I went to the #IslandLife party with HP and got to chat to Sean Paul about his grown-up Millennial fans, how the Internet has changed the music industry & why he loves drinking a good smoothie.
I was invited to blog all about the trip with HP (with my HP Spectre x360 in my bag, obvs) and that included an interview slot with one of the headline acts, SEAN PAUL, anyone born in the 90s will totally feel a nostalgic love for him and his songs. Memories of inviting my friends over and making up dance routines to the music channels on TV. Years on, this was a fun chance to chat to Sean Paul, ask him what he’s been up to, how his life has changed now (compared to the early 2000s when his first songs starting to take off) and what he has learned along the way:
Emma: I grew up listening to your songs on the radio when I was a teen. What was it like back then, when everything blew up?
Sean Paul: It was a whirlwind. It was a whirlwind from 1996 for me. Because for the first year or so I didn’t really have a manager. I did a song in Jamaica and I started to receive calls, asking me to come to this and that and people were asking to come and record with me. It felt hectic, then it smoothed out, then it went international and everything broke out. I’ve been to 120 countries and it’s all a blur. I remember certain events but sometimes there are stories that people tell me and I’m like “really, that happened there?”
EG: One of my all-time faves is your song with Blu Cantrell (Breathe, 2003). A classic. How do you choose who to collaborate with?
SP: It’s all about the song. If someone has a huge name and they came with a song I didn’t like I usually find a way to say no… It’s all about the song. I have to find something that makes me feel good otherwise I don’t want to do it. A lot of the time, from Blu Cantrall to Beyoncé to Busta Rimes, it was all about what was happening with my career at the time, they came. With Keyshia I went to find her, I liked her voice I liked her songs and I wrote a song and I left a space and said “would you do something?” So yeah sometimes it’s pinpointed myself or my management (which includes my brother).
EG: Let’s talk about the Internet. What’s changed in terms of digital tools now for you as musicians?
SP: I didn’t have an online presence at the beginning but by the time I came into the business it was definitely computer-generated rhythms and also it was changing in front of our eyes. I had no social media but I used to send files online back and forth – that’s how I did the Beyoncé song Baby Boy. It’s a lot different now, and I’d say there’s pros and cons to it – a pro is someone who doesn’t have any material or any links with industry they can just put whatever it is out there and start collecting followers – there’s no middleman. But a con is you can get lost – I’ve seen big artists who joined late… me being one of them.
EG: I love your Twitter.
SP: (Laughs) thank you. I didn’t like Twitter at first, I was like nah I don’t want to tell people I’m in the loo. Then I started to get into it. But it was hard to start getting followers at first because people don’t believe it’s you or they’re busy doing other stuff on that particular platform – you can get lost. But we’ve got 50 million fans on MySpace…
EG: So we’re here sat in the HP suite, what do you normally use your laptop for?
SP: I use my laptop for everything – emails, music programmes I mess around on, I could have a whole demo done as soon as I come off a flight.
EG: I heard that you wrote Give Me The Light in 20 minutes.
SP: It was, pretty quick. It depends though. I’ve had songs that have taken me five days, too. It’s just whether I think I’m finished. Give Me The Light was pretty simple and I didn’t think it needed to be much deeper than it was. Sometimes you can overthink it – you just need to say in that lane, and do it.
EG: Do you feel like you’ve stayed in your own lane?
SP: Yeah, when I was a kid, I really enjoyed going out on a Friday and Saturday night. In Jamaica we kind of party younger, at fourteen we were going to house parties. My father was in prison, my mum was a single mum with a business trying to support us. And there were problems me and brother were getting into as kids. It was a lot to handle and trying to keep up at school. I remember looking forward to Friday nights, it would get me through the weeks. No matter how boring or tedious Monday or Tuesday were, I had that spark of energy thinking about the weekends. So when I started to write music and when I hear most of my tracks, they take me there. That’s why my stage shows are such a burst of energy.
EG: You obviously need a lot of energy for your tours, how do you switch off?
SP: Last year on tour it was a crazy time for me. I had some coffee in my bag and it burst, so the whole tour I’m wearing these shirts and I couldn’t understand why I could sleep. And someone was like “you smell like coffee bro” and then I realised I couldn’t sleep – I had coffee on all my shirts. So yeah you have to be mindful of not having too much of certain things and keep a balance. You can start to feel so dried out. When we came here we asked for a smoothie maker, a NutriBullet, because that’s good for me. When we can cook or make juice we do that. That becomes a past-time, going to Wholefoods.