Sevyn Streeter has cemented herself as a rising singer-songwriter with the success of her solo EP Call Me Crazy, But…, which debuted at number 5 on Billboard‘s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In addition to making her mark as a solo artist, Sevyn is also a Grammy-winning songwriter, having written six songs from Chris Brown’s Fame, as well as two songs from Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire. Her songwriting also include Tamar Braxton’s “All The Way Home,” Alicia Keys’ “New Day” and Ariana Grande’s chart-topping hit, “The Way.”
I’ve always considered songwriting to be one of the most intimate art forms. There’s something special about taking life lessons (good and bad) and metaphorically and melodically placing them over instruments — then listening to it all come together as if they were always meant to be. That’s the beauty of music!
My journey with writing began around age seventeen. I didn’t understand then what I overstand now: feeling everything so deeply is a gift, as long as you find an outlet for it. I first found my outlet in the form of a brown leather journal, a set of 99-cent tea candles and a CD of soothing ocean sounds. I would sit and write poetry for hours, not realizing that it would become the foundation of my love affair with songwriting.
Throughout the years, my poetry slowly started taking another shape. Poems became concepts that inspired melodies that turned into songs. I used to frequent a studio in the Valley owned by my uncles Ro and Sauce. There, I found myself in the presence of a man who would one day be deemed one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. His name was Ne-Yo. I demoed songs for him, studied his choices and tried to soak up everything I could — all the way up until the world got a glimpse of his genius and success called his name. That was such an inspiring moment in my life.
As I got older, music took me through all kinds of peaks and valleys, a journey that I welcomed.
As I got older, music took me through all kinds of peaks and valleys, a journey that I welcomed. I moved from one girl group to the next — situations where I wasn’t exactly encouraged to let my light shine, to say the least. I remember pulling the creator of my second girl group to the side and asking if I could take part in changing a line or two in a song. His response to me was a smug laugh, a pat on my shoulder and a “no baby.” I remembered feeling stifled and voiceless. Still, I never stopped writing down the million creative ideas that floated around in my head all day. I knew one day they would be set free.
After years of having a useless voice in my groups, God slid an opportunity right under my nose. He placed one of my last group sessions right across the hall from Chris Brown. As nervous as one could be, I pulled Chris aside and said, “Hey, I hear you’re about to start a writing session. Can I join?” His response? “Yea, Imma come get you.”
I ran and told my group members. One of the girls chose to go back to the hotel, and after about forty-five minutes into the session with Chris, the other two opted to go have drinks. In awe of the process, and so desperately wanting to learn more, I chose to stay — surrounded by artists, writers and producers I’d admired since forever. In addition to Chris, there was Tank (who is one of my top three favorite male singers), Lonny Bereal (who has written a lot of my favorite songs) and so many other creative minds. A kid in a candy store had nothing on me at that moment. I threw out a few lines and most were rejected, lol. But I didn’t care, because for the first time I HAD A VOICE!
When all was said and done, I walked away with seven placements on each album, features and a lifetime worth of lessons.
Months went by, and every chance I got, I was in the studio with Chris — lending a word or opinion whenever it was needed. We traveled and continued to create his albums F.A.M.E. and Fortune. When all was said and done, I walked away with seven placements on each album, features and a lifetime worth of lessons. One lesson I learned, in particular, by watching him create every day: “NEVER PUT YOURSELF IN A BOX.”
Naturally, doors to write for other artists began to open: Brandy, Alicia Keys, Diddy, Jesse J, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Tamar Braxton, etc. I even penned my own hit song “It Won’t Stop,” which sat at the top of the charts for weeks and weeks!
All of the knowledge and experience I gained while writing for others played such a huge role in how I approached my album, Girl Disrupted. I challenged myself to be more fearless and more vulnerable. I was even more honest with my co-writers, which is always important to me. There has to be a level of trust in the studio in order for the music to be authentic. Girl Disrupted is exactly that…authentically me. I learned so much about myself and disrupted the things I didn’t like. I have my album to thank for that!
Throughout my life, I’ve always felt everything on the deepest level and never quite understood why. When God gave me this beautiful outlet called songwriting, the reason became clear. Therefore, on the days when it’s hard to lift my head off the pillow, I allow my hand and my pen do all the heavy lifting.