Seye Adelekan, who has caught the attention of many after being voted the Artist of the Week by MTV Iggy at the end of February, has been on our radar for a while, as one of the new sounds from the UK to look out for.
Dubbed by many music critics as the ‘male Lana Del Ray’ (No coincidence there as the two are label mates on Stranger Records), while Seye may only just have started making waves, he is already a music veteran having been the go-to guitarist for names like The Noisettes and Paloma Faith.
Although Seye admits he never set out to be a musician, with a mum who sang along with him, a dad who taught him his first five chords on the guitar and an older brother isGbenga Adelekan who is a Metronomy bassist, it is clear music has always been in Seye’s DNA.
Now launching his solo career, the 22-year-old British-Nigerian electropop mastermind sits down with FAB Magazine for an exclusive.
Vampire Weekend, Rihanna, and D’banj as influences – how do you combine all these diverse inspirations in the melting pot of music that’s the Seye Adelekan sound?
The glue is focusing in on a good melody and having that African rhythm at the core. A lot of African music IS dance music after all, so when you put guitars and vocals and synths on top of a good grove the fun just seems to come out!
We know you have played for Paloma Faith and The Noisettes; which other names/bands did you play for and support? What has been the best stage experience to date?
I did a bit of playing on Elli Goulding’s record, I played all over KT Tunstall’s ‘Tiger Suit’ album, used to play for Jeremy Warmsley (now one half of Summer Camp) and a chap called Leon Jean Marie. It has all been a great mixture of studio and live tours.
One of the best experiences was playing on Pyramid Stage at Glasto 2010 on the Sunday with Paloma. Even though we were early on its still the freakin PYRAMID STAGE!!! That was great and to make matters even better, as we walk off stage I see Slash getting ready to go on, so I got to meet one of my guitar heroes.
Listening to “White Noise” and “Mexicana Bounce” it is clear you have a very electro-pop soul sound. How would you define your sound and what can we expect from your album due out later this year?
My sound is African influenced pop. Kinda like a GraceLand for the new millennium. My record is going to be full of bouncing beats, high life guitars, a mixture of electronic and organic instruments but all under the umbrella of Afro meets UK pop summer. Plus a few surprises I got up my sleeve.
Are there any dates, gigs, festivals fans can look forward to this summer?
Yeah, there are. I’m playing at Hoxton Bar on the 5th of May, The Macbeth on the 30th of May and starting to book in festivals like Lounge on the Farm, (which Emeli is headlining funnily enough), Lattitude Festival, LeeFest – still booking more so just look out for updates on my facebook.com/seyemusic
From Michael Kiwanuka to Emeli Sande, from Skepta to Shingai Shoniwa, Dizzy to Tinie Tempah, UK acts of African origin have been shaking things up in the British music scene in the last few years. How do you feel about being a part of this musical landscape?
I feel great to be a part of it. I think it’s been a long time coming and all those artists you mentioned are so talented it’s only fitting that they are making waves and indeed that I can fly that flag also with pride. It’s what I call the Future Afro Movement or the #FAM, the best thing about the FAM is you don’t need to be African to be involved; it’s all about supporting the music and being involved in something different. It’s a great time to be making music, especially being British and African.
Growing up, did you have any objections from the”rents” against music?
Absolutely none. My folks always supported us playing music in whatever way we wanted. Mum is a great singer and Dad taught me my first 5 chords on the guitar. We always used to sing together as a family, Von Trapp style. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters so it was a fun experience.
How did you get into music?
I’m not sure if I have yet… (laughs) But seriously: I always knew I wanted to go into music as my job, but initially had NO idea how to do it. It wasn’t until my brother Gbenga couldn’t do a tour for Jeremy Warmsley while I was on my gap year (with no intention of going to uni to be honest) that I got my first opportunity to play for someone. That spiralled into all the other work I got, just from meeting people and recommendations it perpetuated itself until I was playing professionally while writing my tunes at home.
I met my manager in one of these bands and he was the final piece in the puzzle. The session work was taking up all of my time and my music was on that back burner, it took someone to help out managing my time when I wasn’t on the road to really focus and eventually I stopped session work altogether to be 100 percent moi!
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Thats like asking “What is your favourite flavour ice cream?!” I’m inspired by a whole host of artists like Sting and Paul Simon, Fela Kuti, Vampire Weekend, Ryan Adams, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix – listen hard enough and you’ll hear all of ‘em in my tunes in one way or another. I love MTV ’80s pop culture for better or worse; I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to ’80s pop tunes. I hope to one day make a record where I get to go all the way there (laughs).
Asking this as it has been cited over a number of online sites, are you the male version of your label mate Lana Del Rey? How do you feel about this analogy?
I don’t really know, we are so completely different in terms of our sound/look/background but if that means we are both artists trying to breakthrough doing something all our own and unique, then that’s cool. I don’t mind being compared to her at all because she is brilliant. I don’t know a car that wouldn’t like to be compared to a Lambo!
You have a very sartorial individual style – do you have a stylist; if not, where do you pick your style cues from?
I don’t have a stylist i just go with the flow. I think all the people I’ve worked with and working in the music world plus travelling a hell of a lot has all rubbed off on me. I think one way to pick up a style is by not choosing things that are necessarily “in” season. I check out blogs and vintage shops to get ideas but also just try and be creative with whatever I have. If you have two shirts you really like, wear em both! (laughs) Wear the clothes; don’t let em wear you, my friends.
FAB thing about your name: It’s EYES backwards.
FAB thing about your country of origin: The music.
What makes you FAB? The people I work with, family and friends.
FAB record of all times? Love is Hell – Ryan Adams
FAB dream collaboration? Vampire Weekend/The Boss!
FAB city to play? Glasgow is the nuts.
FAB thing about being African? I love Nigerian food and also just the kinda big and brash nature of most Nigerians makes me laugh. It’s a vibrant place – one I’d like to go back to ASAP.