Singer-songwriter Seal

Guest interviews are usually available online within 24 hours of broadcast.

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter talks about his latest disc and the romantic tradition that he and his supermodel wife have kept alive each year of their marriage.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Seal back to this program. The three-time Grammy winner is out this week with his latest CD. It’s called “Seal VI: Commitment.” For the project, he once again re-teams with the legendary producer David Foster. Seal, good to have you back, man.
Seal: That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it – “Seal VI: Commitment.” (Laughter) I had to think carefully about that one myself.
Tavis: Yeah, say that fast three times. What is the thing with naming, with numbering your CDs?
Seal: Well, I don’t typically number them. They’ve just been Seal, Seal, Seal, Seal, and then obviously that caused some kind of confusion, so people refer to them as one, two, three and four. This one, six just seemed like a really good number, but I also like the term “commitment,” because that pretty much encapsulates everything that’s been going on in my life for the last seven years. So yeah, that’s how come we came up with that title.
Tavis: Speaking of commitment, this is actually a very cool and I think cute story as well. So you got married in May.
Seal: Yes.
Tavis: Some years ago. Every May you renew your vows and there’s a big party for this. Every single year, you guys do this?
Seal: Well, I think that you just hit upon the actual reason why we do it – the party. (Laughter) It’s nothing to do with commitment; it’s just an excuse to get wild and have a great party and stop working for a bit.
Tavis: So you guys do this every May. There’s a different theme every year?
Seal: There’s a different theme every year.
Tavis: So this year’s party was what?
Seal: Well, this year’s party was actually quite funny, because when my wife first suggested it I thought it was ridiculous, but in any case, brides and bridegrooms, and I thought well, that’s never going to work, and I have to tell you, it was my favorite one so far because it looked like a scene from a movie.
We had all our friends there and all the women were dressed as brides and the guys dressed as bridegrooms, apart from one or two people of different sexual preferences who were dressed the opposite, (laughter) but we won’t go into that.
But it was fantastic; it looked like a scene from a movie set. It was awesome. It was such a great idea, and obviously we gave everyone the opportunity to renew their vows as well, because they were dressed as brides and bridegrooms. It was awesome.
Tavis: You were joking, and maybe even somewhat serious about the fact that it is a party every year, it’s another excuse for a good party.
Seal: I wasn’t joking.
Tavis: You were serious.
Seal: I was absolutely dead serious. (Laughter)
Tavis: OK.
Seal: No, no, no – well, of course it’s a great party as well, but it gives us an opportunity to – it’s one of the three or four times in the year where we know the whole family is going to be completely together and we are going to spend a week or two just in real close proximity, and we will do something that obviously brought us together and made us really happy, which is to renew our vows.
Tavis: So speaking of commitment, what does that do for the marriage when you go through this exercise every year?
Seal: Well, I think just living by that mantra of being committed, it obviously keeps us focused, but not only in our personal lives, but in professional lives. I think you have to be committed to everything you do. That has to be the approach to everything that both myself and Heidi do in our lives. We have to be committed, because it’s pretty rough – it can be pretty rough out there sometimes.
So as long as we are committed first and foremost to each other and our family and ourselves, then it tends to work best for us.
Tavis: This word commitment keeps coming up. Did I read somewhere that you all have recently committed to doing a TV show together?
Seal: (Laughs) I thought you were going to ask me about that. Very smooth, very smooth.
Tavis: Did I read that somewhere?
Seal: It’s certainly in the works and it is based on work we’ve just been talking about, giving people the opportunity to just do that, to have the commitment of their dreams, the marriage of their dreams, the wedding of their dreams, or giving them a chance to renew their vows and have some of the same stuff that we are fortunate enough to do each year.
Tavis: So this is not the camera – this is not a Heidi-Seal reality show.
Seal: No, no, no, no, no. I couldn’t think of anything more dreadful.
Tavis: Okay. (Laughs)
Seal: It’s nothing like that. It’s nothing like that at all, no. In fact, it’s really about people. It’s about people’s stories, people’s lives, which is something that both Heidi and I find really interesting, really fascinating, how people came together. Obviously, there are some people who are not as fortunate as we are, for one reason or another, and I think what we’re trying to do is to give people the opportunity to have that, to kind of realize the wedding of their dreams if they never had that to begin with.
If they did find – but then to do it again. Because when my wife first suggested this thing of renewing our vows, it was just basically something that she said off the top of her head, because the first time we got married we had such a great time, a great experience, that we didn’t want it to finish, to end. So I turned round to her and said, “Well, there’s no reason why it should.”
She said, “What do you mean? What, we should do it again next year?” I said, “Why not?” So it was really her idea. Then we did it the next year and she introduced the whole concept of having a theme, almost like a fancy dress. One year the theme was India; the next year it was ’70s.
Tavis: So you grew a ‘fro?
Seal: Oh, did I have a ‘fro. (Laughter)
Tavis: Seal with a ‘fro. I’d love to see that.
Seal: I had a ‘fro from the deep South. (Laughter) I had a very convincing ‘fro, and then I had a mullet, because we did a trailer trash one. That’s because we didn’t go to Mexico one year, but (unintelligible) we did a trailer trash theme and I had a mullet that would have made – it would have challenged Al Bundy. (Laughter) It was a very strange thing.
This year it was brides and bridegrooms, but it was fantastic. It wasn’t just – people didn’t just dress in conventional bride and bridegroom attire, they went all period with it, and so it was really fantastic.
Tavis: They say that these marriages aren’t supposed to work, these Hollywood, high-profile marriages are not supposed to work. Have you been successful at this, you and Heidi, long enough, you think, to give advice to people about how and why this works in the business, your marriage?
Seal: Well, first of all no one told us they’re not supposed to work, so we didn’t know anything about that. But no, I don’t think – neither of us profess to give anybody any kind of advice. We’re certainly not marriage counselors at all. It has nothing to do with that.
It’s just basically giving people the opportunity to celebrate their love, and if they want to do that by renewing their vows then we want to give them the opportunity to do that.
But no, in fact, it’s as far as you can get from either myself or Heidi being marriage counselors, because that’s certainly not what it’s about.
Tavis: I guess good music in a marriage always helps, doesn’t it?
Seal: Yeah. In fact, one of the songs I wrote on my wedding day was a song called “Wedding Day,” which Heidi and I ended up performing together at the Victoria’s Secret show some years back, and that was certainly one of the highlights of my career.
I’m really proud of her doing that, actually, because she’s not a singer, or she’ll tell you she’s not a singer, but she sings around the house. But yeah, we performed it live on stage and it was something I’ll always remember. It was awesome.
Tavis: When you were last here, for the album you did of covers you worked with David Foster for that. I noticed immediately on this project you’re back with David Foster again.
Seal: Can’t get enough of him.
Tavis: I’m not naïve in asking this, but why David Foster again?
Seal: I think David is the last of a disappearing breed, and I mean that with the greatest respect. He is a truly great, great producer, and I don’t use that term easily or lightly.
He has all the schools of a true producer in the same way that someone like Nelson Riddle would be a great arranger, or Quincy Jones. I think him and Quincy are possibly the last two I can think of who I would really use that term “great” in terms of what a producer is supposed to be.
He has all those qualities – arrangement qualities, great social schools, the ability to handle people’s egos, the ability to inspire people, the ability to be direct with people, to tell you when you’re not cutting it without offending you, no matter who you are, and he’s just a genius himself.
Now, in addition to that he’s a great person to be around, a great friend, and we had such a good time with the “Soul” album that I just didn’t want it to stop.
Tavis: A strange question here, but when you have done an album, when the last album was an album of covers and this one is original content, what shift, if any, do you have to make as an artist to make this new one work?
Seal: Oh, that’s a great question. I think you’ve just got to stay true. The same rules apply. From David’s point of view, the same rules apply although he was in a slightly different environment when it came to making this record.
But that was the goal, to kind of take him out of that environment, but to use the same skill set, and I think the same skill set for my point of view, I think they remain the same – integrity, it has to come from the heart, there has to be a reason for doing it.
The reason why the whole “Soul” album came about is because I was inspired by the moment, as we talked about last time, where the change was going to come. I thought that would be the voice of the people for that moment, which is why I covered that song.
I took that same sensibility and that same integrity into making this record. I felt that I had something to say. I felt inspired enough to say it, and it was simply a question of assembling the right team of people and of course working with the great David foster in order to do that.
Tavis: The “Soul” project, those covers, having done that experience now for a full project, a full album, you would want to do that again, or been there, done that?
Seal: It’s possible. I really wanted to do an album of original material first. It’s possible that we will do it again. You can never say never, but I tell you, it was a huge undertaking.
Not so much singing the songs – that was the easy part – but having the kind of courage to do it. Those are some great songs –
Tavis: Going against Sam Cooke ain’t no joke.
Seal: Without meaning to play what I did down. When you sing a song like, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” or “Change is Gonna Come,” there are only two people you think of, and neither of them are Seal. (Laughter) So I didn’t want to offend anyone by singing those songs, but I’ll tell you what – one of the greatest things that happened to me in that whole “Soul” experience is we were playing somewhere in America, I can’t remember where it was, and my great hero, or one of my great heroes, is Otis Redding, and we had the Otis Redding family come.
His children, his grandchildren and also his wife, and they came to one of the shows. She turned around to me after – we met after the show and she turned around to me and she said, “Otis would have been proud to hear you sing that.” That was worth the price of admission for me. That was worth me doing the whole album, just to hear her say that.
So it’s a huge undertaking to sing those songs, but as long as I can get through it without offending anyone, I’ll be OK.
Tavis: Finally, back to the new project, “Seal VI: Commitment,” the sound of this project is what, as compared to the stuff that we’re used to hearing from Seal?
Seal: The sound of it – I think it’s a quintessential Seal album, not meaning to talk about myself in the third person, because it always irritates me when people do that. (Laughter) “Seal will not comment on that.”
But I think whatever my style is, and I’m still trying to figure that out – actually, I’ve stopped trying to figure that out. But whatever it is, I think it’s very typical of what people would expect from me, those people who loved my first album, my second album, but it isn’t repetition of those first two albums. I would like to think it’s quite progressive or an evolution of those two records.
Tavis: To your point now finally, finally, you think you’re still growing as an artist? When you say progressive and evolution, you think you’re still growing as an artist?
Seal: I’d like to think so. If I stopped growing, if I stopped learning new things, I think I’d stop doing it. I’d have no interest in it. The only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning to the studio or to my attic where my wife’s kind of – she’s relegated me to the attic, to my little workspace in the attic – the only thing that gets me doing that is on the off chance that I might write another great song.
That’s the only reason I do it, and once that feeling goes away, I’ll stop doing it. I’ll do something else.
Tavis: You keep getting up.
Seal: Thank you.
Tavis: All right. (Laughter)
Seal: Thank you very much.
Tavis: Because every time you get up, you seem to deliver.
Seal: I hope so.
Tavis: Seal has a new project out. It’s called “Seal VI: Commitment,” and honored to have you on and thanks for the project, Seal.
Seal: Thank you. It’s a great pleasure to be here.
Tavis: I’m honored to have you, as always.
[Walmart – Save money. Live better.]

Announcer: Nationwide Insurance proudly supports Tavis Smiley. Tavis and Nationwide Insurance – working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. Nationwide is on your side.
And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm