Sevyn Streeter's voice filled my living room through my laptop speakers as she joined the conference call for our interview. Like her smooth and sultry vocals, Sevyn speaks warmly and with the familiar comfort of an old friend.
"Happy New Year! What's going on with you?" she asked me casually from her hometown in Haines City, Florida where she was enjoying the last days of the holiday season with her family.
Despite an impressive musical resume that includes songwriting credits for pop and R&B chart-toppers like Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, and Alicia Keys, a repertoire of radio hits in her own discography, and a quiet but undeniable sex appeal to complement her fiery R&B tracks, Streeter is no diva. The songstress has an inviting, down-to-earth demeanor and an endearing personality that makes it impossible not to like her.
That, by no means, makes her a pushover, and she certainly doesn't take any crap.
She proves that with her latest release, "Whatchusay", a sharp-tongued takedown of an ex-lover who takes her support and love for granted. In the visual, which has amassed nearly 1.5 million views since its release in November 2019, Sevyn confronts her lover in between Aaliyah- and Janet Jackson-inspired dance sequences and flashbacks to tender moments.
Sevyn notes that the song and video represent her growth as a woman and an artist who has learned to be unapologetic in her truth.
"I don't feel the need to bite my tongue. I don't feel the need to seek approval at all. I'm not in a space where I get hung up on things I used to in the past. Whatever I do with my art, whatever space I'm in, it's gonna be truthful to how I feel and where I am. Listen," Streeter added with calm confidence, "I am a Cancer, and I am an artist, and I'm emotional, and I'm sensitive, and I'm very in tune with how I feel. This period in my life, it's gonna be what you see is what you get."
Courtesy of the artist
"I am a Cancer, and I am an artist, and I'm emotional, and I'm sensitive, and I'm very in tune with how I feel. This period in my life, it's gonna be what you see is what you get."
As we spoke, I could hear Sevyn flipping through the pages of her notebook. She told me she was looking for a thought she'd scribbled down a few days prior. I waited as she searched. She apologized for the delay, but when she finally found it, I was happy she'd taken the time to look.
"'Don't abandon yourself to make others comfortable,'" she read out loud from her notes.
It was a simple phrase but a profound reminder to those of us who get stuck in a cycle of people-pleasing.
"There's no need to abandon your own thoughts and feelings and ideas just so that someone can sit there comfortably, and at the end of the day, you're left holding all this stuff that wears and tears on you in so many different ways. I'm never nasty or rude. It just means I want to get a good night's rest like everybody else. It's growth, and it's beautiful, and it feels really fucking good," she declared.
Honesty and growth were recurring themes in our conversation, and are at the foundation of Sevyn's upcoming album, Drunken Words, Sober Thoughts, which is on track to be released this year. The album's title is a play on the adage that says, "Drunken words speak sober thoughts," as we often find the courage to say our innermost feelings under the influence of a drink or two.
The title also hints at a part of Sevyn's creative process—a gathering of her guy friends and girlfriends in the studio with a few drinks on hand to get the conversation flowing. For Sevyn, who prefers for her songs to reflect real-life experiences, whether they're her own or those of the people around her, these studio chats are great songwriting material.
Courtesy of the artist
"When we get in a room and guys and girls get to talking, we might pour up a little something. When that happens, it makes for very truthful conversation, to say the least. We may talk about love and relationships. We may talk about cheating," Sevyn said.
Sevyn hopes that the songs these conversations inspired might help to break down some of the barriers between men and women, and she's being very intentional about writing songs that will speak to anyone, regardless of gender.
"It may hurt a couple people's feelings. It may inspire people. Just know it's gonna speak to any and everybody who has these emotions day in and day out, how we all deal with life, love, and relationships," she said.
But while Sevyn is eager to please her fans with her new album and deliver on the familiar themes of love and relationships she's covered in hits like "It Won't Stop", "Before I Do", and "B.A.N.S.", she explained that this album is also about honoring her journey in music and life and exploring other kinds of relationships as well.
"I feel like I owe it to myself to just dig a little deeper and bring my musical self up to speed with where my spiritual self is. Writing a record people will like is like a science for me. I know what melodies, hooks and beats work, but it's deeper than that for me now. I gotta make sure I do right by who I am and where I am now," Sevyn said.
Part of doing right by herself has been making sure she balances writing songs for other artists and creating for herself. It's a familiar juggling act for many women trying to pour into others in their professional and personal lives without leaving themselves empty. Sevyn strikes the balance with 'artist dates', a concept she borrowed from the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
Sevyn periodically drives herself down to the California coast from her Woodland Hills home and sets up on the beach with a bottle of wine, a good book, a notepad, and an umbrella. She'll spend hours reading, writing, and simply allowing herself space to be with and pour into herself.
"At the beginning of my career," she confessed, "I would sacrifice my own self and my own creativity for other people, and a lot of days, it just left me frustrated."
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"At the beginning of my career, I would sacrifice my own self and my own creativity for other people, and a lot of days, it just left me frustrated."
Today, she ensures she makes the time to separate which parts of herself and her work are strictly her own, and she encourages us all to do the same. "Even if it's just 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. Find something that works for you. Find that time for yourself. Because, at the end of the day, you're not gonna be any good for anybody else if you don't allow yourself to be in a good space," she cautioned.
Sevyn also warns us to be careful of overworking to the point of burnout. A go-getter who often spends long hours in the studio and driving home under the rising sun, she has worked herself to exhaustion trying to push past creative blocks. She's found that walking away and immersing herself in things she loves, like sermons and solo movie and dinner outings, are the recharge she needs to get unstuck.
"When I get burnt out, I stop. I'll do everything outside of the thing I just rammed my head against the wall on for days and days. And I come back laughing at myself like, 'Bitch, see. All you needed to do was to walk away for a second,'" she said with a laugh.
If Sevyn experiences any burnout during the production of Drunken Words, Sober Thoughts, it won't be because she's rushing. She's taking her time with this one, determined to give people music that's worth the wait.
While her album is in the works, Sevyn promises that her fans will be getting to know her more intimately this year. In addition to the album, her team is sorting out tour details, and she's also working with Anthony Anderson on a reality show about balancing her life as an LA-dwelling R&B star and a small-town Florida girl.
"It's insane," she said, "How I balance the two, God only knows. But it's going to be absolutely hilarious, and I'm looking forward to my fans learning that side of me."
Challenging as it may be, Sevyn makes balancing it all—the small town roots, the big city life, the writing behind the scenes, and the crooning in the spotlight—look easy, but her vulnerability and candidness reveal a comforting and universal truth: we're growing as we go and finding ourselves along the way, and that's just fine.