PEOPLE: An Intimate Conversation with Sebastian Kole
By Je'Don Holloway-Talley
Anniversaries of any kind are usually important to us, as they are symbolic of milestones and achievements in life. Years on the job, years spent in a harmonious marriage, graduations, you name it. But could you imagine commemorating the 3rd anniversary of your signing deal with a major record label?! On Sunday, November 1st, 2015, I had an intimate phone conversation with music composer/singer/songwriter- Sebastian Kole; and we did just that! We celebrated his musical journey, and the 3rd anniversary of his deal with EP Entertainment/Motown Records over a beautifully insightful, spiritually infused, colloquy about LIFE, CULTURE, & PEOPLE. This Birmingham native ventured out West after acquiring mainstream song writing success with fellow Birmingham native; Michael Warren (who used to be signed to Atlantic Records). Together they created the Pop song "Goin In" by Jennifer Lopez and Flo Rida (which went #1 on the dance charts), and after generating some financial increase from the success of that song, he decided that it was time for him to make the ultimate musical pilgrimage- THE MOVE TO LA!
Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't as easy and breezy as making the move, and going to the home office and signing paperwork. No, my dude went out there on a whim and a promise, Motown wasn't even on the table yet! The guy who brokered the deal for he and Warren for the JLo/Flo Rida song, is the one who proposed the possibilities to Sebastian and convinced him of the opportunities available in LA, if he'd move. So he did, and called the guy after moving and getting settled in, but homeboy NEVER picked up the phone... Yep, you read me right. Never returned a text, email, or called back. Ever. So, Sebastian began reaching out to other sources, and people in the music circuit who also saw his supreme talent and potential.
Well, his 1st call lead to an immediate studio session, which scored him another session. Then that session lead to the next session, which lead to another session, which ultimately lead to the house jamming session, that led to the meeting with EP Entertainment/Motown Records. Which then of course, lead to the fruition and fulfillment of many dreams! Kole has been in a whirlwind romance for the past three years with the music scene abroad and in LA. His most recent mainstream success lye's within the soulful vocal's of new music sensation Allessia Cara (EP Enteratinment/Def Jam recording artist). Mr. Sebastian is the musical genius who penned the lyrics, and song arrangement of "Here", her latest single, which is #11 on the Billboard Charts. And let's not misunderstand what a notable achievement this is; the Billboard charts tabulate music popularity in the US and abroad! A BIRMINGHAM NATIVE HAS A SONG THAT IS #11 IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD... #SALUTE!
So now that I have your full attention, let's delve deeper into the essence of the man behind the music. Here at LCP when we feature you...WE FEATURE YOU. I do not have an ordinary journalistic perspective on Life, Culture, or People, and I do not ask ordinary questions. From now until forever, no matter who you are, I want to know something I can't find out on Wikipedia or your Facebook page. Oh, and make no mistake, Mr. Kole does populate in a Wiki search lol! #SALUTE! You ready? #Let'sGo!
Enough of the small talk, let's get down to business!
LCP: Sebastian on behalf of LCP I'd like to thank you for this opportunity, and for giving us an exclusive. I'm sure you've done lot's of interviews in your time, but I assure you that you have never done one like this before!
SK: (he laughs) As a matter of fact, I just finished doing another interview right before you called me. Let's see what you got, whatcha' wanna know?
LCP: So Sebastian, you probably don't remember me, or ever seeing me in the night life, but you and I occasionally ended up in the same company back in the day, and I used to see you performing all around the "Ham" (a term of endearment for Birmingham), but you used to go by your birth name, Coleridge. How and when did you create your Pen/Stage name?
SK: Yes, I was born Coleridge Tillman, but I took on the moniker in my college days. My favorite music composer is Johann Sebastian Bach, and my favorite movie at the time was "Cruel Intentions" and I loved the character Sebastian. So I infused my birth name with my fav's and Sebastian Kole was born.
LCP: I love that movie, by the way. But that's a throwback, I was a tween when that movie came out.
SK: Yeah it's one of my favorites, I had my own copy (he laughs).
LCP: LIFE- Who is Sebastian Kole in life, what will your life have stood for by the time it's all said and done?
SK: So when they put me in the ground, I've told my mom and all my family this; when they bury me, I want my tombstone to say I was a steward of righteousness, a lover of all mankind, and an example of The Most High. That's what my life is really all about. I want to do what's right, that's the most important thing to me, to always do things the right way. In everything that I want to accomplish, I want to know that I did it the right way. Without having had to trick anybody, or use anybody. I didn't sleep my way to the top, I didn't sell my soul to the devil, I didn't do any of those things. I want to know that I did this the way that I felt was right to do, so that I can go to sleep at night...because I did what I thought was right. So that's life to me.
I'm a brother, and a son, and a grandson, and I take those jobs way more serious than I do, songwriting. I'm a teacher, I teach a lot. I teach bible study every Saturday, still to this day, and I've been doing that for the last 10 years. I just really love God, man. I really love God a lot, doing right, and knowing that I am a righteous man. I'm pretty sure that this is not what this interview was about, but (he chuckles) that's just me.
LCP: Oh no Sebastian, this is definitely the essence of what I wanted this interview to behold, and this is only the 1st of the spiritual questions, trust me honey, they're coming! (I laugh)
CULTURE- What is your cultural background? You're not just Afro American, are you, or aren't you? Who do want to be to your culture, and what do you want to bring to music culture?
SK: I am African American, I was born here. I am a child of the West African slaves. So, yes, I would consider myself to be part of that aspera. Nobody is 'just black" we all derived from different parts of Africa.
However, when it comes to what I want to bring to black culture and the culture of black music... Aww man.. Ok, right now in music, we as Black people are doing some bad PR for ourselves. You know? When it comes to perception, we're giving other races a bad picture of who we really are. They don't live with us or around us. They don't know how we think. In Birmingham, you know, we're separated by a mountain. The upper echelon live on one side of the mountain, and we live at the bottom of the mountain so we don't really know each other. Yeah we work together, but we're not there to be friends, we're each doing our jobs, so we only get to know so much about one another. A lot of what they do know, or think they know about us...we're showing them through our music and the media. And if I were them... I'd think that black people don't love each other. I'd think we hate one another, we want to kill each other, and we want to abuse our women. I'd think we don't have friends, or deep rooted relationships, or respect for the next life. That's what our music says to them, and it's not true. I love my friends, we don't fight, I can't even remember the last time I had a fight, what would I be fighting for? I'm a black man, but I don't live like that. To me, we are family oriented people, we are loving, hard working, good people. Tons and tons of black people have never seen or done a drug, never shot a pistol, and have never robbed anyone a day in their life. And plenty of our women have never shook their butts for cash money, before. Yet, that's not what the media thinks, or what our behavior in the media/on social media shows. Our actions and behaviors, along with how the media perceives us, paints a horrible picture of who we are as a people. I want to present normalcy in the messages I send thru music, something people can relate to. You can't relate to being in the club popping bottles every night, you can't. At least I can't. I don't drive Maserati's or Lamborghini's, I can't afford to live that way, and the average person can't either. That's not normal black life. I'm not trying to be the "safe negro" per se, but so much time in music is spent sending that message, that somebody needs to say the opposite. We have the same complexities as any other race of people, we love too, and we have deep ideas about that love. That's what I want to bring to music culture.. That honesty of who we are as people.
LCP: PEOPLE- Who are you to the people, what influence do you want to have on people, and how do you want the people to perceive you?
SK: I want the people to perceive me as...a friend.. Now people from back home are starting to tell me "oh you're getting fans now, and ooh fans" but I don't want fans, I want friends. I want to mentor thru music, I want to be a role model. Some people say- don't want to be a role model and resent the idea of the responsibility, but I want to be one, I really do.. I want to be an example, I want to be hope for some people, I want to help people...I want my music to feel like a friend is giving them a message. So..umm, yeah.. A friend, (he laughs) I want to be a friend to the people.
LCP: Is spirituality absent from mainstream music?
SK: Yes & No. I read the bible daily, and I read The Torah (The Holy Bible) differently because of how I view the term spirituality. I'll try not to make this too convoluted. The way I view God is probably different than the way most people view God. I study the bible all the time, so I'm not some new age reader. I'm a bible rooted believer. But I read the bible differently than most people because of the way I was educated. My Mother and Father are both Pastors. My Mother has a degree in divinity, and I studied theology for quite some time, so I read this book a little differently. So imagine if there was absolutely nothing that existed, and all that could possibly exist in nothing; is the possibility of something. Does that make sense? (#Preach) All that can exist in nothing, is the possibility of something. There's infinite possibility there. So I believe God to be the great logic, the great idea, that made all things. He's the great idea that is permeated in everything. Literally, without God, there would be no "things", he's the great logic behind the creation of all things. Spirituality is the following of a logic, so when you read the bible, and it says "the spirit is going to come, and it's going to teach you all things", right? So the spirit comes, and it taught us that God is the creator of all things..including this music. Spirituality is not in the- "oh I love God" or in things you have to say or do, because spirituality is in the way you process information. You cannot separate yourself from spirituality because it's how you look at things. So yes, spirituality is in EEEEEEVERYTHIING, including the music industry. It's just a horrible spirituality, instead of a positive one. There's a certain logic that goes behind our music, and it says that it's okay to promote one type of horrible spirituality, but not the other. Like sex, drugs, and murder; but it's not okay to openly promote the spirit of rape...? Oh no, that would cause a sponsor to snatch back a campaign/sponsorship from a rapper real quick, because that promotes a dangerous innuendo for women. But nobody snatches endorsements from rappers, rapping about subject matter that creates a dangerous innuendo for our little boys. So yes, spirituallity is very present in music, and the logic behind the spirituality of mainstream music needs to change; so that we can change the spirituality of our people.
LCP: Does your spirituality and faith aid you in your success?
SK: Yes it does, It keeps me very centered on what's important and what's important to say in my music. Like my mom always said, "if you're going to have a mic in your hand, you might as well say something." So I feel the same way, if you're going to be listening to me for three minutes anyway, I might as well say something meaningful. That's how my spirituality aids my success, it keeps me grounded and things in proper perspective, so I am able to stay focused.
LCP: So what's your religion?
SK: I don't have a religion at all, the bible never taught me to pick up a religion, it taught me to Love God and it taught me what God to love (#IAmThatIAm). It also taught me to love people and I do those things. I am Hebrew by ethnicity, as a child of the west African slaves, but America calls us something different. I am a bible believing, faithful man, I believe in The Messiah, and I follow the law. Christianity was created in the 300's, Jesus himself was not a Christian, Paul was not a Christian. These were Hebrew people whdo followed this teacher (The Messiah) named Jesus, and he taught people to do the right things, he taught people to do what Moses said to do. #Deep!
LCP: So are you telling me that as a devout believer of God's word, and the Law, that you don't work on the Sabbath/Saturday? Is that the day you worship?
SK: Absolutely. I DO NOT, WILL NOT work on the Sabbath, and I don't care who you are...I WILL NOT be at that studio until sundown on Saturday. Which is usually about 7. Yes, Saturday is the day we study, and I'm actually my parents' and our congregations' Pastor at this point. We don't have a building, no need for one, all the people I teach to are all over the world; so we have Saturday conference calls. Plus, getting up and getting dressed and rushing into a service is unnecessary. It's a hassle. This way, everybody actually gets to take the Sabbath and have a day of rest.
LCP: That's so freaking cool...(lol) I love that, it's so pure & beautiful.
LCP: Okay, so back to the music, anyone you want to write, produce or work with, that you have yet to?
SK: Oh man, this past summer has been amazing. Coming this summer i'll have completed a lot of projects with some really big names in music. I'm really excited, it's like it's crazy...my name is getting ready to be attached to big artists, so because of that, I have now worked with a lot of the American artists that I've dreamed of working with. I really love a lot of artists from England. I really want to work with Adele, Sanford, Ed Sheeren, and Labrinth.
LCP: How did it feel to have a follow up hit such as "Here" by Allessia Cara be so well received by the world? It's like this song is SEBASTIAN, it's soulful, it's of your genre of music and anyone who know your voice and sound, KNOWS that that's you! So how does that feel, does it feel like mainstream music is now ready for you?
SK: Oh my God it's such a crazy feeling. When I wrote this song, I was all out of ideas, so it was a shot in the dark. I was thinking about being in a room at a party and not really wanting to be there, and I just went with the idea. So It's really crazy to see it picking up like this. She just performed this with Taylor Swift the other day, and she's performed it on Ellen, and on the Jimmy Fallon show. So you know what that means. The Roots have now played my song, Taylor Swift has now sung my song, it's crazy. Kylie Jenner is doing SnapChat's singing the song, Gabrielle Union was tweeting about it, and Kelly Rowland is tweeting about it. So for people to really be taking to this song like this is like WOW (In the Joey Lawrence voice lol), I was just messing around when I wrote this. Like, just yesterday, I was riding up to Malibu with my buddy and the song just came on the radio, and I'm like...I WROTE THAT, and now it's all over the airwaves, this is crazy! (#Blessed by The Most High)
LCP: Busy, hectic life, how do you manage to stay grounded and connected to your close friends and family, despite the hectic schedule?
SK: One of the things I do, is use Facebook a lot. It let's me keep up with my friends and the things going on their lives. And with my closest group of friends, we have a Facebook group that we all write in. So that allows me to stick my head in and drop a line or two and get in and get out. And then there's the Sabbath. It's really amazing because I get to do nothing (he chuckles), so I get to talk to my whole family, and that's what I do every Saturday.
LCP: Beautiful. So what's the "Grand Scheme", what's the plan? When it's all said and done what do you want to have accomplished in total?
SK: Man, I want to... Ummm... Ok, getting accolades and winning awards is important in this industry, so of course I want to win a Grammy or two, I want to go platinum a few times, because all of that stuff is really important on the professional side. But that's not what I really want out of this thing, The most important thing for me to be able to do from this whole experience, is be able to take care of my family. And buy land, and really set my lineage up, and be an example to other families, like- this is how you are supposed to do things. Provide businesses and earning potential for your family, and put more businesses (other than food joints I suppose) in our neighborhoods. Help create reputable companies, and help others get their businesses off the ground. I want to be able to just give people the money who are trying to do something incredibly beneficial to our communities. I'd like to be a secret donor, like don't mention my name, I don't have anything to do with it, just go do what you're trying to do. So that's what I want from the master plan.
LCP: To do what God said to do for our families and communities..
SK: EXACTLY! (he laughs) Right, right.
LCP: Well Mr. Sebastian Kole, this was an absolute pleasure and this conversation was truly a blessing to my soul. So, was this interview different from anything you've ever done?
SK: Yeah absolutely, it was fun. I just did an interview before this one and it was nothing like this. I really enjoyed it, thank you for reaching out, it was amazing!
LCP: Yaaaaaaaaaaasss! (lol) that's what I'm talking about!
Check out Sebastian's latest recording- "HELLO" the cover. And then check out his hit single, by Allesia Cara "Here".
Did you enjoy this article? Was this deep conversation with #SebastianTheGreat intriguing to you? Did you get a sense of LIFE, CULTURE, and PEOPLE from this write up? Would you like to see a part two, and hear the audio from this interview? Drop us a line, and of course, SUBSCRIBE! Follow us on social below!
LOVE. LIVE. LIFE.