Enter the realm of the multifaceted Belgian singer - a mother, a singer, and a fearless advocate for mental health, she tackles her struggles by embracing honesty, rawness, and vulnerability.

I met Selah in the quiet space of her dressing room, just before her performance at the Festival de Wiltz. Little did I know that our conversation would turn out to be like an exchange between two kindred spirits, nestled upon a couch, finding ourselves entwined in conversation, as if it were a tranquil weekday evening.

Diving in deep, our exchange spanned from topics such as navigating through the dark storms of our mind, discovering the ancestral echoes of trauma, surrendering to gate-opening psychedelic journeys, the healing power of motherhood and the search for balancing it all.

After our 40 minute long conversation, I left Selah to join the crowd and wait for her and the band to perform. From the filigree person I shared deep conversations with on the couch, she graced the stage as a fierce sorceress of soul music, bewitching the audience with her raw honesty, leaving us all utterly spellbound by her ancestral strength that manifests through every note and lyric.

In perfect symbiosis with her immensely talented band, they created an intimate atmosphere, that burned with passion. Their performance was a testament to the joy they find in their craft, showcasing how the power of music creates a sense of collectiveness for all those who are willing to surrender.

Read also: That time Ella Fitzgerald performed at Festival de Wiltz

Full interview:

“I heard you studied psychology? How long did you study?”

“I didn't actually finish, I studied it for 2,5-3 years, but then I started having exams at the same time that I started having my first festivals, so I could not focus on one thing at a time, and I wanted to focus on one thing and it was pretty clear to go for music actually”

“Right, yeah.. being interested in psychology myself, the first thing that struck me was the name of your album “Persona”. Is it possible that it's linked to Carl Jung?”

“Ah yeah, it’s not really linked to it, I hear there are a lot of definitions for it. For me it’s the different personalities that you can have…It's really based on a therapy called “voice dialogue”, which I've been following a lot with my therapist. And it's how you learn to accept and to get to know all the different parts of yourself. You try to love and accept them, which is really difficult. And that's why I call it persona, because every song on the album is written from a different personality.”

“Yeah I found that really interesting, it's like these “archetypes”,  such as “the mother”, but then it's probably the perspective of a mother's point of view.”

“Yeah I have a song “full of life”  that's about that, and every song has its own personality perspective.”

“Now on the topic of mental health, I heard you dabbled a bit with psychedelics… I personally also had some trouble with depressive episodes last winter, and then the question arises “do I decide to medicate or not”, there is still somewhat of a taboo when it comes to that, people have a certain image that comes with it… so I also believe that psychedelics can be an alternative way of rewiring certain pathways in your brain, in order to see things in a different way.. Did you find that it somehow helped in your case or maybe even influenced you musically?” 

“Hm in music… It's a really complex story for me, on the one hand I quit my antidepressants and started taking psychedelics and it took me on a real high, I was really super creative and open and warm and loving; but then it went down extremely hard as well.. You know I have so many different opinions of so many different doctors.. Like one doctor told me depression doesn’t exist, you have to do something about your environment, and then I have a shrink who tells you "no, you clearly have a disease, which is clearly genetic and you can’t do anything about it and you have to take medicine"..”

“My God yeah and then you have different specialists and no idea who to listen to.”

“Yeah exactly, so I can just follow my gut instinct or something, but I love the fact that I put it on air, especially in Belgium, because I was really open about it, like "guys I m doing psychedelic therapy, it really helps me a lot"… But it just didn’t do the trick with me because after five months, I relapsed into a major depression and I had to take my antidepressants again..”

“But what I really felt with psychedelics was that it really opened a lot of perspectives. I was really insecure about like my music. I felt like I wasn't real, or I shouldn't do the ragga music because it was cultural appropriation… And then during my psychedelic trip, I understood that everybody is digging from the same world, we’re all human beings, and then it felt like almost a reassurance, like it’s fine you can do whatever you want to do, because it comes from the heart and it's genuine.”

“What was also beautiful in a trip was that I always fight my sadness and my fear and in a trip the sadness became a substance and I could dance with it, and I danced with my sadness and my depression. And it was also a learning to accept the dark parts of yourself. I think it can be really healing and I heard that a lot of people who had big traumas managed to overcome them thanks to it. It helped me personally with some stuff yeah.”

“Yeah definitely, I think it opens up gateways and perspectives that are usually difficult to access when you’re “just” talking, and I think to me, if it’s in nature then there’s a reason for it, I really believe that..”

“Yeah me too definitely, and I think that it's really important that you integrate it after, because that's what most people don’t do, they just trip and move on and then they go back to their normal life. But the important thing is to really integrate all the things you saw and felt. And then it can be really healing.”

“Yeah there are a lot of people that just take it really irresponsibly… I'm also really happy cause my Uni in London literally does research on psychedelics and how it can cure depression, so I'm really proud that people are more open to different ways; like why stick to the old ways if there are different ways.”

“Exactly and that's what I'm waiting for because now the one thing we have is antidepressants. And it's not bad, I mean it saved my life again, so I'm not against it but like you say it's more chemical than a plant so …”

“I do find it admirable that you speak so openly about it, though, like you speak with such transparency and so genuinely and also so early on already, before it was even a “trend” to talk about mental health. Like from where that courage to talk about it so openly?”

“I think it was 10 years ago maybe, when I saw a documentary where a guy said like antidepressants only work as a placebo and that they don’t do anything. So if you believe it works it will work and if you don't believe it, it doesn't work. But I felt it physically working. It saved my life. And so I thought it was horrible that people would say things like that, so I spoke out about it because I only got so far in my career and in my personal life because I had that help otherwise I would be in a mental institution for sure.. My grandparents had it too you know, like it’s really something in my genes.”

“So since we're talking about stuff like that already, do you think that there is such a thing as "generational trauma" that people can heal from?”

“Yeah that trauma can be inheritable... Yeah I think very much so… that’s why I think its important to go back to your grandparents, to how they lived, where they came from… it's something that keeps me really busy, for me it goes back, way back. I actually think that my great grandmothers were all really depressed, with a heavy weight in their head, and during my trip I really felt their presence, I felt my ancestor mother as a witch, telling stories to people and people believing her, and she was so strong and wise and powerful, and I felt that it's also in me, and I still feel that connection, even now…”

“That sounds amazing..! I also know that you were quite scared how depression could influence you becoming a mother right?” 

“Yeah like even my psychiatrist told me it's very hormonal, and since my mother had post natal depression… but it was different for me, I loved it, I was breastfeeding, I loved every moment about it..”

“Well maybe you're the one who will heal that generational trauma then?” 

“Yeah that would be good right? I would love that”

“I was also wondering, you probably know the Belgian band Tamino right? And I spoke to Ruben, the drummer of the band, about how he as an artist also had a huge low during the pandemic. Like the fact that the world somehow got stuck in this loop, locked in, and yet it does go on, but he couldn’t do his job, which was performing concerts etc... it somehow took away his purpose; did you also have a feeling like that? Like to me, someone who just loves listening to music, music was what helped me get through the pandemic, but how is it for someone who actually does music for a living...?” 

“So for me it was the opposite actually, I had the best time during the pandemic, being at home, but the thing is we did the bedroom sessions, which was online, a lot of people got support from it, it was with my babies in bed, I played music every day and I felt more connected to humanity, to people, all being stuck on the same boat. Even if everyone has a "different type of boat", but still, like it was the first time that we all had to like survive this together, we needed to be together to fight this thing. And my father got sick as well; he almost died, he was in a coma because of corona and I felt so much support and love from people. It was really beautiful. So to me it was like yes, music is healing, and I could do it for people still, and I was also at home with my family and the children, so it was always alive.”

“Yeah I think it's also a different situation then if you're a family and you have children and you can spend so much time together.”

“Yeah like I had all the elements, I didn’t need to worry about money, I had my close family with me, I could make music, I could focus on my record.”

“Yeah I get it, like what more do you want haha?”

“I also felt like there was no pressure as an artist, like all artists were on the same boat. Cause I'm really insecure and I can be intimidated by other artists doing better, but then everybody was at home.”

“Yeah on equal footing… I also wanted to go back to you mentioning cultural appropriation, I found that interesting, do you sometimes get comments on that?”

“No, not really, the thing is I want to be really careful, but I'm like standing on the shoulders of Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu... without them I wouldn’t do what I do now… The thing is I talked a lot about it with the musicians of Marcus Miller, I went on tour with him and his musicians, and I also found it difficult to have that conversation sometimes… Because the people that created soul music they never got acknowledged for it, and then many years later, we get acknowledged and we get money, and the founders of it got trashed… so it's important to always mention it..”

“The funny thing is when I did “Ragamuffin”, Ziggy Marley sent me a mail asking “can we do something together”, and I was like “I'm just a white girl from Belgium” you know? And they were even like “we love what you do”.

“ Well I think that your heart and your soul just really translated in your music.”

“Yeah maybe that's it, they believed it.”

“How is touring for you as a mom? Do you find time for your kids, is there a lot of pressure?”

“Hm its difficult to play both roles at once, I can do it well when I'm at home to be a mother and on tour to be an artist, but to combine both... Next week I'm going to take them on the road with me for a week..”

“Oh they come with you that's really cool!”

“It's cool, but on the one hand I just want to be free on the road, feel young and then you have like..”

“…that persona, and then another persona that then mingle?”

“Yeah exactly! And then you're on stage being an artist, and then you come off and it's like “Mom I need to do kaka”. Especially now they're older, they're active, they are four and six years old and they just want to see the world and I don’t want to take away that experience from them, so they will join me on the road, but I could not do it the whole time.. First of all it costs a lot of money, you need a second tour bus, second of all, they are so happy at home, they love to go to school, they have a lot of friends, they have their family and a good structure and I think if I would take them to Poland in winter and then we go look for a playground in the neighborhood and it's really cold outside… I think they're also really safely attached to me, I made sure I was there for the first years, like whenever I go out now they're like “bye bye”, they don’t miss me. And I don’t feel guilty to leave because they're happy. But yeah I love being a mother, but I also love being on the road…”

“I totally understand that… I think age expectations also completely changed, like when I look at my parents, they had me at my current age, but the way I see my life right now is completely different from how they saw it. I think that generational jump is really there.. do you also see that?” 

“Yeah the thing is, my mother she really lived for her children, she’s the best mother in the world. But she s really 100 percent focused on children, that's her life goal, and my sister also has children but we also want to have our own lives too.. and we both feel a bit guilty, cause we compare ourselves, but the times are also different because mothers are working and have careers and want to have a career. And so it's totally different, and I struggle sometimes with that. I even feel a bit guilty to say that, I also want to be free sometimes with no children, but I say it because I'm honest. But I feel like deep in me, I have to be like my mother, whose focus is 100% on her children. But it's just not who I am.

"The thing is I think we always feel guilty if we compare ourselves to the standards that we grow up with that, like you grow up with that experience”

“Yeah and this is your standard then, your “normal”."

“Exactly but then you set a new standard, which is then the mother who tries to combine both, who likes to tour, but also is a mother at the same time”

“How do you manage to be in the moment in the music industry?” 

“I meditate, that’s a life changer for me.. I try to put off my mind and be in the moment. And when I m on stage, I can really do that sometimes. The music business is difficult, but it’s also the way you perceive it, you can also see it as a chance to do your thing. And I have a really cool label, I can do the music that I want. But I also have to be aware that if I want to do something special and it's not commercial, I have to live with the fact that it's not on the radio and I cannot play the big halls.”

“But then that's also fine right, because you do it for yourself right”

“Yeah you just need to be true to yourself.”

“I think it also takes a lot of distance to be able to do that, but sometimes artists might be forced in the corner to do things they don’t want to do..”

“I'm really lucky, I have a good management, good surroundings that protect me to do whatever I want to do.”