S.E.L. is the musical alter-ego of North London soul singer EMMA LOUISE BUCKNOR . S for “soulful”, E for Emma and, of course, L for Louise. Emma’s been in and around the UK soul scene for some time but in the last few years she’s established herself as a major contender with a series of chart riding singles that all lived up to that “soulful” tag. Emma’s been promising us an album for some time and it’s now amongst us. Indeed, the LP, ‘Loc’d In Consciousness’ gets its official release today – Friday 14th May. So, what better time to catch up with S.E.L. and  find out a little more about the album that’s already winning great reviews. First though we needed a little back story….

I am a Tottenham proud girl who’s classically trained in the violin and piano. My musical influences are a fusion of both UK and Neo-Soul greats I would say including Erykah Badu, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies etc. I try to create a perfect combination of the authentic UK soul realness in everything that I do.  I have always been involved in music. In terms of how I got involved in the business, well my first gig was as a backing vocalist with the Delroy Murray band at Hackney Empire’s 291 variety show. It was such an amazing gig and such an amazing experience. From there, I was asked to do a number of backing vocal gigs in the reggae scene, before, Jazzie B got in contact with me to ask whether I would take on the position as lead backing vocalist for the Soul II Soul collective. From there I evolved into myself as a solo artist while part of the collective. My role also evolved from backing vocalist, to lead vocalist as well.

Take us briefly from then till now….

I was signed to a Universal Records affiliate in 2010 and released my first single, ’Necessary’. This was my first real experience as an artist. With the meetings, PR, pluggers, music video shoots and photo shoots,  I knew nothing about the business and I kind of felt like a product. As it was unknown to me, I couldn’t really have an opinion on artistic direction so when it came to signing for an album deal, I decided not to. I took time out, kept touring with Soul II Soul and learnt the business. I built up a reliable team and relaunched myself as a self-managed, solely independent artist in 2016 with ‘Elevation’ and it has been all go from there. Then I met DJ Spen through my plugger while doing my ‘Elevation’ release and alongside Michele Chiavarini, they created a phenomenal remix for me, which, excuse the pun, elevated my career and popularity within the house and UK Soul scene even further. I have maintained a relationship with both of these phenomenal producers, and they have actively played a vital role in my music creation from 2016 until now. Me and Michele wrote my song ‘Flowered Tears’, Spen organised the remixes for it, then I worked with Spen on the Desiree cover ‘You Gotta Be’. Then in 2019, I asked Michele if he would produce my debut album, to which he accepted. We wrote ‘Falling’ together, alongside Bryan Chambers and Tanya Lacey, as well as ‘Melodic Harmony’ and a number of other tracks on the album.

OK so why  did you choose S.E.L. as your working name – some people I work with think it’s maybe a little cumbersome and doesn’t deliver a strong enough identity… what do you think?

My stage name is Soulful Emma Louise (S.E.L) and I’m proud of my name, ‘Emma-Louise’, however I know that it is common. I wanted to ensure people knew that I am a proud contributor to the genre that I love, both by name and nature. And you know I haven’t heard from anyone that it is cumbersome…but it’s not changing now! And I do think it delivers a strong identity. If you search for ’S.E.L’ in Spotify or apple music, my artist profile is the first to come up. That’s what an artist needs.  

Why has it taken you so long to release your debut album?

In short, because of the amount of moving parts and people involved. There were so many things that needed to be considered at every stage of the album creation and I was project managing it by myself. Michele lives between Italy and the UK, so I had to sync diaries with co-writers as well as studio engineers, getting availability from mixing and mastering engineers. I was working with a producer in Canada on a couple of the tracks as well. All of these combining with personal lives just meant that there were a number of hold ups along the way. I didn’t think it would take so long either but when halfway through, just came to the realisation that I am just going to have to go with the flow. But I am very grateful for all involved and proud of the end result. 

… and tell us more about the LP’s intriguing title… ‘Loc’d In Consciousness’

I wanted a title that depicts my identity. A strong aspect of who I am as a person and as an artist is my loc’d hair. Furthermore, I try to live by the ethics of Rastafarianism and consider myself a conscious individual who is led by love and gratitude in every situation.  I thought ‘Loc’d in Consciousness’ was therefore very fitting. 

Four of the album tracks (not to mention the mix of ‘Elevation’) have been singles – do you think that on a ten-track album that offers value for money for the real fans?

I was getting a lot of demand from fans for a collective ‘body of work’.  That is what this album is. When I bought an album as a young girl, there were always separate singles, available, which were also on the album. The album is only available on physical format, for those fans who really appreciate quality of sound. Yes, they may have heard the songs before and some are available digitally, however the album has been mixed and mastered at Metropolis Studios so not doing a physical release would be doing the album a disservice. All previous released tracks have been mixed and mastered again by the hands of Liam Nolan and John Davis at the best studio in the UK. 

I did this to ensure my fans got exactly what they were paying for. I love and am so grateful for the love the album has been getting.  Sales have already been overwhelming so there is clearly still a demand for physical product.

 Which track on the album is your favourite?

I really love them all, I have been asked that so many times and really can’t choose. Each have such a quality to them that caters to different interests.   

… and what track sums up best your sound and style?

mmmm, probably ‘Melodic Harmony’  

And what’s the next step for you?

Festival Season! I can’t wait to have an amazing summer. we have all deserved it. Next, I have a number of collaborations coming out with DJ Spen, Michele Chiavarini and about 4 more producers, so after we have released a couple more of the singles from the album, I will be focusing on them.   

And finally (we often ask this) what are your three very favourite songs/recordings of all time?

1. Maxi Priest – ‘Wild World’         2. Alexandra O’Neal and Cherelle – ‘Saturday Love’            3. S.O.S Band – ‘Just The Way You Like It’. How’s that! Love ’em all!

S.E.L’s ‘Loc’d In Consciousness’ album is out now and there’s a full review in our reviews archive . The current single is ‘Melodic Harmony’.