working process. I’m actively working to get through that and songwriting helps with that. Putting that in my music helps me with that. If that helps me, maybe it can help someone else and for me that makes it all worthwhile.
I agree with that. I don’t know if you’ve been following the Twitter trends at the moment, but there’s been a lot of talk about who should be given the title “King of R&B”.
Oh God, yeah haha.
Haha, obviously Diddy has weighed in on the discussion with what I think personally was some very important criteria and standards for such a title. What’s your take?
I think that Puff hit it on the head. Diddy hit it on the head. Brother love hit the nail on the head. You know, I grew up being obsessed with Dru Hill and Brian McKnight. So, you know what he said is absolutely right. R&B music is so…it’s just one of those things…it does so much. It makes you cry, it makes you sad, it makes you wanna be in love, it makes you wanna go and have a baby.
You know, I think being the “King of R&B” Puff hit that on the head. I feel like a lot goes into that. I personally love it when artists are singers, songwriters or they’re coming up with concepts for their videos. All of those things for me and I won’t will say that I will give somebody that title, but it makes it easier to give someone that type of title. There’s a lot that goes into it. I don’t play around with that word at all. I don’t.
I definitely think the word “King” in this case is being thrown around too easily and comments like Diddy’s helps to reign things in and put it all into perspective. Especially, for the younger generation who either weren’t alive or were at least very young when some of these R&B legends were reigning supreme with chart topping hits. It’s a title that deserves careful consideration.
Yeah, at the end of the day I also feel like its good for the culture and it makes things a bit more competitive. But, you know good competition. Healthy competition. All that this conversation and that narrative is going to do, is just make the music better. At the end of the day, if the music just becomes greater and greater then we all win.
Agreed. How would you describe your sound then and how do you avoid or stop yourself from being put in a box as a musician?
Hmm, how do I describe my sound? Well, you know the thing that I always say is that and you’ll find that I go back to songwriting a lot, but I thank God for the fact that I’m a songwriter. Because, it actually gives me a pass to play around in a lot of different ways with the music that I put out. Because, I’ve written ballads and R&B songs, then I’ve written more hip-hop leaning records. I’ve written songs that could be considered alternative or I’ve written country songs. I write all types of songs.
So, when it comes to my own artistry…it’s “Sevyn’s version of R&B”.
You know what I mean, like it’s my own little concoction of what I think R&B is to me. I think that helps me not to have to put myself in a box, yeah.
“Sevyn’s version of R&B” that’s pretty cool. I like that. So, you’ve toured a lot with songs from your EPs before you put out your debut album in 2017 Girl Disrupted. How do you maintain a healthy balance between touring, travelling and just simply having such a busy schedule? How do you maintain your peace of mind?
Umm, I don’t always have peace of mind. Like seriously, some days I feel like I’m going crazy, like I’m a pyscho-woman. I really do. A lot of days I do and in moments like that I take myself on what I call “artist dates”. There’s this book I’m reading called The Artist’s Way and it encourages creatives to do something that is outside of your creative wheelhouse. Go take yourself on a date. I like to go to the beach, take my book, a bottle of wine, chill there and just read. Or I paint. I went and bought a gallon of paint and a bunch of paint brushes. My paintings are terrible.
Haha, it can’t be that bad…can it?
Like, oh they are so bad. But, I paint to put myself at ease a little bit. The schedule can get kinda crazy, especially when I’m recording. Right now, I’m on a heavy recording schedule, because I’m finishing up my next project. Those nights literally consist of…well, I’ll start my sessions maybe at the earliest 3 or 4pm and end up not leaving the studio till like 6 or 7am in the morning. Then I do the same thing all over again.
Woah, that’s pretty intense.
It can be a lot. So, any chance I get I just sleep.
In regards to your next project, what direction is your upcoming music taking now?
The next project is definitely a little more ‘vibey’. It’s very reminiscent of the 90s. It’s vibey. It’s 90s. A lot of really cool drums. Always very melody-driven. Melodies that whether you’re two-years-old or fifty-years-old you’re going to remember the melodies. Concepts that I love to always touch on are life, love and relationships. It’s more honest in the sense that I revealed a couple more things about myself that my fans probably didn’t know. They’re gonna listen to a couple of the songs and be like “I didn’t know that Sevyn got down like that”. I’m just in a very comfortable space. A really good space. I think the music is a reflection of that.
To end the interview, do you have any advice that you would give to any upcoming singer-songwriters. Obviously, the entertainment industry worldwide is booming with individuals who now, I think more than ever feel confident to express their creativity and make a career out of it. So, in terms of persevering and moving forward as a young person in this industry, is there any advice you would give to those reading this right now?
There’s no wrong way to be creative. Literally, there’s no wrong way to express yourself. At least get your ideas out, whatever way that you can, then you can go back and fine-tune your work and make it better. But, do know that there’s no wrong way to write a song. There’s no wrong way to sing a song. Get it out. Then go back, listen to it and go “oh I wanna change that, I wanna make this better or I wanna try this”. But, just know that there’s no wrong way to be creative.
That’s a great quote in and of itself. Thank you Sevyn, for what has been a very honest conversation.
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