Seasta Chani – Not Your Average Mum /// #GroundUp Interview

Need some motivation to get your arse into gear and finally release that album? Just get pregnant! It was the final push that Perth MC Seasta Chani needed to complete an album that was over four years in the making! At nine months pregnant her debut LP Life Sounds Like has just been released, so we caught up with the MC for a chat, before the baby drops!

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born and raised in Perth city but have spent a lot of time living and travelling overseas (which is why my music has had many hiatus’ over the years). I have a degree in Performance and Cultural Studies – my passion used to be in acting! I’ve spent a lot of time working with kids and teenagers over the last 15 years, mostly facilitating self development workshops through theatre and music. I’ve got a 2 year old and I am due to have my second baby in a month’s time! Then that’s enough kiddies for me – I’m the 4th child in 5 so I definitely DO NOT want to repeat what my Mum did!! That’s way too hard a life. Along with making music and raising a family, I have also been involved in storytelling writing and performance over the last couple of years. It’s like an extension of my music writing – telling true life stories but without the beat.

How did you get into the Hip Hop scene and what’s your involvement been so far?

I come from a very musical family and grew up in the 80s when rap music was first hitting the mainstream. As little kids, this was the music my brothers, sister and I were drawn to and I guess it all evolved from there. My sister, who is the eldest, got really into the hip hop/rnb scene in Perth in the early 90s and we were always very influenced by her. She would by vinyl and import CDs from the states, so we were exposed to a lot of stuff you just couldn’t get here. As a teenager my cousins were really into NWA and Wu-Tang (and so were a lot of the guys at school) and we’d sit around cyphering. I was never very good at freestyling but it was always good fun and something to do. I started writing rhymes in about 2003 after my first serious relationship break-up and when I first moved overseas.

I’d always written poems and was in bands at school but this was the first time I’d started writing hip hop music. When I got back to Perth I started performing with my twin brother who was a scratch DJ in a group called Terijium. We did our thing for about 5 years whenever I was back in Perth. I also rhymed with a group called the Horticulturalists, with producers Beat Specific, in 2005/6.

In 2011, after another year overseas, I decided to start performing as a solo artist and finally recorded for the first time. I released a self-titled EP in 2012 and in 2013 released a soundtrack to accompany my original musical production called Bows Don’t Go, which I performed as part of the Perth FringeWorld Festival and was nominated for a FringeWorld Award for Best Musical Act.

What inspires you to make music and who have you been influenced by?

I love hip hop music. I love the beats and the versatility. I think it also suits me because I have a lot to say! I love that I can put my political opinions, my stories, and my emotional turmoil into one genre of music.

I am mostly inspired to write when I feel very passionately about something or when I need to sort my head or heart out. This is when it becomes my type of therapy. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in the 80s when rap music was first hitting the mainstream and my brothers, sister and I would listen to the likes of Salt N Pepa, MC Hammer, Young MC and Vanilla Ice! Salt N Pepa were a big influence if I look back. They were the first female hip hop artists I was exposed to and they weren’t afraid of tackling taboo issues.

Now I’m most influenced by people in the Aussie Hip Hop scene – pretty much all the Elefant Traks and Big Village crew, Mantra, Class A and all the local artists from Perth. I get really inspired when I see a great live act.

So your pregnancy pushed you to finally release this LP, tell us about it how it came about.

It’s really exciting because I’ve always wanted to make a full length album – it’s a milestone for me after years of performing live. As I mentioned earlier, I’m 9 months pregnant and this was really the motivation I needed to actually do it!

I’ve had half an album done, beats waiting for lyrics and song ideas sitting there since I had my first child. I had a plan to slowly chip away at it but that didn’t really happen – being a parent is hard work! I released the first single to the album called Finding My Feet way back in May last year and made a great film clip with the very talented David Vincent Smith. It has some free runners in it and it was great to be productive and keep in the game.

I knew when I got pregnant this time I HAD to finish the album or it may never happen (or at least not happen for another 2 years). The fact that I had an unmovable time frame was actually a great thing for me – it’s easy as a solo artist to put things off. It was the kick in the butt I needed! The whole process moved along very quickly. I am a full-time Mum so funding was always going to be an issue. A friend who is a Blues & Roots singer recently successfully Crowdfunded her album and I was totally inspired. I set up a similar campaign to her with Pozible and was completely overwhelmed by the support my Crowdfunding Project received. I was truly blown away. Everyone who contributed received a copy so before the album was even finished I had sold over 60 copies.

Being pregnant obviously affected the process (in a good way!), but how else did you go about making this album?

Working on this album was quite a different experience to anything I’ve done before. Because I had such a tight time frame, I really had to get into the zone to get it all done. It was pretty amazing how productive I became and how the creative juices easily flowed by being so focused. For me, this is definitely the way I will work on projects in the future.

Some of the songs on Life Sounds Like I wrote a really long time ago and have been performing live for ages. They have developed over the years and developed even more through the recording process. Then some of the tracks were only just written last month – they grew from an idea I had about the content coupled with an empty beat I loved.

In the past, I’d always had to search for instrumentals that match up with my melodies. On this album, a few of the songs were written around my vocals, which was really fantastic. It meant I didn’t have to compromise any part of the song, it was a very freeing process. A few of the songs were written around the instrumental track as well. I normally have too much of a backlog of lyrics for this to happen. On these tracks, I went into the process with a hook, or a few lines, or simply an idea as to what I wanted the song to be about, and it grew from there.

You’ve been around the Perth scene for a long time, who did you team up with on this record?

I have been really lucky to work with so many amazing musicians on this album. First and foremost, Rob Shaker has had a massive influence on the album. He recorded, mixed and mastered this album and he has been my main man for my other releases as well. I really rely and respect his musical input and opinions – we have similar tastes in other music and often have agreeable critiques of hip hop tracks. He also produced a few of the tracks – two of his instrumentals I wrote lyrics to and one he produced from scratch for me.

I had written the melody and teamed up with my cousin Tom O’Halloran, who is a multi award-winning Jazz pianist. I basically went into where he works at WAAPA, sung him what I have, and he wrote piano to the whole song on the spot. This is what I gave to Shaker and he produced the rest of the song.

There are two songs produced by Mei Saraswati who is an amazing vocalist as well as producer.  This was a similar process – I sung her what I had and she created the instrumental around me.

Creed Birch produced one of the tracks, and Beat Specific gave me six instrumentals to work with. Optamus features on a track, along with The Apprentice (another cousin of mine). It was great to collaborate with my long time mentor and Perth hip hop pioneer. Optamus has also produced one of the tracks.

I also had Aysha Amani from The Amani Consort come into the studio and put her sweet soul voice on a couple of the tracks. She has also been a supportive mentor to me over the years so it was great to work with her.

Thanks for the chat Seasta!

You can follow Seasta Chani over on the usuals;

Facebook | Unearthed

and grab the album on Bandcamp!