Relearning Myself as an Artist: A Guest Editorial by Sebastian Mikael

"I really feel like I have a sound now. I know who I am as an artist. I know what I like and what I want out of being an artist."
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Sebastian Mikael, 2018

Sebastian Mikael wasn’t looking for success when his “Beautiful Life” single went viral in 2012, but it found him a deal with Slip-N-Slide Records and secured a label deal with Epic Records. Mikael was immediately put into sessions with writers and producers like Rico Love and Salaam Remi. After deciding to take a step back and refocus, at 30 years old, Mikael is in control and has a new label deal after Slip-N-Slide Records joined forces with Atlantic Records.

I remember when I put out my first single, "Last Night," in 2013, and Speechless in 2014. At the time, it felt like everything was about trap music and trap beats, and a lot of R&B singers started rapping cause they felt like R&B wasn’t going anywhere. It was really tough. As music trends change and musical styles blend, the current landscape of R&B is becoming way more open. Artists are releasing new music that feels a little more left field, it’s not the norm. Four years later, though, I’m seeing so many artists emerging, embracing traditional R&B again and doing the opposite of what we’ve been listening to on the radio. This change has inspired and motivated me to really push myself. For the first time, really, I feel like NOW is the right time. I’m happy to see R&B bubbling again.

My new project, I C U U C ME Part I, is meant to showcase growth in an artist who took a step back to experience life and “grow through” life’s curveballs. I have been through a lot these past four years, which has inspired my comeback. During that time I’ve really been living life and feeling things. When I say “feeling things,” I mean I’ve allowed myself to go through the normal emotions that most people try to steer away from. Everything I went through—my relationship, losing my best friend, dealing with addiction—has served as a muse to a lot of my new music. Music has always been my vice and like therapy for me. It’s like my outlet to be able to say things that I’ve always wanted to say and needed to say, that I might not have been strong enough to talk about with people. So the four years that I was away, I really honed in on this project, this style of music, and this sound.

The name I C U U C ME was my way of paying homage to my best friend who passed away last year. I C U U C ME actually started as a clothing brand that we created together. I didn’t continue the clothing brand but I decided to use that name for this project.

When it came down to production for this project, there wasn’t a special formula we followed. It was a back-and-forth between my producer, Frankie Leroux, and I. I would come up with chord progressions and record vocals and then send it back to him, and he’d build around it. Then he would send it back and I would start recording vocals, and he’d send that back, and it just became a song after that. The process was effortless and tranquil, which listeners will feel and hear when they press play. Every single song was created this way. Sometimes Frankie would send me a loop, like a drum loop, and I would record vocals on it. It had nothing—like no chords or nothing—just a drum loop. I would send it back and he would build instrumentation and all that stuff around it, and I would start building more vocals as well.

As I listen and reflect on this project, I’m most excited for fans and new listeners to hear "Vibe." It’s just a dope song, and I enjoyed the creative process of making the record. Frankie and I were both being super creative and I didn’t really have any set direction or idea of how I really wanted it to sound. I just allowed myself to go with whatever came to me.

Of critical importance, I had the chance to relearn myself as an artist. I really feel like I have a sound now. I know who I am as an artist. I know what I like and what I want out of being an artist. I think that’s the most important thing. A lot of the time, we, as artists, feel like we have to be this certain type or the artist that we think labels want us to be. What the fans want us to be is really the opposite; we just really have to be ourselves and be comfortable in being ourselves. That’s the only way we’re going to be unique or else we’re going to be the same—at least, I know that is true for me. 

I’ve become comfortable being me and I know what I like, and that’s what I’m sticking to.

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