Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua (born Oluwaseyi Odedere; 21 December 1985), professionally known as Seyi Shay (pronounced Shay-yee Shay), is a Nigerian-based, England-born singer, songwriter and actress. She wrote and produced three songs for the soundtrack to Konami’s video game Crime Life: Gang Wars (2005).
She also wrote “You Will See”, a song that was included on Melanie C’s third studio album Beautiful Intentions (2005). Shay wrote “White Lies”, a song from Chip’s Transition album. In 2008, she became the lead singer for the now-defunct pop girl group From Above. Shay released her debut studio album Seyi or Shay in November 2015. It was supported by the promotional singles “Irawo”, “Ragga Ragga”, and “Chairman”.
Seyi Shay Early Life
Seyi Shay was born and raised in Tottenham, London, England, to Nigerian parents. Her mother was from Northern Nigeria and her father is a native of Ife, Osun State, South West, Nigeria. She has two elder brothers and an elder sister. She and her siblings were raised by their single mother. Shay grew up in a religious setting and felt like a single child during her adolescence. She started visiting Nigeria when she was two years old, and eventually attended the Command High School in Maryland, Lagos.
She went back to London to complete her undergraduate studies. Her interest in music was influenced by members of her household. Her late mother was a chorister and her sister used to compose songs for TV. Moreover, her brother was a radio and club disc jockey (DJ). Shay joined her secondary school choir and started performing at the age of 6. She performed for the London Community Gospel Choir during their world tour, which included 13 cities in Japan. Shay was applauded for her performances in Japan.
She studied music at a local UK college and went on to study business management at the University of East London. In an interview with Lanre Odukoya of Thisday, Shay said that her mother wasn’t a staunch supporter of her musical ambitions. Moreover, her mother wanted her to become a doctor or lawyer. Prior to departing the Earth, her mother told her to focus on her music career and put God first.
Her music career took an upswing when she signed her first ever record deal with No Apology, a record company affiliated with George Martin (commonly referred to as the “Fifth Beatle”).
In 2006, Shay formed a girl band in the UK called Boadicea; they were managed by Ron Tom, the founder and manager of All Saints and Sugababes. The band separated after two years, and Shay decided to partake in the From Above UK singing audition. After the conclusion of the audition, she emerged as the lead vocalist for the now defunct girl group ‘From Above’. The group inked a record deal with Mathew Knowles’ management company after performing for him. They were taken to Houston to undergo energetic vocal and dance trainings. The group supported Beyoncé while she was in the UK for her I Am… World Tour. They presented an award at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards and had their own MTV reality show called ‘Breaking From Above’, which aired in over 166 countries around the world.
The group later disassembled and Shay had an opportunity to continue her management deal with Mathew Knowles, as well as secure a recording contract with Sony. Instead, she made a decision to join Flytime Music after getting an offer from them. Shay has worked with a number of musicians, including Justin Timberlake, Brian Michael Cox, Darey, Bilal, Michelle Williams, Chip, Rob Knoxx, H-Money, and Cameron Wallace.
Flytime: Meeting Sound Sultan
Seyi Shay was introduced to Sound Sultan during his visit to London in 2011. After listening to some of her demos, Sultan convinced her to relocate to Nigeria and pursue her musical career there. In addition to meeting Sultan, Shay was introduced to Cecil Hammond of Flytime Promotions. Hammond signed her to his record label Flytime Music and decided to launch her solo career in Nigeria. In 2013, Shay left Flytime Music and told Vanguard newspaper that she had joined the label to promote her brand. She also said that while signed to the record label, she was very much in control of her brand. Moreover, she said she still has a relationship with the label.
Artistry and role models
Although her musical style is primarily a combination of Afropop and R&B, Shay doesn’t conform to a particular genre of music. She believes that her musical prowess covers different genres, and has stated that her music draws from things that inspire her. Shay has cited her mother, Mathew Knowles, 2face Idibia, Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Sound Sultan, Wizkid, and Omawumi as mentors.
In November 2013, Shay signed an endorsement deal with telecommunications service provider Etisalat. In July 2015, she signed a record deal with Island Records.