Sezairi is a signifier of technicolour pop of a hypervivid, particularly feel-good strain. But he’s also come to acquire a voice whose power lies as much in its raw, emotive charms as in its chameleonic versatility. His latest single “It’s You”, transposes those pipes to the realm of piano-led balladry where trend-averse, taste-immune emotion gushes from the all-supreme fount that is the heart. Heart is an important theme in the cosmos in which Sezairi operates – the transmissions that bear his name are suffused with it. His trajectory from being crowned as the third Singapore Idol in 2009 onwards has been a lesson in how music made from the heart’s impulses can bear its voice even unconsciously. Of late, he has been working with producers/writers Brooke Toia (Adelén, Favorite Child) and Harry Sommerdahl (Carrie Underwood, BoA, Westlife) on new material that he avers is the next stage of his art. Below, he fills us in.
What’s the story behind “It’s You”?
When I started writing it, it didn’t come from an emotional place. I wanted to write a cheesy ballad. In my free time, I do a lot of those. I have a whole sample library of that stuff. I feel so comfortable writing ballads and for the longest time, it was a guilty pleasure. I say this all the time: As an artist, you’re a blank canvas and people will perceive and understand you in their own ways.
This time around, I just let go of the anxiety and concerns of people liking what I’ve done. I think, that’s a step forward for me.
“I come from the school of thought that music is meant to serve people and the artists making it. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes an endless echo chamber.”
So what is the emotional standpoint of the track?
When I think back to the time I decided to be a musician and and what about music excites me the most, I realised that I gravitate towards the ‘90s or early 2000s R&B music. That really got me thinking. I feel like I’m always caught between transitions. On TV, it’s like I’m being perceived as a reality show type of artist, then an independent artist and then a major label artist. But now, I’ve made a track with a strong foundation to push it. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t reached my fullest potential and I’m sure every artist has felt that in some way.
It feels like the process of making “It’s You” has impacted the music to follow.
Yes. I come from the school of thought that music is meant to serve people and the artists making it. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes an endless echo chamber. So, being open is really important to me and has led me to so many opportunities with what I can do in my music. Back in 2009 and 2010, many producers were iffy about falsettos. Now, however, it’s a good time for music because all the niches have opened up and people can see the proof in numbers. Through Spotify, they are able to see their audiences. There’s a lot more acceptance now of the age-old phenomenon of one’s need to express oneself.
How important is to you to make music that reflects who you are and/or what you stand for?
Oh, man. Very! If you don’t understand yourself and you write something, it’s like going up to a crowd and reading Shakespeare to them when you’ve never studied literature. You can read the words but what do they mean to you? I believe that I’ve been on the far end of the spectrum where I’ve written songs that only 1 understand and relate to. And there are times when I wrote songs for other artists and I’ve had to take myself out. It’s a very interesting journey of finding yourself as an artist and what you want to say and how you want to say it. Being introspective yet outward-looking is one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt.
Will you be releasing a larger project in the near future?
I’ll likely release an EP because we’ve already recorded a couple of songs. They are all in line and seem like they were meant to be written in an album. There’re all about finesse. Being able to work with people from overseas, you get to look at things totally differently. Harry and I have a certain chemistry. When we’re working in the studio, we’re completely hyper-focused on one thing and it’s easy because he understands what I was trying to say. That makes my job so much more efficient. It all comes together seamlessly.
You’ve been in the industry for a quite some time. What are some old rules that’ve been thrown out since your early days?
That’s a tough question. Now, we are so dependent on learning things at a fast pace. I can easily search how to play a certain instrument on YouTube and pick it up within half a day. That’s a valuable skill to have in the 21st century but what we forgot is how to do it from the start. Back then, it was all about starting from scratch. We value the understanding behind things we pick up. Whatever you put on your shoulders, you need to know where it comes from and how it got to this point and try to live up to it to the best of your ability. I do feel strongly about old-school discipline – practicing and really putting in the work. Starting from the bottom will make you better in the long run.