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Singer Sebastian Mikael On Why It's Important To Master Yourself To Find True Love

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Sebastian Mikael has come back around with a new sound.


It's futuristic, it's soul, it's funk but most importantly, it's authentic. After taking a couple of years off to really hone in on the type of music that would breathe life back into himself and his fans, he admits to me during our call that this time around things are different. "It's an experience, it's a journey. Every element and detail is thought through. I'm excited to see what people's feedback is going to be."

And if this admission is any indication of what these last few years have dealt him, then fans are in for more than just a good album.

Sebastian Mikael - Time (Official Music Video)youtu.be

There's soft piano jazz playing as we chat, serving as a soundtrack to our conversation. His answers, much like our background music, are laced with a level of thoughtfulness and intentionality. The latter of which seems to be the running theme of his life. Everything from the lyrics he writes, the instruments he plays, and the decisions he's made in his life are all on purpose for purpose. And at the heart of it, is the desire to thrive, and hopefully inspire others by being true to who they really are, regardless of what shape that takes or what that looks like to other people.

Crediting his heaviest musical influences to artists such as Marvin Gaye, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Pharrell and Parliament Funkadelic, his latest EP I C U U C ME Pt. II serves as both an ode to his first love and an epitome to his evolution, both musically and personally. xoNecole got the chance to catch up with the "Last Night" crooner about his new sound, struggle love, and why being authentic is so important.

You describe your sound as “futuristic soul-funk”? Give us your definition of that.

At the essence, it's soul music. I don't see a lot of people doing this, it's kind of a new wave. I've been seeing other artists be influenced by similar styles of music. I'd liken it to funkadelic rap, those who were eccentric and ahead of the curve in a way.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between your first project and this latest EP?

I was really trying to find my sound and what I really wanted to do musically. I took a two- to three-year break where I was just in the studio, but there were still certain gigs that would come up.

"I got to just live life and have different experiences that really influenced my writing and I feel like it shaped the type of music I'm making."

For me, that was like the one piece that was missing, taking the time to figure out the type of artist that I am. I always think about what I love the most when it comes to music - what I see myself playing or singing for the next 20-30 years. I had to go back to my first love, which was soul/funk music. I was really inspired by that decade and the music that came out of it.

What do you want people to know about Sebastian Mikael?

I write completely from my own experiences and hope that people will relate and become inspired. As far as me personally, people will always have different perceptions of who you are, but I like the mystery of it. I don't like people being too into your private life or knowing too much about you. That'll come eventually, but it has to be some mystery while they're rocking with the music. That's why I focus on just being honest with my music.

You’ve talked about before the fact that your longtime girlfriend has been more than supportive of you and with you along your musical journey. She’s been there through the struggle. Nowadays there’s a lot of talk surrounding “saying no to struggle love.” Do you think there’s a difference between struggling through love and struggle love?

Yes, I think there's a difference between struggling through love and struggle love. To me, if you're struggling through love, you or your partner might be going through something and the both of you might be struggling to keep the relationship going through it all while sharing a common goal. "Struggle love" on the other hand just sounds so negative to me.

In what ways has loving your girlfriend affected you? 

It's made me wiser. I feel like we're always learning from each other and building each other up.

"I'm more considerate. I'm better at expressing myself to her and that definitely helped me with my songwriting. She changed me in a good way."

In the beginning, we cared about Instagram and taking dope photos and things like that but nowadays, it's more about us creating dope sh-t that we want to do.

What do you do to make her feel special? How do you show affection? How do like to receive affection?

We're both artists in a sense and really into fashion and photography. So we usually just spend time creating and vibing. It's about knowing what she likes and who she is, and doing things that will make her feel good and make her happy. I love affection. I think being affectionate and intimate is super important. You just have to be open, be yourself and don't hold back.

What’s something you think today’s generation needs to understand about love and relationships?

Don't jump into things too fast, I don't think you should rush into just anything.

"You should really take the time to master yourself and your own energy."

And really get to know somebody before you just jump into it.

What are some major love or life lessons you’ve learned along your journey thus far?

Take time to master yourself and learn how to build self-awareness. A lot of things that you didn't know about yourself will come out once you get into a relationship. You also should learn how to accept other people exactly as they are and accept yourself exactly as you are, so you can be comfortable and be happy with being around your partner.

And build up your trust with your partner. A lot of arguments come from trust issues and people end up spending so much time covering up their secrets and it leads to them being paranoid. You're always wondering what the other person is thinking or what they're up to. Trusting your partner gives you peace. Knowing you can count on somebody--that's so important.

For more of Sebastian, follow him on Instagram. And stream his new EP here.

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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