Selah Sue is a 23 year old singer/songwriter from Belgium. Although her music quickly gained popularity across Europe, her genre is unlike any that has seen huge success in recent years. Selah's musical style is somewhere between R&B and soul, with a touch of reggae, too. She may have been inspired by the likes of Damian Marley, however this girl has the kind of talent that could sing in almost any musical genre. If you've heard her on stage with nothing but her acoustic guitar, you'll know what I mean.
On September 18th, the young European singer was the opening act at the Olympia Theater in Montreal for Ed Sheeran. She was personally invited by Sheeran to perform, and when he came on stage later on he spoke fondly about Selah Sue and her music.
I had the chance to sit down with her just as she arrived at the venue, and I immediately knew that I liked this girl. She has such a relaxed, happy personality, such a distinct accent when she speaks English, and it was a huge pleasure getting the chance to talk to her about her biggest passion; music.
CONFRONT: How are you?
SELAH: I’m fine and you?! A bit jet lagged, but it’s okay!
CONFRONT: Did you fly straight from Belgium?
SELAH: No, first we went to Toronto, which was two days ago, and then we took a flight from Toronto to Montreal.
CONFRONT: But you’re still jet lagged. It’s so hard to get used to, isn’t it?!
SELAH: Yeah! Really hard.
CONFRONT: What’s the time difference, 5 hours?
SELAH: Six. It’s like, going BACK in time so now it’s time to go to bed!
CONFRONT: Yeah, I just came home from Europe and I remember it took me almost a week to get used to the new time. But you’ll be okay I’m sure!
SELAH: Oh yeah, you know I love just going with the flow!
CONFRONT: Yeah, just go with it! So is this your first time in Montreal?
SELAH: Yeah! I’ve never been to Canada before!
CONFRONT: Never?! Do you have any time to go and visit anything?
SELAH: Never! Actually, two days ago we arrived in Toronto, so we had a whole day to visit. We rented some bikes and it was really cool. Today we JUST arrived. Our airplane was cancelled because of the rain, so we just got here.
SELAH: Good question. For me, I had a decision to make. I studied psychology and for me it was hard in a way- I had my exams in the same way as the festivals. I did a bit of live playing already, I did some festivals, but my manager already said ‘go study as long as you want and when you feel like you have to choose one or the other, then you do that.’ So when I made a decision to go for music, I felt it was really natural because I had something to say. I had a really hard puberty. My whole first album is about learning to accept who you are, finding your identity. The thought that I could spread the message that it’s okay to have a hard time and be kind to yourself is really what affects me.
CONFRONT: If you weren’t a musician, do you think you’d still be in psychology?
SELAH: Oh yeah!
CONFRONT: Is it something you’d still love to do in the future?
SELAH: Yeah! I studied it for two years, and it was always my goal to be a psychologist. But I cannot do it anymore, because in Belgium I am too big and my patients would be intimidated for me to be their shrink! *laughs* It’s not an option anymore, but maybe I’ll finish it one day.
CONFRONT: Yeah! How old were you when you started playing mu
SELAH: I think I was about 14 when I started playing guitar, I started singing when I was 16.
CONFRONT: That’s great!
SELAH: I really hope I can do this for the rest of my life. The thing is that I don’t care about big success. I mean, the first album is big in Europe, it’s amazing, but if my second album doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. As long as I can LIVE from it, that would be amazing.
CONFRONT: What were your musical influences on your most recent album?
SELAH: It’s really a coming of age album, some songs were written when I was 17, some when I was 20. I think I listen most at that time to soul music and a bit of reggae.
CONFRONT: What’s your favorite song to play live?
SELAH: I think ‘This World’ is really intense to play live. Solo, ‘Break’ is really intense. Especially when it’s in an intimate room.
CONFRONT: Awesome. Is there an artist you would love to collaborate with in the future?
SELAH: Yes, of course! I have a list.
CONFRONT: Who is number one?
SELAH: I think number one… I would be really honored to work with Flying Lotus. Essentially he is a producer, and his style is what I want to go for in my next album.
CONFRONT: I was listening to your music, particularly your song Raggamuffin, and it’s just SO different from everything else out there right now. What inspired you to write music that sounds like that?
SELAH: You know, I never ever did it on purpose. I think I’m lucky to have good hearing and I just absorb the things I listen to; reggae, soul music, hip hop. When I hear something I really like, I find a way to include it in one of my songs.
CONFRONT: What is something you would still love to do in your music career?
SELAH: Working with good, talented people, continue traveling like I’m doing now, playing good shows. The life I live now is really amazing.
CONFRONT: Is there somewhere in the world you really want to visit to play your music?
SELAH: Yeah, actually I always really wanted to go to Japan! I cannot imagine how it is there. It must be such a difference. I’d love to go to Australia as well, it’s so far!
CONFRONT: Cool! What is your writing process like?
SELAH: Well, it changes. For my first album, I never had the pressure to write because it all came about, coming of age; a gathering of songs. Some songs- a few of them- were written first on guitar, I find a cool chord, then I sing a melody on it, then I add words and finally add the rest in. Some songs came from the beat first, a beat I received from my producer. Then a song like ‘This World’ came from a jam with the band.
CONFRONT: Awesome. Your name, Selah Sue, is not your really name right?
CONFRONT: Where did it come from exactly?
SELAH: Well, my real name is Sanne Putseys, so it’s not really beautiful.
CONFRONT: To you maybe, but here it’s beautiful! I’ve never heard a name like that before.
SELAH: I’ve heard this before, but in Belgium it’s the same name, a really normal name like… Sarah. I thought Selah sounded really beautiful. It also means praise and meditation, and that’s my thing.
CONFRONT: Do you have anything you do before going on stage, any pre-show rituals?
SELAH: When I play with the band it’s like we all… How do you say… Huddle?
SELAH: Yeah?! Okay so we get in a huddle and we say this will be the best show of our life, we drink a little bit of vodka, and go on stage. When I’m solo, I don’t do anything!
CONFRONT: No small shot of vodka?! *laughs*
SELAH: No, no! *laughs*
CONFRONT: Thanks so much for talking with me.
SELAH: Thank you!
You can learn more about Selah Sue at the following links: