Experimentation and taking risks are both parts of everyday living. It’s only natural for these to be characteristics of singers. Many who’ve suppressed their fear of criticism have gone on to enjoy industry longevity, reinventing themselves without compromising their identity and integrity, taking career-death-defying leaps into creative flights. And right now, Sebastian Mikael is soaring. “I’m a young artist, and young artists worry about not being understood as much as not being a success,” says the Sweden-born entertainer. “Being successful means being mature too. I know there’s records I have to do to get on radio or played on TV. But I want to make sure when I talk to people, and when I do shows, what I stand for is real.”
The classically trained singer, songwriter and musician is as real as they come, evidenced by his popular acoustic performance of Coldplay’s “Sparks.” “No matter what you’re singing you have to be yourself and stay true to yourself,” he says. “You have to be honest at all times. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Mikael could have sung his own soulful hit “Forever” a number of ways, in a number of styles, belting easier runs more common to today’s average urban listener. Instead, he chose to explore higher notes, using his upper register. “Sometimes emotion defines how you sing a song, and where you sing it from,” he says. “I sang ‘Forever’ how I felt it. A lot of great singers like Babyface sing comfortably with a higher register and falsetto. If I’m comfortable singing a certain way, I’m going to sing it that way.”
A song draws emotion from both the way it’s sung and the lyrics, Mikael says. His current full-length Slip-N-Slide Records release Speechless is a testament to his authenticity. “It’s not fair to sing without emotion or honesty,” he says. “As an artist, the first thing is be honest. That’s when they feel it.
“My parents were my DJs,” he continues, “they introduced me to the artists who had that real honesty.” Marvin Gaye, Sade, Babyface, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson among others are “the singers and the artists I still feel to this day.”
Mikael says he studied them closely, taking detailed mental notes. “It was just me being curious and interested about how they made music, how they made it sound like that. It made me feel good listening to them, so I wanted to do the same thing for other people.” His pursuit to entice through singing would change his world and location.
Looking for more open-minded music opportunities and listeners than his home country provided, Sebastian Mikael left Sweden for the United States. Landing on the west coast, Mikael studied music engineering at California’s Musicians Institute before heading to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. It was here he’d release his breakthrough mixtape, J’Adore, and his video for the single “Beautiful Life” catching the eye of industry heavyweight Sylvia Rhone. “It was hard, it took a lot of work and a lot of practice,” he admits, “but I kept working, kept studying because I wanted to make it singing. I became more confident, more comfortable singing how I sing.”
In the beginning, Mikael says, he was worried about how he delivered his notes, especially the higher ones. “The more I practiced them the more confident I became with taking risks with my range. And I want those risks to separate me from other artists. The way you carry yourself, the way you talk, sing and the way you inspire people is real. That honest can be risky too. But you want to show what God has given you.”
For more on Sebastian Mikael visit his official website sebastianmikael.com, follow him on Twitter @sebastianmikael. To gets tickets for Mikael’s stellar live shows visit SoundRink.com.
—Mr. Joe Walker
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, author, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer of popular Concrete Magazine blog “Tinna: See”. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.