Seal Reflects on a Career of Triumphs and Trials

Some people might recognize Seal solely from the scars that line his face or the tabloid tales that were the inevitable result of his marriage to and subsequent split from supermodel Heidi Klum. Sadly, though, those things have nothing at all to do with the music he's made over the past 20 years, a sound soulful and evocative, one that crosses from one genre to another without binding him to any one style in particular. "Back when I was younger, I just felt like I was a singer," Seal says today.

"People would say I transcended to commercial stardom, but I never dwelled on the past or the present. It was just about the future and how to keep my career going." In that, he has clearly succeeded. Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel — thankfully known only by his abbreviated stage name, Seal — can claim sales of 30 million albums (so far) and enough hits to make him an ongoing staple on the pop charts. A few of his most famous cuts include "Kiss From a Rose," "Prayer for the Dying," "Crazy," and "Killer."

"I'm thankful for everything and everyone that has helped me get to this point in my career," he says modestly. "The past doesn't intimidate me at all. As I move forward with new projects, sounds, and ideas, I just want to be proud of what I put out and present to my fans."

"I never read anything that's written about me."

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Seal's list of accolades is genuinely impressive — kudos that include four Grammys, three Brit Awards, and an Ivor Novello Award. The fact that his career had humble beginnings (he started out as just another singer on the club circuit before joining a British funk band that recruited him for a tour in Japan) makes his accomplishments all the more impressive. Indeed, he was still sleeping on a friend's coach when he returned home to England, shortly before a meeting with Adamski allowed him to take the veteran producer's song "Killer" to the top of the UK charts. That led to an eponymous debut album, produced by Trevor Horn, best known at the time for having helmed the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. A second self-titled album followed, further elevating Seal's star stature.

Though the critics were effusive in their praise, his personal life — specifically, his marriage to Klum — garnered a barrage of gossip and tabloid chatter. For a time, it overshadowed his creative endeavors, bringing him publicity that clearly wasn't wanted. Unsurprisingly, then, he has little regard for the media and makes no attempt to conceal his contempt.

"I never read anything that's written about me," he responds when pressed on the subject. "That's my golden rule. I don't find it interesting. An article doesn't tell me who I am — I know who I am. Musically, I care what people think, but when it comes to my personal life, I like to keep it as private as possible."

To his credit, Seal says he's intent on passing his success forward and giving breaks to performers he sees busking on the streets. He even offers them the opportunity to open for his shows. "I've always had to ask myself what makes them different than me," he reflects. "Maybe it's just a little bit of luck." As for himself, Seal insists he still enjoys touring and taking his music to the masses. He calls his concerts " a dance party for all to enjoy" and makes no attempt to steer away from the classics that fans expect to hear.

"I'm grateful that, as a musician, I'm still able to do it," he says. "It can be hard being away from the family at times, but new technologies like FaceTime help with the distance."

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Lee Zimmerman