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Sean Paul: ‘My career has been a whirlwind’

COME A LONG WAY: Sean Paul

IT’S HARD to believe that Sean Paul’s seminal album Dutty Rock was released over a decade ago.

Spawning the hit singles Gimme The Light and Like Glue, the 2002 release not only brought the Jamaican deejay to international prominence, but undoubtedly spearheaded a resurgence of dancehall in the UK mainstream music scene.

Have the years since the album’s release flown by for Paul?

“It’s been a real whirlwind,” admits the star, who will perform two UK shows next week. “I remember back in 1995, ‘96, when I used to book my own shows, and I used to perform at barbecues, or people would be like, ‘Yo Sean, I’m having a party, you wanna come through and perform?’

“I remember going to a big [Jamaican sound sytem] Stone Love dance and jumping the fence to get in – and nearly getting a beating from the security guard! So yeah, it’s been a real whirlwind.”
Intrigued to know about the deejay’s near-beating, a little more probing unearthed the saga…

“It was Stone Love’s 25th anniversary dance and it was a big dance. I knew that if I was able to perform there, it would have had a big impact on my career. But when we got there the line was so long and the stage show was about to begin. So I decided we should jump the fence – and that’s what we did. But as I jumped in, a guard grabbed my shirt and was like, ‘Yo! Wha’ you ah do?’

“I was like, ‘it’s me, I’m trying to get to the stage.’ In the end, he let me through and I was able to perform and that really did have an impact on my career. It was a stepping-stone that allowed me to really be seen and be known in Jamaica.”

Maintaining his profile in his country of birth has always been hugely important for the artist born Sean Paul Henriques, particularly as his international success has soared. And though more recent years have seen his musical output taking on a more commercial sound, Paul – who released his debut album Stage One in 2000 – says he never strays too far from his dancehall roots. But he admits that the constraints of the music industry would make it hard for him to make another solely dancehall album.

“I continue to make singles from Jamaica every month. Depending on the reactions I get from those tunes, I decide whether they can make the album or become singles. But yeah, a lot of music industry red tape does hamper what can go on an album.

“I have a new album on the way soon, but there are so many songs, it’s hard to decide what to put on the album. So I usually take counsel from my management, as well as people in the music industry and people I’ve known for years – my brother is also in that team. And after a long debate and probably a lot of arguing, we’ll come up with a final track list.

“Some of the songs are dancehall tracks, some are pop tracks, some are dance tracks – it’s a really mixed vibe. After all my years in the industry, I want to express myself through different genres of music. I began with dancehall and I’ll continue to make dancehall music, but I love all types of music.”

Does Paul think his musical evolution may have lost him fans along the way?

“I think it’s natural to gain new audiences and also to lose fans too,” he reasons. “As a music fan myself, there have been times when I’ve heard new music from an artist I rate and I think to myself, ‘I hate that song! What are they doing?’ So I get it and I’m not afraid about losing fans. I focus more on gaining new fans than worrying about losing fans.”

Having collaborated with a diverse range of artists, from US superstar Beyoncé to reggae songstress Tami Chyn to UK pop group The Saturdays, Paul says he loves the way that music can unite artists from all walks of life.

“I’ve enjoyed all the collaborations I’ve done and I like the fact that music can bring artists together. We’re all making music and to me, there’s no difference between Tami Chyn and Beyoncé. We’re all musicians and we’re all making music, so I don’t get caught up in the hype.”

Though he’s no stranger to the music business, he’s a little less familiar with his more recent undertaking: married life. Having wed his long-time girlfriend Jodi Stewart last year, how is married life treating him?

“I can say it’s a whole new world,” he laughs. “No, it’s a good experience. I’m enjoying myself.”
Revealing that his brother had a baby girl earlier this year, do Paul and his wife plan to follow suit and start a family in the not so distant future?

“Yeah, definitely. My brother’s little one is beautiful – it’s definitely got me thinking!”

Sean Paul will perform at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London on June 5 and The Ritz, Manchester on June 6. For tickets visit www.allseanpaul.com

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