Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world — in Belgium, with her guitar and a MySpace page. That's how Selah Sue used to introduce her music to those outside her hometown: with short videos made between high-school classes and weekend shows at local clubs, posted to her online journal.
Those videos eventually caught the attention of producers and singers such as Meshell Ndegeocello and Cee-Lo Green, who helped the aspiring musician make her self-titled debut album. The record was released last March in Europe and this past week in the U.S., and Sue has been dutifully touring the material — including one unexpected gig in Antwerp, opening for Prince.
"I heard, like, two hours before his show that I could do a support act, so I just jumped in my car," Sue tells NPR's Scott Simon, adding that she was invited to Prince's backstage area after the show. "I asked him questions I wanted to know, like, 'Prince, are you happy?' And he is, so that's good."
Selah Sue's swift rise is all the more impressive when placed in context: She's 23 now and came to music late, taking up guitar and songwriting in her late teens.
"I studied psychology when I was 18, really in the mind that I would have a job from 9 to 5. I was never the kind of child that had big ambitions and big dreams," she says. "I learned a bit of guitar — I did three years of classical training — so I started to write my own songs and to discover my vocals and to absorb all the things I listened to. And then this kind of sound came out."