Entertainment

Seal is set for his Sarasota debut. What you need to know about the industrious musician

Seal performs live at Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, in February 2018.
Seal performs live at Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, in February 2018. Courtesy of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Seal is a rare force in pop music.

His talent and appeal rest squarely on vocal chops — no gimmicks necessary.

The singer can invoke mystery or inspire hope and wonder; the power of his music lies in the emotive phrasing of each lyric and line.

It’s a voice that requires no autotuning or processing, harkening back to the days of golden-tongued crooners.

On his latest album, “Standards,” Seal paid tribute to some of those classic singers with selections from the Great American Songbook. The record was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the 2019 Grammy awards.

Now, the artist is in the midst of completing a new project unlike anything you’ve heard from him before.

Seal’s cool and soulful vocals will collide with the fiery pulse of dance music.

Inspired by personal challenges, experiences and growth, Seal says the new songs are all about empowerment and engaging in a direct conversation with the listener.

And instead of a traditional album release, the tracks will be staggered into a series of EPs so that fans can savor every piece of the puzzle.

Seal will perform at the Van Wezel Foundation Gala this Saturday, where the crowd will get an early listen to some of the new material. Don’t worry — if you go, you’ll get kissed by a rose and hear other old favorites, too.

Seal spoke with the Bradenton Herald ahead of his Sarasota debut.

Here are some fun facts we gleaned about the industrious musician.

A vocal coach on three seasons of “The Voice” in Australia, Seal still keeps up with some of the talent he advised.

I was on “The Voice” as a coach for a while, yeah. My favorite part was working with the actual talent. I didn’t care for the TV show much. But I really liked being able to make a difference with the artists. I really, really, really loved working with those artists. That was my favorite part.

It wasn’t technical training. I will never profess to teach people how to sing. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t know how to sing. Sure, I could point them in the direction of a great vocal coach. I often shared my vocal coach with them. But I stayed away from professing to teach them how to sing.

This was more about mental belief. Empowering them. Getting them to see how great they really are and helping them reaching their true potential. It wasn’t so much the technical stuff.

I’ve kept up with a few of them actually, and we speak regularly. One of them I’m sponsoring to come here. I keep up with Rennie (Adams), I keep up with (Berni) Harrison, Emma Birdsall and Little Star (Lucy Sugerman) — she was a girl from the last season that I did it.

It was really rewarding for me. They’re kind of bearing their all, for them to trust me and put their faith in me is everything. So that was rewarding to be given that responsibility.

Music careers can take interesting turns. Seal got his start playing with funk and blues bands, and those genres left a lasting impression.

Yeah. I listened to a lot of Hendrix. You know, Hendrix playing the blues.

In terms of funk, eh. I mean you couldn’t really call Sly and The Family Stone funk. But I listened to Funkadelic and Parliament — they were amazing. That had an influence. I don’t generally cite that as one of my influences, but sure, yes, they were influential.

Seal’s first youthful memory of music is picking up a record by The Brothers Johnson. Sometimes, he likes to sing the title track.

The first album I bought was “Stomp” by The Brothers Johnson.

Singing “Stomp”:

Everybody take it to the top

We’re gonna stomp all night

In the neighborhood

Don’t it feel alright?

Seal listens to all kinds of music. One of his favorite new artists is Roo Panes, an English singer-songwriter.

There’s this guy out of England. His name is Roo Panes — I like him. He’s got great tone in his voice. He has an album “Quiet Man” and there’s a couple songs I like. “My Narrow Roads” and “I’ll Move Mountains.” He’s a proper singer-songwriter, he tells a good story and he’s got great tone in his voice.

Seal has new music in the works, and it’s all about empowerment. It will be released in an nontraditional format.

It’s all about empowerment. It’s music which is centered around empowering people to shine a little light on the great things about themselves and help them circumnavigate the obstacles which stand in their way and hold them back.

The subject matter is different. The best I can describe it is just conversational. It’s more centered around listening rather than me singing at you. Listening to what you have to say and then having a conversation around your full potential, as oppose to, you know, I think you should do this or, hey, live positivity for a better life. There is an element of that, but it’s more about shared experiences and celebrating just how great we can be — rather than saying, “Well, the world is a shitty place but we’ll be OK.”

I mean, that’s a valid point. But depending on which way you look at it, I don’t see everything as terrible, I actually see things as really positive right now. Turbulent, yes. But that turbulence is positive.

(The songs are inspired by) personal growth and personal experiences.

There’s one song I have called “Let Go the Weight,” and it says:

Could you be the one? Could you be the incredible one? Could you be that one? Could you be that for everyone?

It’s conversational, you know.

And there’s another one called “I’ve Been Thinking.”

World, I’ve been thinking, just one call is all it takes. Just one call is all I want to make. World, how you doing? Then tell me, how’s your day? Why do I press send instead when I could call to tell you that I believe in you?

It’s all that kind of stuff. All extremely positive.

It’s not an album actually. It will be a series of EPs, and it will eventually end up as an album. You’ll hear the first few tracks very shortly.

Music has a different purpose now. It’s consumed differently. It will all be a part of a puzzle that will make sense eventually.

It’s very physical. It’s quite dance rhythm, if you like. I don’t want to say dance music or club music because it’s not that, it’s more than that. Imagine that but with a soul and with emotional content attached to it and with a half-decent vocal, which a lot of that stuff lacks.

Seal is kind of into astrology. His birthday, February 19, falls on the cusp of two signs. He’s technically a Pisces but considers himself an Aquarius.

Yes, I am a little bit into astrology. I’m an Aquarius. I know I’m born on the cusp, but I’m more Aquarius than Pisces.

To a degree, I think there’s a lot of truth in it. I’m absent minded — always thinking about the future. A bit too much, actually. I should be thinking about the present. I’m trying to fix that. I’m working on it.

The singer has considered starting his own cooking show. OK, maybe that was a joke. He claims he only knows how to make one dish: teriyaki noodles with fried tuna.

I cook one dish. I’ve got one dish that I can nail the crap out of. But I’ve only got one dish. Could you imagine? “Cooking with Seal.” It’s just the one dish. The show is actually going to be called “Cooking with Seal: A Recipe for Disaster.”

Even a great singer has to stay sharp. Seal has a vocal coach and tries to practice every day.

I try to eat right, and I work with a great vocal coach, Rachel Black. She’s from London. I love her, she’s really made a big difference in my life. When I’m being disciplined, I practice every day. With the operative words being when I’m being disciplined.

Seal travels a lot; at then end of January, he flew to Europe for a surprise performance at a ski race in Kitzbühel, Austria.

I was (in Austria) doing this show in Kitzbühel. I was a surprise. I did bring my gear to race, but I was so jet-lagged that I didn’t get around to it.

When it comes to his favorite place to perform, Seal is torn between his birth country and his current hometown.

England. And I also love performing at the (Hollywood) Bowl. Yes, between England and the Bowl.

What is Seal planning to do for fun on his trip to Florida? Hit the court.

I’m going to be in Bradenton and I’m going to play tennis. I’m going to seek out an old friend and we’ll get to play.

It should be nice weather. It’s always nice weather in Florida, right?

Details: 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $99-$140. vanwezel.org.

Beaches on Anna Maria Island were packed Friday but not a lot of takers for the still chilly Gulf of Mexico.

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