Sean Paul brings fire to new album ‘Scorcha’
What happens in a Grammy-winning career? Is it hard work and focus from an early age? It can be. Is it knowing what you want and going for it? Yes of course. But it’s also exposing yourself to a myriad of aspects of the world because you never know where a lesson or an inspiration may come from. For acclaimed singer, producer and businessman, Sean Paul, his path to fame and recognition began in Jamaica with his mother singing Beatles songs while taking him to school as a child. She loved Paul Simon and Cat Stevens and so exposed her son to them as well. Paul’s aunt owned a PA system and she played reggae and dancehall music. That’s when the wheels started turning in Paul’s head and helping him lead a career that includes Grammy nominations, working with Beyonce, and more. And Paul’s new album, Scorchais set to release on May 27 with features from Gwen Stefani, Sia, and more.
“I just grew up with melodies,” Paul told the American songwriter. “The Beatles, Cat Stevens played and sang around me. The latest reggae songs, stuff like that. My timing and syncope – my flow – has a lot to do with what mom taught me. My voice is my mother and my pop. I have to thank them for that! I have big lungs from water polo and swimming. It has helped a lot and continues to do so.
The road to success requires more dedication and determination than any person can imagine from the start. For Paul, he learned the meaning of these words, even before diving into the proverbial pool of creativity. For him, it happened when he jumped into the literal pool to play sports. Paul’s family, while also artistic (his mother is an accomplished painter), is also made up of athletes. His grandfather and father represented Jamaica on the water polo teams and Paul did the same.
“Swimming and water polo, says the artist, have definitely helped me set goals. Every year you want to do the big games and Olympic type events in the Caribbean. You set yourself projections. It spilled over into all parts of my life. Music – yeah, being disciplined is something a lot of people don’t realize [is important]. Musicians must be persistent and patient.
Paul says that to maintain a long career – or even start one – you just have to sit back, wait, and bide your time on occasion. You have to passively watch things unfold, waiting for the perfect moment to release your voice. But it takes a lot of work to refine that voice, to begin with.
“I looked at my goals that way,” he says of his debut. “Like, maybe I’m not the best right now, but I’m going to keep writing and training and making myself. Someday people will recognize.
At first, when he was just getting to grips with the industry, so to speak, Paul thought he would be on the production side. He remembers being 15 and seeing how beatmakers created and built beats on a computer, drum machine and keyboard. ‘Wow, he says to him. He wanted to do that too. A few years later, at age 17, he began to fall in love with lyrics and rhyme writing. The hard work continued and eventually he started putting out records that people liked. Next: fame hit in a big way. But not before some schooling in between.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says, recalling that formative stage in people’s lives between adolescence and early adulthood. “My friends went to school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought I was going to try to get into college to do architecture, but it didn’t work out – I didn’t have the grades. But they let me into hotel management.
At the time, Paul’s mother insisted that he study something, so it was hospitality first. Paul studied this for three years while swimming and playing water polo. But at night he found himself in recording studios, doing his thing. That’s when his hobby started to take off. He was 13 when dancehall and hip-hop music started to speak to him – he often listened to it while working out in the pool. Now he was making his own. Today, Paul, in many ways, is the Platonic ideal of dancehall music. Her voice is synonymous with the genre. But that doesn’t mean it was always easy to ride.
“Mom, being an artist,” says Paul, “said it’s hard to do full time. Sometimes you do things with your heart and you don’t get the same results in return. And at the beginning of the game, a producer, to whom I am very close, gave me good advice: he said to me: “in the musical game, they give you a ladder to climb. They cheer you on as you climb the ladder. But in the middle they greased the steps. So when you start to slip, the same people are laughing at you. So you have to be ready for it.
Paul knows it takes tough skin to endure the ups and downs of a long and potentially successful career. Thanks in part to the guidance he received along the way, he stayed focused and kept his head above water. And Paul’s new album is proof of that. Its release in 2021, Live N Livin, which he produced on his own label, earned him his latest Grammy nomination and his 2022 offering could be the same next year. The new music was created in part during the pandemic, a time when Paul decided to hide rather than worry or look outside for answers.
“The first five months have been mind-boggling,” he says. “So going to the studio helped.”
The new LP has a number of standout tracks, including the triumphant ‘Good Day’ and sultry ‘How We Do It’. And while the 49-year-old Paul shows off a number of facets on the album, from the introspective to the joyful, what he’s always wanted in his music is to convey what he feels – and always has – to his listeners and fans.
“Since the start of my career,” says Paul, “I’ve always wanted to give people that euphoria that I felt at 13 when I discovered hip-hop and dancehall music. Being social and having friends I didn’t have before. I like that in music.”
For the future, Paul takes it day by day. He has a number of gigs on the horizon and the first is a European tour in August. Then there’s a slate of fall dates in September and October with rapper Pitbull, with festivals and one-off shows scattered throughout the schedule. Ultimately, it’s about bringing the feelings he loves to the stages and studios whenever he can. For Paul, who now teaches water polo to his five-year-old son, the hard work has paid off, and more.
“Music brings people together,” says Paul. “Whether you listen to it or form a band to play it. Even if you learn it from someone else, you don’t learn it from heaven! Music brings people together and that’s a beautiful thing. Unity is the best community and music is the universal language.
Photo by Charlotte Rutherford/L’Oriel