Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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S.E.L: Always soulful

S.E.L (Soulful Emma Louise) @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Suki
S.E.L (Soulful Emma Louise) @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Suki S.E.L (Soulful Emma Louise) @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Suki S.E.L (Soulful Emma Louise) @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Suki S.E.L (Soulful Emma Louise) @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Suki

Singer/songwriter and supreme UK soul talent S.E.L gives B&S all the essential info on her new "Flowered Tears" single. Plus she tells us what it's like working with Jazzie B and the Soul II Soul family. Also, how she made sweet-sweet soul music with DJ Spen, her feature on a Tom Glide summer soul stunner, feeling the love from essential soul station Mi-Soul and giving us the run down on her all time top 10 inspirational tunes...niiiiiice!

Hi, Soulful Emma Louise aka S.E.L. 2016 - what a year for you! Can you tell us how your debut "UK Soul" EP and lead single, "Elevation" changed the game?

2016 was amazing for me, the love, respect and overall reception that I received from "Elevation" has been overwhelming. It has changed the game indeed! I think it’s success definitely paved the way for more releases.

Digital station Mi-Soul have also championed your sound - especially when they playlisted "Elevation" - how did that make you feel?

The Mi-soul family really supported "Elevation", you are right! They definitely championed my sound in 2016, especially DJ Mark ‘Deadly’ Smedly, who was the first person to play the single.

I am so humbled by the station’s support, especially giving how established they are. The Manager/owner of the station, Gordon Mac has actually always supported my music, from the beginning with my first single back in 2011, "Necessary", he was manager of Colourful Radio at the time and playlisted my song straight away - I think it was playlisted for like 4 months too. Things like this I will never forget.

You certainly seem to be part of the Mi-Soul ‘family’.

Mi-Soul really have embraced me as an artist, a person AND one of the family! Lol. I do feel like I am always down there now! I am involved in other projects too, which get played on the station, so this is the main reason why.

Got lots of love for the station though, they are exactly what has been missing from national radio, especially now with the fall of Choice FM.

Mi-Soul went onto to invite your to headline their live stage at the Margate Soul Weekender, how did you find the festival experience?

Oh Wow! What an amazing day that was! A festival with a lineup of artists delivering authentic soul and soulful house music. I loved the fact that the festival literally took over the whole of Margate. With parties in the bars, being delivered by the Mi-Soul DJs, one open air stage with great artists for during the day, then the main stage inside for the evening, going on into the night.

It was a great experience and the fact that the crowd knew the chorus to "Elevation" was so exhilarating, definitely the highlight of the day for me.

It was a busy day because you then went on to headline the Main Room with the Soul II Soul collective, whom you’re an integral member. How did it feel to close the weekend following Sister Sledge and Kathy Sledge?

Performing my set, then getting changed and headlining the festival with the Soul II Soul family was definitely another highlight of the festival for me. I have been with Jazzie for 11 years now and he’s really seen me grow as a performer - it was just a dream come true to perform at the same festival as my musical family, both as myself and as part of the collective.

I loved Kathy’s set too - what an icon! She sang the hits as if they were released yesterday. Simply timeless.

2017 is off to a flying start with the release of your new "Flowered Tears" single produced by DJ Spen and Michele Chiavarin - how did you come to hook up with these guys?

DJ Spen was recommended to me by top UK Radio Plugger Steve Ripley, he thought Spen would be the best person to do the remix of "Elevation" - that's how we first worked together. Then Spen brought Michele onboard.

Spen and I felt we worked so well together on the remix, he suggested we do an original for my next single. I was thrilled! So, again, he brought Michele on board, they sent me 4 possible instrumentals - one particular one stood out to me instantly. I began to get melodic and lyrical ideas on the first listen…This was the beginning of the creation of "Flowered Tears". I wrote it and went straight in the studio.

Can we look forward to more collabs?

Myself and Spen are planning lots more for the end of 2017, going into 2018...which is soooo exciting, but I won’t say too much for now. Watch this space...

You’ve also recently guested on Tom Glide’s new "Diva’s Got Soul" album. I heard you smashed the live in-store at Soul Brother.

Again, when Tom approached me to write a song for the album, I simply asked him to send the track to me to see if I get a vibe from it. The melody came to me instantly and it wasn’t long before I wrote, "Teach me". I sent Tom a horribly recorded rough vocal on my phone to get his feedback before I properly structure it with lyrical ideas and harmonies. He absolutely loved it, and we recorded it the next week.

The guys at Soul Brother were great. It is such an iconic music store for soul music, I was just honoured to be there to be honest. The fact that Mike Vitti from Mi-Soul came down to conduct an interview just added more positive vibes to the day.

Things are looking really positive for you on both the UK and international front, where do things go from here?

One more release I think, then an album and tour... I have already done an album but it is unreleased. So the plan is to go back in, have a look and see what material I think is now worthy, remix some songs if necessary to ensure they fit in with what I am doing now.

Lastly, could you select 10 tracks which were instrumental/inspirational in setting you on your path into music?

1. Sound Of Blackness: "Be Optimistic"

It has been my go-to song for when I need that extra lift and encouragement for any situation since it was released in 1991! I first heard it on a random mixtape that my uncle gave me and I just kept rewinding it

2. Prince: "Raspberry Beret"

The first song that made me fall in love with Prince. It was released in 1985, but I only really appreciated it in about 1987, when I was old enough to really listen to music aged 5. I’ve been a fan every since, studying him as an artist and as a musician/performer.

3. Soul II Soul: "Get A Life"

Though I had heard of "Back To Life" and "Keep On Moving", my love and appreciation for Soul II Soul was only really established when I heard this anthem, and, though I’ve been performing it for 11 years, every time it's played, that love refreshes. I think this song really showed us who Soul II Soul are - a representation for black British people - well that's what it was for me. This song really spoke to me as a black British child growing up and I’m not sure whether it was the children in the video or the children in the chorus. I absolutely love this song and it will always by my favourite in the set.

4. Janet Jackson: "Rhythm Nation"

A game changer! Here we see a militant side to one of my idols as Janet became a speaker for the oppressed in this song. She spoke up against injustice and her stylish, militant style attire and choreography had me hooked. Definitely influential to me as an artist and little girl.

5. Maxi Priest: "Wild World"
Can’t really explain this one, except for that fact that it’s favourite song in the entire world! I have loved this song since I first heard it 1987. The sweet melody, coupled with his silky voice plus I really love the subject matter…it’s about his little girl growing up.

6. Amel Larrieux: "Get Up"

An integral artist in helping to shape the neo-soul aspect of my sound. Her vocal is unlike any other as is her writing style and the fact that she is an independent artist gives me encouragement

7. Billie Holiday: "Strange Fruit"

A song written by a white American school teacher, about the lynching of black people in America, that all artists were scared to sing...except a loud, opinionated, foul-mouthed, fearless and exceptionally voiced young African-American singer/songwriter by the name of Billie Holiday.

Again, one of my idols and someone I have studied in depth. One of the many reasons I love her is that she not only sang from her soul but she was fearless in everything that she did throughout her career. This song is one that will never be forgotten like Ms Holiday, aka Lady Day.

8. Erykah Badu: "Love Of My Life"

An eclectic fusion of two of my favourite genres of music - neo-soul and hip-hop - and cleverly written and performed by two icons, Erykah Badu and Common. It was the first and one of a kind, never to be done again so well by anyone else.

9. Bob Marley: "Waiting In Vain"

Marley was played in my household every Sunday, along with a number of other iconic Reggae artists. Reggae music is part of my heritage and contributed to who I am today. "Waiting in Vain" is a perfect, beautifully written love song, which will always be one of my favourites.

10. Jamiroquai: "Too Young To Die"

Again, a song with a subject matter that no other artist dare talk about…the injustice of the oppressed. I perform this song in my set and have followed Jay Kay and Jamiroquai since I first heard this song. His vocals and songwriting style is truly iconic.

The Remixes of S.E.L’s new "Flowered Tears" single by Dj Spen & Michele Chiavironi and Pepe Citadella are out now on Quantize Recordings.

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Words Nicky Trax

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