“Seyi Shay is not your mate” ……………………This seems like some (very Nigerian-like type of words.) The kind of phrase that could pop up in people’s minds once they get to know a bit more about where this extremely talented Singer and Songwriter is coming from.
Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua aka Seyi Shay was born to be a star. She was born and raised in Tottenham, London, England, and comes from a very musically inclined family. Her mum was a chorister, her brother a radio and club Dj, and her sister a music composer for television. She was classically trained in playing the Violin and started singing at the age of 6.
Seyi Shay eventually joined her high school choir, which went on to become a part of the famous London Community Gospel Choir. The choir took her on her first music tour to 13 major cities in Japan where she garnered special praise for her performances.
She studied music in college and from there went on to study Business Management at the University of East London.
She signed her first record deal through her then Production Company “No Apologies”, to Sir George Martin who used to be the Producer of the famous Music Band- The Beetles.
She also became the lead singer of the British girl band “From Above”, and this group was later signed to the music giants Sony/Columbia under the management of none other than Matthew Knowles who is Beyoncè’s father and former manager of the group Destiny’s Child.
The music group “From Above” also went on to open for Beyoncè in the UK during her “I Am” World Tour in 2010/2011, presented an award at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2011, and even had their own reality show on MTV called “Breaking From Above” which aired in over 166 countries worldwide.
Seyi Shay achieved all these before deciding to move to Nigeria to continue the next chapter of her music career. And she certainly took the Nigerian Entertainment industry by storm by releasing bangers like ‘Ragga Ragga”, “Murda”, “Right Now”, “Yolo Yolo”, “Gimme Love”, and most recently, the street anthem titled “Tuale”.
She is a seasoned and energetic performer on stage who captivates the audience with her enthralling vocals, making her always deliver on her promise to leave the crowd feeling good after every encounter with her.
She has been a brand ambassador for many Huge brands, including Pepsi, 9Mobile (formerly Etisalat), phone giants Gionee, and Hollandia. Her hit song “Yolo Yolo” is currently the brand theme song for “Baileys”. I repeat, Seyi Shey is not your mate.
I clearly remember the first day I was introduced to her. She was warm and receptive towards me, supremely confident, very classy, and clearly comfortable in her own skin without any air of arrogance that many of those on her level tend to exude. A fairly private person, she is also not one of those who tend to have an entourage of fawning personnel shadowing her every move as she goes about her business.
She stands as a true example to every young and talented artiste out there, that hard work pays off when you have focus, diligence, determination, and a clear sight of your goals allied with your talent. She has been there and done that, and has the receipts to prove it.
Her latest body of work “Big Girl” is a testament of how she has evolved as a person and as a musical artist, and she’s definitely a Big Girl on a mission to leave a lasting musical legacy that will be enjoyed by generations to come.
How would you describe yourself to someone meeting you for the first time?
I always go with this saying A life without cause is a life without effect. So I would describe myself as a go-getter, independent, fun, sexy, loving and of course, someone with a big heart.
Do you have an unusual skill set that usually comes as a surprise to people when you display it?
I love cooking and taking care of people.
What other jobs did you do before you became a famous person?
Growing up I worked different jobs. I worked as a waitress in West London to being a legal secretary in a law firm, and in between sales & marketing to make ends meet.
How many good friends do you still have that love you and will never respect you even if you became Nigeria’s president?
My friends and I respect each other a lot. However, there’s one in particular that has no manners whatsoever, she’s actually my best friend. Her name is Debbie.
What African country aside from Nigeria do you feel most at home in?
I Love South Africa, especially Cape Town. It is the perfect blend of the West and Nigeria.
You did a lot of songwriting when you lived in the UK before moving down to Nigeria, including writing and producing songs for artists like Melanie C from the Spice Girls, as well as UK artist Chip, and even for the sound track of Crime Life: Gang Wars owned by video game giants Konami. Have you brought your song writing skills to bear in the Nigerian music industry by writing songs for other Nigerian artists?
It was a beautiful process being a part of those songs and soundtracks. It gave me a leg up from where I was and created an opening for me that led me to Nigeria. However, I have co-written songs for some Nigerian artists but my current situation doesn’t permit me to say who for now.
Sound Sultan was instrumental in your decision to return to Nigeria and pursue a music career here in Nigeria. Was it hard for him to convince you to make the move back then?
It was a very easy transition being a girl from London. I came with a mission!!
Was it difficult for you getting the established Nigerian artists to work with you when you moved to Nigeria?
It was quite easy for me because at the time the Nigerian industry just started buzzing and all the other artists were so cool and willing to work with each other and with new talent.
At what point in your career did you realize that you had attained celebrity status and what did that moment feel like and mean to you?
Funny thing, you know when you go to that Buka in your area that yesterday you’re just a regular customer? And today you’re being mobbed, and everyone is shouting your name saying TUALE, that’s how it felt for me. Being on the stage and getting that love and feedback means the world to me.
What challenges do you still face as an artist despite your A-List status in the Nigerian Music industry?
Being an Artist and a label owner some challenges would be in the areas of copyrights law in Nigeria, more professionals working in the recording music industry and standard recording studio facilities so that artists can deliver high quality songs for their fans still affects me. It doesn’t matter. We’re doing our best with what we have.
Did you ever expect Nigerian Afrobeats to be this widely accepted worldwide? And what are Nigerian artists doing right these days to garner such critical acclaim?
I had no expectations, I just wanted to be a part of something revolutionary and I can say that I’m proud to be.
I think African artists are just being relentless and pushing boundaries courageously.
What three songs released this year from other Nigerian artists that have been mind-blowing to you?
I’m currently listening to my Big Girls, YEMI ALADE with “True Love”, “Addicted” by NINIOLA and of course, “Tuale” by yours truly, ME!
Very few people saw the remix of “Gimme Love” with Teyana Taylor coming, but everyone was really excited to see the two of you working together. How did that you get her to hop on the remix?
One of my managers set it up. Shout out to Teyana Taylor, she a BIG GIRL.
I know a few people saw it coming but I always come with Big things. Watch out for what is next.
You have already worked with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Sarkodie, Ommy Dimpoz,
and Chip, who is the next foreign artist you would like to make a hit song with?
I am looking forward to working with Adele and Stormzy.
We are living in unprecedented times with the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic. How has it affected you as a person and a musical artist, and how have you adopted to the changes this health issue has created?
It’s a very difficult time we’re living in and my heart goes out to everyone that has been affected. I’ll keep doing my best to support the relief of the pandemic. However, I have always been an introvert, so I took the time to develop myself, get closer to God and embark on a few entrepreneurial startups.
You seem to be very passionate about philanthropy. What projects are you currently involved in?
Yes, I am passionate. Like I said earlier, I have a mothering nature, I love taking care of people and being there for them. I am supporting ‘Slum 2 Schools’, and I also have a charity ‘SHAY RAY OF HOPE’ for displaced children and orphans. Please, come on board and support us.
The movie “Lara and the Beat” showcased your acting skills and brought you a whole set of new fans. Should we be expecting to see more of you on the Big Screen in the nearest future?
Lara and the Beat goes live on Netflix on the 14th of September. Yaaaaaaaay!!
It was an amazing experience as it was my first acting appearance. I hope I killed it, let me know how I did. Check it out! I look forward to appearing in more movies from 2021 as I’m currently going through a couple of scripts.
Your new music video for the song “Tuale” features Ycee, Zlatan and Small Doctor, is unlike any other song you have done till date especially because of the dialect of Yoruba you infused into the song. Tell us about the creative process of making this new song, and how much fun you seemed to have had making the video.
“Tuale” is a tuneful pro-hard work record that eulogizes people who scale the
everyday hurdles of life and get their hands dirty for a legitimate source of income.
It was quite a process as it took 3 days to shoot. What you may have noticed from our platforms is it’s a letter, an Ode to dedicated fans and supporters of me as an artist which accommodates vocal contributions from YCEE, ZLATAN and SMALL DOCTOR.
How well has your new song and new hairstyle been received by your fans?
I’m Seyi Shay. Everybody loves me.
What platforms can your fans get a hold of your new song “Tuale” on?
Its streaming on all platforms. Go run it up!
So, when should your fans be expecting another EP from you?
You know what? I actually have my following EP ready, just going through the final touches but you know what I and the A&R guys have to do their thing and I have to let them do their thing.
Sometimes we are stronger because of the trials we go through in life, but looking back at your career so far, is there any decision you made back then that you wish you could go back and change?
None at all. I believe every decision made by a child of the Most High is blessed and will ultimately lead you to your perfect destiny.
Hope you enjoyed the interview with Seyi Shay. You can follow her on Instagram and twitter via her handle @iamseyishay and continue the conversation with her.
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