Fame & Fortune: Seal

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Seal’s song “Amazing,” from his latest album, System, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Not too long ago, he performed that song and another, “Wedding Day” — also from System — on “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” on CBS, which was hosted by his wife, one of the world’s most beautiful women, Heidi Klum.

It’s safe to say that after all his years as a recording artist, Seal has carved out a pretty great life for himself. So it’s no surprise when speaking with the London-born singer, who already has three Grammy awards for his 1995 hit “Kiss from a Rose,” that the vibe coming off of him is one of supreme contentedness. Seal is a very happy man, with his career and his family life exactly where he wants them to be.

Bankrate spoke to Seal about his new record, his family and the pleasures that come with success.

Bankrate: You’ve called this album a return to your roots. Did you feel you had gotten too far away from what had made your songs so strong?

Seal: It’s not that. I didn’t think I was getting too far away from it. But after having toured for the last four years and looking at the faces of people every night who listen to the music, you get a sense of what they expect from you … essentially, to tell the truth, but also if you can emotionally impact them while making them dance, it’s fun for everyone.

So when I was writing the songs, I definitely wrote them with a more up-tempo feel. The onus was placed on the songs. Songs are the things I was interested in way back in 1990 — I wasn’t really interested in making a dance album. I was interested in writing good songs and staying true to my style and way of looking at things, and articulating it musically. That was what I meant when I said that. It was a return to the essence of who I am, and therefore, allowed me to make the quintessential Seal album.

Bankrate: So what’s the secret of making a dance song that also has that emotional core?

Seal: I think it starts with being open and receptive — not trying to control it too much, but letting the emotions speak for themselves. It pays to have a kind of up-tempo feel in mind when you’re doing it, but it shouldn’t really govern what you’re doing. If you just focus on writing a good song, it doesn’t really matter what it is. The song remains the same. You can make it dance, you can make it rock.

Bankrate: How does the final version of “Amazing” differ from the first version you wrote?

Seal: It’s a lot faster, and better.

Bankrate: When you and Stuart Price (the album’s producer, who has also worked with Madonna) first traded versions back and forth, what were the differences between his version and yours?

Seal: His were more structured and more coherent, more cohesive, because he has an incredible background in classical composition. Both his parents are classical musicians, so he was able to understand music theory, and therefore able to figure out what to do with a song in terms of arrangements.

Bankrate: There are two songs on the record that address your happiness at your domestic situation. How is approaching songwriting as a happily married father of three different from how you approached it when you were young and single?

Seal: That’s an interesting question. I think it gives you a really interesting perspective. It makes you more open, but also more conscious of time management, because they’re a lot more deserving and needing of your time.

Bankrate: You wrote the song “Wedding Day” the morning of your wedding. Weren’t you a little preoccupied with other things?

Seal: I wasn’t nervous like most people would be. I was just really excited and happy, yet calm at the same time. That’s what I came up with. I felt like it had to be voiced.

Bankrate: Wasn’t your wife-to-be saying, “Hey, we have some other things to do at this point?”

Seal: No. She was in the other house. We slept in separate houses, like a more traditional way, the night before.

Bankrate: Considering your mutual level of fame, is it difficult for you and Heidi to live a somewhat normal life?

Seal: No. No. Life is all about making adjustments. You make your adjustments and you figure it out.

Bankrate: What’s the biggest adjustment you had to make?

Seal: Realizing that our life is not always our own. That we do have obligations.

Bankrate: When you say obligations, do you mean outside obligations, or your obligations to your children and each other?

Seal: To everything.

Bankrate: Considering how much the two of you work, do you get enough time to relax and just enjoy your family?

Seal: You can always do with more time, especially with the family, but I think we do a pretty good job of balancing being with the family. We take them everywhere, so they’re very rarely without us.

Bankrate: When you were in the studio making the record, were they in the studio with you?

Seal: Yes, absolutely.

Bankrate: How did that affect your ability to get work done?

Seal: When they’re there, it’s not about the work. It’s about them.

Bankrate: Was there ever a sense of something that happened while they were there influencing the music?

Seal: My son is 2, and he dances a lot. When he responds to certain tracks, it gives me added inspiration.

Bankrate: When you and Heidi decide to treat yourselves, what are your favorite indulgences?

Seal: Chocolate and travel. We just came back from India. That was fantastic. We went to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is. We went to Orcha, where the Kama Sutra Temples are; and to the Varanasi, which is the holy capital of Asia.

Bankrate: How long were you there?

Seal: Two weeks.

Bankrate: All sightseeing, or just relaxing?

Seal: Most of it was sightseeing and taking pictures. We’re both avid photographers.

Bankrate: Have either of you had your photographs published?

Seal: No, but we will soon.

Bankrate: Any chance of a couple’s book coming out?

Seal: You never know.

Bankrate: What’s the coolest thing you ever treated yourself to?

Seal: An Audi R8. You gotta see this Audi. It’s a beautiful midengine sports car. It’s fantastic.

Bankrate: Since hitting big in the early ’90s, what are some of the best lessons you’ve learned about handling wealth and fame?

Seal: Not to take it all too seriously. If I could change one thing from the early part of my career, I wish I would have taken it less seriously. I wish I had more fun.

Bankrate: Do you want your children following in your creative footsteps?

Seal: I want them to do whatever makes them happy. Our son is an avid singer and dances with crazy happy feet. I want my beautiful daughter to just … if she wants to be a ballerina, to be a ballerina. I just want her to love what she does. I want them all to love what they do.

Larry Getlen is a freelance writer in New York.