At the tender age of ten, Sevyn Streeter performed on a stage most performers wait their entire career to get to: the Apollo Theater. She sang “My Funny Valentine” in the legendary theater’s amateur talent show.
From the age of 11 into her teenage years, she sang gospel in a touring vocal group with her extended family in her home state of Florida. At 15, she got her first taste of success on a national stage, touring as part of the girl group TG4.
Obviously, Streeter has wasted no time getting her music career off the ground, becoming a GRAMMY winner at 25 who continues to widen her performance and songwriting repertoire to R&B, pop, gospel and beyond.
“I’ve always had a love for music in general,” Streeter said.
That broad love and versatile talent for music has helped make Streeter a successful behind-the-scenes songwriter in R&B and pop today, penning tracks and a few hits for the likes of Ariana Grande, Brandy, Kelly Rowland and Alicia Keys, to name a few. It’s been a long time coming, but she’s finally focusing on her solo career with the release of her debut EP Call Me Crazy, But….
Its title intends to evoke listeners to talk about matters of the heart, she says — sometimes veering toward the R&B risque or the soul-music confessional — for an audience that might not always be open initially to such frank discussion. To that end, her YouTube channel contains an ongoing series of Loveline-type advice chats with Streeter and friends taking submitted questions from social media and a call-in hotline. Let’s just say it’s not exactly safe for work.
“It is something that prompts conversation but I can’t take credit for it,” Streeter said of the promotional strategy behind her EP, dutifully giving props to the behind-the-scenes talent at her label, Atlantic Records. “We sat in a room and listened to this EP and had a really honest conversation about it and realized that some of these songs can be considered a little crazy, but we all could relate to it in one way or another. And we felt like if all the people in this room can, people out there can. So it was a team effort.”
Streeter, by her own admission, has come from behind the scenes into the spotlight because of another collaboration and possibly her most notable one: that with Chris Brown. The troubled R&B singer is something of a “crazy” topic of discussion himself, though Streeter insists she knows a different kind of Brown than the public thinks it knows.
“Chris, to me, is family,” Streeter said. “He’s one of the most generous people I’ve had the pleasure to work with and I mean that on so many levels. Working with him professionally and personally has been nothing short of amazing.”
Streeter met Brown through mutual talent management while in R&B group RichGirl, a short-lived project that toured with Beyonce on her I Am… World Tour. Streeter said that she and Brown met in a recording studio and hit it off collaboratively. The fruits of their labor would culminate into a Best R&B Album GRAMMY for his 2011 album F.A.M.E., which carries four Streeter songwriting credits.
“I screamed, I lost my mind, I was so happy for him,” Streeter said when she found out F.A.M.E. won a Grammy.
The day after the award was announced, in what must have been a humbling phone call with her parents, she realized that she, too, won a GRAMMY for her songwriting credits on the album.
“Do you know how much of a dork I am?” she laughed. “It didn’t even really hit me. I was so happy for him, I didn’t even realize. I got happy all over again.”
Streeter swears next time — and she insists there will be a next time — her reaction will be less delayed and she’ll be winning for herself, as a performer.
“I would love to win Best New Artist,” Streeter said, whose debut solo full length is set for next year. “As a songwriter, I would love to win Song of the Year.”
But Streeter said there’s still “that ten-year-old girl in me who walked on the stage of the Apollo, she still lives in me” and she craves attention of her very own. “I would put accepting that award as an artist over the songwriting one,” she said. “Because, for so long, that’s been a dream of mine.”