As a warm-up, Garrett's released his Rick Ross-supported track, 'In Da Box,' produced by himself and Lex Luger, with accompanying visuals. His move in front of the camera may raise a few eyebrows but it's nothing he's unfamiliar with. At the age of 15, the veteran writer signed his first record label. Now at 32, his resume reads like a combination of many of his peers' accomplishments -- Garrett has had 17 No. 1 records on the charts. But he realizes fans and even some critics are conditioned to embrace a certain kind of artist. Lucky for him, he's breaking the mold. "With people coming out like Frank Ocean and Drake, we all are rather different and initially none of us was looked at as the ideal artist," he tells The BoomBox. "It's a beautiful thing. It's like the art of creating yourself is now in, versus following the footsteps of these sort of made-up type of artists."
The former mortgage broker takes time away from his studio sessions with Mary J. Blige to reveal the R&B crooner who will guest on his next single, where his sophomore album will take him, why artists like Aretha Franklin inspire him and how comparing toothpaste to tires makes for a good music business analogy.
You recently released the visuals for your new song, 'In Da Box.' What direction are you taking this new album in based off of what we've heard?
Well, basically, this album is an album of new sounds and a lot of great energy. I think that I'm really just trying to open the door to let people into the musical side of Sean Garrett the artist. Basically, ['In Da Box'] was sort of like a teaser. 'Cause we have some really, really great songs, great music but because of the climate and the type of music out right now, and me being a songwriter and producer, I have to sort of ease my way in as opposed to just coming with an real eclectic song. I had to come with something moreso clubby. That was the purpose for the 'In Da Box' record.
Do you have a new song lined up then?
We definitely have an array of hits coming. I got a record that I'm really excited about. There's two features on it. I'll give you one of them. One is Jeremih. I'm gonna keep the other one on the hush. But my new single is a blockbuster record so I'm really, really excited about that. But 'In Da Box' is definitely doing its thing. It's making a lot of noise in the clubs. Basically, it's just making everybody aware that we're here. And then we're gonna come with that radio record that we think is gonna react really well.
So what's the message in the follow-up track?
It's basically a party record. Its also clubby but it's more like an anthem, like 'Break Up' was with me, Gucci Mane and Mario. I think it's something that everybody is gonna feel. The track was done by my man Mike Will. We recorded that about a month ago.
You do a meld of both singing and rapping. Do you feel like you're better in one lane than the other?
Well, I mean, to be very honest with you, I love to sing but I'm just an artist who just really likes to maximize on having fun with records. I don't really call it rapping, I call it singing but it's a different kind of singing [laughs]. I enjoy both, you know. I never really call myself a rapper but I'm moreso a singer who has a different type of style. And this same style I've been having on a lot of my records that I've done for other people. Some of those artists are more singy, if you will, so it sort of comes off that way. I love singing more.
Who are some of your inspirations that you looked to on the come-up?
I would definitely say Usher. Usher is somebody [that] I love his voice. He has enormous tone. I love Bel Biv DeVoe's style. I was really inspired by them. I would say R. Kelly. Of course Michael Jackson. I'm always inspired by women [too]. I'd probably say some beautiful voices I've been inspired by was Beyonce. I love Alicia Keys. My mom used to listen to a lot of different artists like Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin. A lot of that soul that a lot of the older artists had is in my soul. Any time it's convenient to use on a track, any time I hear a track that's suitable for that, that comes out. There's so many different artists. I think every artist there's something to learn from 'em. It's a combination of a lot of great artists who I've sorta adopted my styles from. That's why a lot of my music, you can't really put a finger on, like every record is kinda different 'cause there's a different inspiration from it. I feed off the emotion of the track and the emotion of the song.
When did you realize you wanted to be in the spotlight and move away from being behind the scenes?
Well, I signed my first record deal when I was 15 years old. I moved to Europe when I was 5, so I grew up in Europe but I'm from Atlanta. At 15, I signed my first deal but I had always been an artist. What happened was, I came back to the states and there were so many people that were asking me to write songs for other people, as well as myself, that I had to eventually cave in and say, "OK I'll give it a shot." It was never something that I ever even intended to do, writing and producing for other people. It was moreso just writing and producing for myself. God sort of had his way in reference to letting me know that he had a different path for me that I never even knew I had. It's always been in me to be an artist and be very creative and someone who would stand out as a performer at some point. Fortunately, I was blessed with these 17 No. 1 records, you know what I'm saying. It's given me such a different identity, which I'm so thankful and so blessed to have, because I'm evolving as an artist but I'm building a fanbase who definitely believes in me for the work I've done for other people.
We saw Keri Hilson when she first came out, make the move from songwriter to entertainer. Why do you think the transition is not always easy for some artists to do that?
I think that's just how people are in general. If you find someone, let's say, for instance, if there's anyone who changes jobs, like you can take a chairman of a toothpaste company and then they take over a tire company. The first thing the people that work there are gonna say is, "Well, we don't know how well he's gonna do because he's only done well at selling toothpaste. These are tires and you gotta really know tires." But that's just a general perception of people. I'm not upset about it. It's normal. You got to prove yourself out there on the football field, basketball court, wherever you're at, in life, you got to do that everyday. And when you start feeling like you don't have to proof yourself, then you got the game messed up. It's something that just comes with the territory.
Let's talk about the release of 'Turbo 919,' your first album. It didn't go to the top of the charts. So how will this sophomore album differ from that effort?
The great thing about that situation was a lot of people really, really loved that album and unfortunately it was released only in Japan. I actually feel like this next album is something that people are gonna see a lot of growth in me. I'm singing a lot better. Just kinda pushing myself with the records. We got some really, really good records on there. And just focusing on building more with my fans, building more of a fanbase and giving people records that they can definitely feel like, "Yo, Sean Garrett is really, really pushing the envelope and maybe we're sleeping on him as an artist."
Who were you last working with in the studio?
I actually was just working with Mary J. Blige last week. Very exciting. This week I'm working with a brand new artist named CJ Holland, who is incredible. He's signed to Lava [Records]. I'm really excited. I feel very compelled to say that the last time I had a feeling like this, the artist's name was Chris Brown. This kid is incredible. He dances incredibly. His voice is amazing. I'm very fortunate right now. He's gonna be a big star. He's 17. I would say he's a pop artist, but he sings R&B and pop.
You once were a mortgage broker. Has any of that knowledge helped you at all in your music career?
Absolutely. Especially from a business perspective. I've definitely had the opportunity to be able to negotiate a lot of my deals and be able to just have the smarts to maintain a sense of integrity. In this game, quickly, you can lose all of yourself if you're not prepared. I mean, this game will eat you up and spit you out and if you're not stable enough to understand and withstand the drama that comes with the game, a lot of the intense stress that comes with it and the ability to remain humble when you're having an enormous run, then you can really hurt yourself. This game is a really unforgiving game. I was a mortgage broker for a year or two but it really helped me to be able to understand people and have the patience for people to understand that they may not always buy the first time around but if it's good, they'll come back.