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Selah Sue: From Online Stardom To A Stage With Prince11:07

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Selah Sue performs at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (NPR)closemore
Selah Sue performs at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (NPR)

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.

Selah Sue performs at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (NPR)
Selah Sue performs at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (NPR)

"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."

Copyright NPR 2016.

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