As one of the most successful musicians in the world, Seal recognizes talent when he sees it. So when he heard one young street performer singing in Manchester, he had to tell her what he thought. But what he did next would shock her forever.
Poppy Waterman-Smith grew up in Brighton on England’s south coast. However, at the age of 23, she decided to relocate. And that’s how she ended up living in the city of Manchester.
In the U.K. and beyond, many people know Manchester as a musical city. It has a long history of producing successful pop acts, such as Oasis, Joy Division, The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays. As a result, it seemed like the perfect place for Waterman-Smith to pursue her dream career.
When Waterman-Smith was young she had taught herself to play the guitar and, as her talent had developed, she had become an accomplished songwriter. She also played gigs with her band, Ladies’ Darts Night.
However, to make ends meet in 2016, Waterman-Smith was working as a full-time busker on the streets of Manchester. During her performances, she wowed the crowds with a setlist of her own songs and a few reggae covers of popular favorites. But earning a living was hard work.
And on one day in July 2016, Waterman-Smith was playing as usual to crowds in Piccadilly Gardens in the city center. Things weren’t going to plan, though, as there had been heavy rain in the area all day long. So, approaching defeat, the young musician was on the verge of calling it a day.
However, little did Waterman-Smith know that someone special was watching. “A guy who said he was from a market research [company] had been hanging around asking me questions,” she would tell the Manchester Evening News in July 2016. “I told him I had to concentrate on performing as I needed to earn my meal for the night.”
“Then a few minutes later a guy came and started watching me,” Waterman-Smith continued. “I didn’t recognize him until he introduced himself and said, ‘I’m Seal.’ I thought he was winding me up at first but then I did start to recognize [him] and a crowd started to gather.”
Amazingly, the performer had caught the attention of the double Ivor Novello Award-winner Seal. The hit-maker had been wandering around Manchester ahead of his sold-out gig at the city’s Bridgewater Hall. And when he stumbled across Waterman-Smith, he liked what he was hearing.
In fact, the star was so impressed that, after introducing himself, he joined Waterman-Smith for an impromptu performance. And he filmed the entire thing for his fans on Facebook Live. The pair played a series of Bob Marley hits as well as Seal’s song “Kiss from a Rose” for the growing crowd.
But once Waterman-Smith realized just how important the occasion could be, her nerves began to kick in. “I couldn’t play guitar properly or get my words out because I was shaking so much,” she admitted to the Manchester Evening News. “It’s a day I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”
Still, Waterman-Smith’s day was about to get even more extraordinary. Following their performance, Seal asked the singer if she would play at his Manchester gig that night. And she couldn’t turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.
Just six hours later, Waterman-Smith was opening for Seal in front of a crowd of 2,000. What’s more, her mom had turned up to watch, too. All at once, the musician’s wildest dreams were coming true.
Plus, Seal took it upon himself to introduce the rising star. “I was on a walkabout today and heard the dulcet tones of this beautiful lady,” he told the crowd. “She was busking downtown, so I’m bringing her to you from the streets of your very own Manchester.”
Waterman-Smith then dazzled the crowd with four original tracks and a cover of “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. And, needless to say, it was an experience that she would never forget. While recalling the day, she later described it as a “surreal whirlwind.”
“I still feel a bit numb really, like it hasn’t sunk in because it all happened so quickly,” she told the Manchester Evening News. “But, obviously, it was an absolute dream come true. He is one of my parents’ favorite artists, so for me to be able to play with him and then support him, with my mom watching, was absolutely incredible.”
And the journey didn’t end there. The next day Waterman-Smith awoke to more texts, tweets and Facebook messages than she could handle. And one of the opportunities on offer was the chance to play with Seal the very next night in another city. Once again, she agreed, and this time her dad and brother got to see her perform with the megastar.
From there, Waterman-Smith found herself receiving even more attention, with interview requests flying in. A few weeks later, moreover, she would sing with Seal and Shakira at a U.K. music and motoring festival.
However, as the months passed, the hype cooled down. So Waterman-Smith returned to busking, first in Manchester, then around Europe. And the musician was happy to get back to doing what she loves – away from the media circus.
But it won’t be the last we hear of the young singer-songwriter. In late 2016 Waterman-Smith announced that she was planning to release an album of her own songs, which was launched in February 2017 and quickly sold out. And she has Seal to thank for giving her the confidence to believe in her talent.