For many people, early musical memories come in the form of a catchy lullaby or perhaps a preschool holiday recital. But Seal, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, made his first foray into music as an 11-year-old when a teacher encouraged him to sing at a parent-teacher evening at his London school.
"My teacher, who played a very influential part in my life, a guy called Mr. Ren, he was a singer himself," Seal said. "I never really sang at home, but he encouraged me so much that I sang at the PTA [Parent Teacher Association]."
Seal wowed the crowd with Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," and the rest is history.
"I remember them calling my name up in the assembly, and me going to the stage and just being completely terrified," he said. "I closed my eyes and sang. … That was the first time that my parents had ever heard me sing. And I just remember it being the most terrifying experience, and then everything went completely silent but then afterwards everyone clapped and it just felt like the most comfortable place to be."
It was on that stage where Seal discovered his passion for music.
He was born in 1963 as Sealhenry Olumide Adeola Samuel to parents from Brazil and Nigeria.
In 1978 at 15 years old, Seal joined his first band Stay Brave. Throughout his adolescence, he was not solely interested in music. He worked as a leather clothing designer and even as an electric engineer.
Musically, his big break came in 1990, when he appeared as a vocalist on the Adamski single "Killer," which topped the charts in England. Soon after he released his debut effort, "Seal," which featured the hit song "Crazy."
"I think 'Crazy' is a song like that. 'Crazy' has this driving, slightly darker rhythm track to it, but then it has this kind of sweet melody and the chorus: 'No we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy,'" he said.
Since his debut album, Seal has watched his songs top the charts as his soulful ballads continue to attract listeners.
"I always think it's soulful," Seal said about his own music. "I think there's always kind of something quite unique and comfortive delivering it in a melancholic way. So I'll sing a lot of like major over minor to kind of add a little bit of tension. I always try and create tension in my music."
Seal's recent effort, "System," was released this week and includes a duet with wife Heidi Klum.
"If I had a way to describe this new record, it's pretty much a personification of my style, pretty definitive Seal album — a quintessential Seal album, I've heard people call it," he said. "It's one that I'm really excited about."
Seal's excitement about his craft continues to drive his enthusiasm for writing and performing powerful music.
"Somebody was telling me the other day that the Dalai Lama was saying that … musicians had a really important role to play in society, particularly in present times because they had the ability to communicate with people in a completely unadulterated way, directly to the emotions with music," Seal said.
"I mean, I agree with that part of it. I don't know whether we're the most important people in society at the moment, but I definitely agree that that certainly is the power of music. And the phenomenon in some respect is that you do have this direct conduit straight to the emotions, you can transcend languages, you can cut through any barriers."