Because you know music and love will get you through tough times, but here’s a reminder anyway
S.E.L is a born and bred North Londoner, having risen through the capital’s soul scene, including recording with Camden musical royalty, Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B along the way. She was preparing to drop a new single, ahead of an eagerly anticipated full album, when COVID arrived. She tells us what life has been like over recent months.
How has COVID affected your life?
“I’d been in the studio almost every week for the past year, but suddenly having no access meant I had to put three projects on hold, including tidying up vocals for my new album. Setting up a home studio has been on my ‘to do’ list for the longest time, so lockdown gave me the kick up the backside that I needed to finally do it. Lockdown also allowed me to spend quality time with my daughter and husband, who was on furlough. It’s felt a bit like Groundhog Day at times, but overall, we have just been putting health ahead of everything and trying to stay away from the virus. I’m a passionate healthy eater, or rather, I was. Usually I do juice fasts at least once a month for a week and am in Kentish Town Sports Centre a few times a week. I have really felt my body missing the usual diet and exercise.”
What are you up to now?
“My new S.E.L single, ‘Falling’, with Bryan Chambers (see video below) came out during lockdown, and there are some remixes to come. I’ve been using this time to go back to some 80s and 90s R&B, so I’ve been listening to New Edition, Bobby Brown, Brandy’s first album, Usher’s first two albums, Xcape’s ’Traces Of My Lipstick’, Teddy Riley’s entire 8’s and 90s reign. Just loads of New Jack Swing in general, and its been so inspiring. I’m also looking forward to getting down to Camden to visit my favourite record shop Disc Disciple, (my uncle had a record shop in the Stables Market from when it opened until the day he passed in 2015), and there’s also the amazing spiritual shop Quena nearby too.”
What have been your greatest concerns?
“So much! Trying to protect myself and my loved ones from COVID. Scared that those I love, who contracted the virus, would pass away. As a musician, I’m desperate for the announcement of live events being able to take place again. I don’t depend on live performances, however so many of my friends who perform do, as it’s their main source of income. As creatives, we have no furlough, cancellation fee is at promoter’s discretion, there’s no sick pay. Some friends didn’t even get a cancellation call for tours they were booked on, just an assumption that they must know. My faith is strong, I’m just trying to stay positive and keep uplifting those that need it. These are uncertain times indeed.”
What’s made you feel optimistic?
“Becoming more self-sufficient as an artist. I thought I was before, but now, all I need to do is produce, mix and master in my home studio, which is amazing. I’ve also found the Black Lives Matter uprising really hopeful.”
Do you feel this is the dawn of a new era of collaboration?
“This is the first time that I have seen so many people, of all nationalities around the world, disgusted by the mistreatment of black people. Finally there seems to be an admission that actually, racism is real in 2020, and is something that black people experience on a daily basis. In the past, there has been an expectation for us to just get over 400 years of slavery, the years of oppression ever since, and then being treated as illegal immigrants to be sent back ‘home’, despite families coming here to rebuild the country after WWII.
Black people have also realised the importance of investing in black-owned businesses, something that’s been lacking before. There is a lack of generational wealth within the black community and globally that doesn’t seem to have been acknowledged…until now.”
The COVID-19 health crisis has burned our economic and cultural landscape much like a forest fire. But across a charred, razed environment, strong green shoots inevitably emerge.
CAMDENIST is a new collaborative local media platform, currently in beta mode and launching soon. Born from the smoldering ashes of this unprecedented era, it will provide fertile support for the regeneration of our communities, businesses and cultural spaces in the times ahead.
Worth following, too.