The following is my detailed account of what happened the other day!:
YOU WANNA HEAR AN INCREDIBLE THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME YESTERDAY?... So I'm busking at the Notre-Dame cathedral around 7pm. I arrived later than usual because I was feeling kinda down (something to do with my sudden declining health). I start playing my usual set, full of music from the 50's-to present (although, I focus a little more on 80's). There's a good rotation of people in the courtyard, so I'm making pretty good coin. Then my friend Laurent (a fellow busker) arrives, wanting to play next. He sits down on the bench next to me to wait his turn. Next to him, I notice a tall, bald, well-dressed black man sitting there observing me. I think nothing of it, but I hear him harmonizing with me under his breath at times (something, frankly, that bothers me when I busk. lol). Suddenly three girls come and dance in front of me, doing a mock ballerina dance, but being seriously into what I'm doing. They stay for 5 songs. People laugh, I turn to see my friend and give him a grin. Next to him is still the black guy, observing me through his sunglasses. An hour later, after my set, I start counting my money. Some people come up to me to talk. One of them is the tall black man. He's trying to get my attention.
'You really touched me. You have an amazing voice! Seriously. Your guitar playing too. You really touched me.'
I just glance at him and say thanks. He keeps on going...
'I was sitting there for a long time. I was really impressed. You touched me...'
Suddenly, I recognized his voice and looked at his face. I could see the famous 'Seal scars' on his cheeks under his sunglasses.
'Excuse me, are you Seal?', I ask a little shocked.
'Yes', he says softly.
He then goes on to give me more compliments. I just cut him off and go 'Man, I'm a huge fan! I own all your albums! You were a great influence on my band's music.'
'Oh, that's great', he says a little shy.
(Just to give you a backstory, the first tape I ever bought was Seal's classic first album. A lot of people think he's only the guy who sings ballads like Kiss From a Rose and one of the judges of The Voice, but he's much cooler and impressive than that. He's been a serious influence on my art and I see him as one of those artists like Beck or Prince in the sense that he moved music to a higher plain. For the young folk who don't get what I'm saying, just check out Seal's 'Crazy' or 'Future Love Paradise' or 'Dreaming of Metaphors' and so on. The dude has done genius work and even though his newer albums are more tame, they're still quite sophisticated. So yeah, meeting him, for me, was a BIG DEAL.)
'What are you here for?', I ask.
'I'm doing a secret gig.'
A crowd quickly gathers around us. People are starting to recognize him. Before Seal leaves, I ask him if I could take a photo (I hate asking for that). He says 'sure'. We take it.
A random dude asks him for a photo, he says 'no'. lol. Then Seal asks if he can sing with me. I'm like... 'Sure! But which song?'. I know all of his music, but most are hard to play on guitar (he plays guitar backwards and I don't wanna ruined his compositions).
'Let's play Stand By Me!', he says.
'Sure! But frankly, I'd prefer Just Like Before (a great Seal song).'
'I actually never played that live'
'Yes you did, actually. But only a part of it in concert.'
'Ah, you're right!'
Feeling a little petty I give in: 'ok, let's play Stand by Me'. (I'm not gonna argue with Seal on what to duet on. lol)
So I plug my guitar back in. I'm nervous. I start playing. He sings the first sentence. An audience quickly builds around us- it's Seal's voice after all. I'm totally blown away that I'm hearing his tone/voice a foot away. It's silky and beautiful. After the first chorus he looks to me as if to say 'your turn to sing now'. I seriously don't think I can follow him. He's such an amazing singer, but I jump anyway because... You only live once. I start singing, and to my shock, it sounded good too. I don't know how to explain this without sounding arrogant and fake, but my intention is to sound humble and sincere: When you're an artist (like I am, anyway), I'm very critical about how good (or bad) I am and even though I know my voice is known as being good (I hear how great I am all day, every day), there's always another voice in the back of my mind who says I 'can't be as good as the big boys'. So when I meet a high caliber artist like Seal (with a world reknown voice) I feel very vulnerable and small. So when I sang my first sentence, I felt very scared because I didn't wanna be a step down from Seal (there was a judging audience there after all). But after my second sentence, I realized 'hey, my voice is actually pretty good'. Of course, I know I can sing, but what I mean is 'wow, my voice is actually good next to Seal's'. We don't have the same voice, but it's like I suddenly realized the true potential of my vocal talent. I never saw myself as a singer. I was always more of a composer who could sing. But this event showed me not to question myself about my voice anymore. JUST FUCKING SING! YOU SOUND GOOD!
After the song, people applaud. We shake hands. He asks me where his hotel is. I tell him I don't know. A random person asks for a photo, he says 'no' (in the sweetest way possible) and disappears.
I am please to say that Seal, an old hero of mine, is a class act. I hung out with the dude for 10min and he was gracious, complimentary and real. I've met many celebrities in my life, sometimes as a fan, sometimes as the singer of The Scroll, and lately, sometimes as a busker. None of them were as cool and personable as Seal. And to think that he sat there for my WHOLE set when he had a place to go! In a way, I'm happy that I didn't know it was him, because I would of been too self-conscious. I just wish I could of played a cooler set.
I sit down on the bench and feel overwhelmed. One of my hero's just listened to me for an hour. Life's funny.
Here's some footage of me and Seal singing Stand By Me. It was taken by a guy from Bulgaria.