Still a little crazy after all these years: It's like he's never been away: first there was Seal with Seal, now there is Seal with Seal. And the new album, like the old, is produced by Trevor Horn. But look: no hair] By Giles Smith

You'll remember Seal from the 1991 single 'Crazy' and the impressive debut album, Seal, which probably could have fought its way into the public consciousness, even without the mighty billboard poster campaign which thumped home his image - giant black letters on a white background reading SEAL, with the man himself in a long leather coat, feet apart, arms crossed, formidably forming the 'A' in his own name. With a smooth, clear voice somewhere between soul and rock, and with looks and charisma to spare, he was hailed, instantly and loudly, as a new British pop sensation.

That's normally the cue for a disaster of one kind or another, but there were good omens. Interviewed back then, Seal seemed level-headed, personable, gadget-mad (portable phones, personal stereos) and altogether less likely to implode after an orgy of drug-fuelled waywardness than following a major shopping blow-out in Dixon's. Still, pop being what it is, if he had never made another record, we would have been sad but not surprised. Here he is, though, back again, but not before a period of biding his time, thinking things over, steadying himself. (And shaving his hair off: Seal is bald for '94.)

'Looking back,' he says, 'that first album was very young, very idealistic: if we only stick together we can save the world. I'd just come back from a long trip to Asia and I was unstoppable in that respect.' The new one, released later this month (and again called Seal, just to be confusing) contains, he suggests, 'a hint of realism' and finds him working the lower range of his voice, where his early tendency was to hit the high registers straight away and stay there. 'Trevor always said my voice had a nice quality down there.'

That's Trevor Horn, the prodigiously gifted record producer who worked with Seal on his first album and again on the new one, and who said he found Seal 'frightening' at first ('he was so big') and wasn't sure whether they would get on. The snazzy single, 'Prayer for the Dying', released now, shows how close they are - all fidgeting guitars, muffled drums and little touches of keyboard, quiet and incidental yet somehow suggesting enormous, airy space. Few pop producers have Horn's control of dynamics and few singers sound quite so well-cast for the resulting drama as Seal.

He knew a little about success after 'Killer', a dance record made with Adamski in 1990. 'I remember the first time we got to No 1, Adamski and myself were in one of those family inn restaurants on a Sunday near Cambridge. The week before, we were No 4 and Madonna was No 1. We'd borrowed a pounds 7.99 combat radio, like you order from the papers, so we could hear the chart rundown, and we had it on really low. Madonna was No 4 so there was obviously a new No 1. Then they played No 3 and it wasn't us. It was between us and the Adventures of Stevie V. And they said, 'This week's No 2 . . . the Adventures of Stevie V' And I let out this huge roar. Honestly, families around us were going for their children - there was this six-foot-four black man gone wild in Cambridgeshire.'

Seal then removed himself to the quiet of the Gents for a think. 'I'd spent all this time trying to prove myself to family and friends. I'd never held down a nine-to-five job, my family was saying: 'You're wasting your time. What are you going to do with your life?' The usual stuff.'

Some scenes from the subsequent solo career of Seal, then aged 27. At the Brit Awards in 1992, he picked up trophies in almost every category and was 'overcome to the point where I couldn't talk'. At the Grammys in New York that same year, he won nothing, but performed live for the telecast: 'So nervous. There was something like a 17ft drop in front of the stage which didn't help.' Back-stage, in the tumult of the press-pen where few knew who he was, Seal was cautious, humble, unerringly polite ('I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. Would you mind repeating the question?'). Someone asked him if he knew that Madonna had announced publicly that she wanted to meet him, and a look of panic and amazement froze his face.

'The best thing that came out of the Grammys was that I did an interview for the LA Times, and for the umpteenth time I was asked about my musical influences and for the umpteenth time I said I really liked Joni Mitchell and reeled off this whole piece on why.' Two months after that, in France doing a gig, he received some flowers with a note reading: 'Thanks for appreciating the work, love Joni.' Mutual admiration now flows. Mitchell sings on a track on the new album called 'If I Could'. Seal may be the only person in London with a tape of her new, as yet unreleased album.

In the first period of success, people would stop Seal at random to tell him avidly how his voice worked for them. A woman sent him a sculpture inspired by his music and made with her feet. He worked out that being recognised or not in the street was, to some extent, up to him. 'The days I wanted to be noticed, wanted some feedback, I could go out there and kind of exude and I'd get recognised.' A sufferer in the past from anxiety attacks, he realised he could now be, if he wished, 'Seal, pop star, impervious to everything'. Nice to own a spanking black Porsche and a house in west London, especially when you've been on the dole and living in a squat. But for a while, people who had known him as calm and softly spoken suddenly found him chippy, hard to reach, prone to moods.

'People around me helped me through it - my best friend Paul and my manager and a couple of romances. Surrounded by sycophants, you become more judgemental. Anyone I met, I was thinking: 'What does this person want from me?' About a year ago I made a conscious decision: do you like this, do you like the gig? How much of yourself are you prepared to give away? Either become comfortable with it, or get out.' He chose comfort and stayed in.

'Somebody played the single on the radio the other day. I was speaking to my friend Oswald on the carphone. He said: 'They seem to be playing your record a lot.' I said, rather grumpily: 'Really? Cos I haven't heard it once.' Ironically enough, as I said that, it came on the radio. I said: 'Oswald: I'm going to have to call you back.' '

And then Seal did what any rookie would have done, but what a Brit-winning star, two albums into their career, might not: he pulled over to listen to his own record.

'I'd been listening to it as a song and now I wanted to hear this thing that Trevor had always talked about: I wanted to hear the record. It sounded better on the radio than it did on the stereo at home. And the DJ said, 'That was the new one from Seal - well worth waiting for.' And I had this feeling. I've had it before, it's only momentary, it never lasts and I get it sometimes on stage and I've also got it when I've been on a snowboard . . . almost unquantifiable . . . just this rush.'

'Seal' by Seal is released by ZTT on 23 May

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions