Interview: Sevyn Streeter Talks About Working With Chris Brown and Writing Hits For Other Artists

Interview: Sevyn Streeter Talks About Working With Chris Brown and Writing Hits For Other Artists

Sevyn Streeter may not be a household name, but if you check the songwriting credits of the latest hits on the pop charts, you're likely to find her name. The 27-year-old singer and songwriter has penned chart-topping tracks for Ariana Grande ("The Way"), Alicia Keys ("New Day"), Kelly Rowland ("Keep It Between Us"), and Chris Brown ("Yeah 3x") while creating her own bangers like “I Like It” and her latest single “It Won’t Stop.”

The former RichGirl (where she was known as Se7ev) and former TG4 member (where she went as Ambee Streeter) has matured into a talented solo artist that offers a controlled, old-school R&B vibe to her varied projects. In an industry where original lyrics aren't a prerequisite, Sevyn is a triple threat (Yup, she can dance, too). Complex sat down with the Atlantic Records artist to talk about the songs that changed her life, her writing career, and her debut studio album.

Interview by Imani Mixon (@ImaniMixon)

What inspires you to write?
Life, just things that I go through—conversations with your girlfriends or a good movie. People inspire me to write, the good ones and the bad ones.

Do you write with artists in mind?
It depends on who I’m writing for because I have days where I just go to the studio, pull up beats, and I just write. If I’m writing for a particular artist, I definitely think about their past records, pay attention to the type of tempos that they like. If I have the privilege of actually being in the session with the artist, I just like to have a conversation with them. Songs are all about emotion, you've gotta have a connection to it.

 

When someone calls me for a writing session, I go into that session and I leave Sevyn, the artist, outside of the door. If I’m writing for myself and I just love the record, it stays—and if I’m not that crazy about it, we ship it off somewhere.

 

If I‘m writing for myself, a little thing that I do so that I don’t overthink, is that I’ll envision myself being another artist. In my head I’ll be like, Okay, if I were Janet how would I sing this song? If I were Beyonce, if I were Michael Jackson, if I were Jagged Edge, how would I sing this song?

How do you decide what to keep for yourself?
When someone calls me for a writing session, I go into that session and I leave Sevyn, the artist,  outside of the door. If I’m writing for myself and I just love the record, it stays—and if I’m not that crazy about it, we ship it off somewhere.

What is your songwriting process like?
My process always starts with a melody then I’ll go in. I’ll lay down the melody, I’ll come back out and pay close attention to the track. I feel like the track speaks to you sometimes.

Who are your musical influences?
I have a lot and they’re kind of mixed all in together. From Kim Burrell to Prince to Janet Jackson to Dru Hill to Beyoncé to Madonna. It’s definitely all over the place.

You’ve done a lot of work with Chris Brown, how did that partnership come about?
That came about because I was in a group called RichGirl which was managed by Tina Davis, who also manages Chris. That’s how we ended up initially meeting. We ended up working out of the same studio one day and I asked him if I could write with him one day. I knew he was about to start a session and he had never heard anything that I had ever written, I didn’t have any placements. He was like, “Yeah come on, I'll come get you."

One of the biggest songs you've done with him is "Yeah 3x," how did that come about?
It was my first placement. It was just kind of weird and cool to hear your lyrics on the radio. I remember writing that song with Chris [Brown] and at one point he had to run out. He was like, “Yeah just write this little part and I’ll be right back.” I freaked out. I must have written five different versions of that verse and right before he walked back in the door. His engineer, Brian [Springer], helped me pick which one we were going to play for him and it ended being the one he kept.

Then you worked again with him on "Fine China," how was that years later?
That was a lot of fun, I actually wrote that record with [Eric] Bellinger, Rocstarr, and Chris. I just remember when Rocc finished the beat for it we were just tripping and it wasn’t even no words to it yet and it just felt so good.  That record just feels great. 

 

When I was on the road I got a phone call like, “Hey, Ariana Grande cut [The Way] and it’s gold." Then I got another phone call, “The song is platinum”. It’s like getting a present and it’s not even your birthday.

 

The track you wrote for Ariana Grande "The Way" has hit the top of the charts this year, how did you link up with her?
That song kind of came out of nowhere. Me, Jordin Sparks, and [Al Sherrod Lambert] wrote that together for Jordin. When I was on the road, I got a phone call like, “Hey, Ariana Grande cut the song and it’s gold." Then I got another phone call, “The song is platinum.” It’s like getting a present and it’s not even your birthday.

What are some upcoming projects you have in the mix?
It's one big experiment for me, but I feel like that’s how great things are created and born. You just gotta just try stuff and throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. That’s what we do in these sessions. I’m a fan of just drum patterns and I love me some 808s, I love crazy chord changes, I think that obviously came from church. I love to sing.

My album is going to be a nice little journey, a nice little ride from top to bottom. I can’t wait to get it out to the fans. I think I’m more anxious than they are. I know I definitely want to put out some more singles this year. I don’t have a release date yet, I just want it to be right. I just want to give people the best album that I possibly can.

What else can we expect from you in the future?
I want to write songs for artists who I haven’t got songs on before. On the artist side, I want to continue to put out more music, I want to continue to experiment a little more with my videos, especially like performance videos. I wanna be able to stand on the stage and hold out the mic and people sing all the lyrics to my song.

RELATED: Video: Sevyn Streeter Covers Aaliyah's "Come Over"

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