Spotlight: Daniel Caesar

Whether you listen to radio stations or Spotify playlists, one name has been buzzing around the music scene since spring: Daniel Caesar. You may recognize the name from posters pinned to telephone poles on University Street, or possibly from the immense window advertisement hanging in the Roots store on Sainte-Catherine Street. In any case, there’s a lot to know about Daniel Caesar and his craft, and surely this knowledge will have a positive impact on your listening experience.

Daniel Caesar’s first release was an EP entitled Praise Break, which saw Caesar establish his unique musical style: soft-rock infused neo-soul. As a child, Caesar’s family would go to church every Sunday, where his passion for Gospel music was formed. Despite this, Caesar was not as religious as his parents wanted, which caused friction between them and led to Caesar leaving home at the age of 17. Following this, he lived through a period of homelessness, sleeping on a bench in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. During this stage of his life, Caesar spent much more time with his friends, and was influenced by the music they would listen to, instead of the gospel music that surrounded his family life. These influences included some rock bands, Frank Ocean, and fellow Toronto-native The Weeknd, whom Caesar cites as a major influence on his music.

A year after his self-released Praise Break, Caesar was signed to Golden Child Recordings and releasing his second EP, Pilgrim’s Paradise. Caesar returned to his humble beginnings and announced in a tweet that he would be performing a live acoustic session of his new music in Trinity Bellwoods Park, on the bench he once used as a bed. He also alludes to this period of his life in the opening song, Trinity Bellwoods, where Caesar creates a soundscape of his experience waking up in the park.

While Caesar has been open about the influence other artists have on his music, he expressed in an interview with Complex that his goal is never to fit in. Excited over The Weeknd’s rise to fame, Caesar tells Alex Gale of Complex, “I was in the studio singing about cocaine, but I wasn’t doing that shit” , explaining that his producer told him not to pretend to be somebody he isn’t, advice Caesar would hold onto and follow as his career progressed. Rather, Caesar tips his hat to his influences through samples and covers. For example, he opened his Trinity Bellwoods acoustic session with a cover of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Redemption Song, and Caesar’s song Streetcar is simply a slightly modified cover of Kanye West’s Street Lights.

Caesar’s music really began to spread with the release of his single, Get You, in the fall of 2016. This soft song about Caesar’s gratitude for finding a woman far out of his league showcased Caesar’s vocal abilities, as well as his writing skills. Caesar caught the attention of R&B and Pop fans, leading to endorsements from Drake and OVO Sound Radio, his bi-weekly radio program dedicated to the promotion of Toronto-based musical talent. His single, accompanied by another song called Japanese Denim, helped Caesar secure partnerships with Roots and Apple Music, who not only promoted his music, but allowed him to curate a playlist of his musical influences.

In August, Caesar released his first album, Freudian, an incredible mix of R&B, classical soul, and soft rock modified to his liking. The album was a tremendous success, and maintained Caesar’s established style, using a cappella on Neu Roses, his signature piano techniques on Blessed, and a familiar drum beat on Take Me Away. He teams up with fellow up-and-coming artists like Kali Uchis, H.E.R., and Syd of The Internet to craft a beautiful medley of sounds throughout the album. The album’s title and final track feature a secret that some may not discover for a long time. Similar to Frank Ocean’s interlude on Futura Free, Caesar has an extended silence in the middle of the ten minute track, typically prompting the listener to press skip or listen to something else. Following the seventy second silence, the track goes into a soundscape of what sounds like a church and Caesar begins to sing again. For this reason, many consider the second half of this track a hidden song. The soundscape could very well be a tribute to Caesar’s musical beginnings and gospel influences. This becomes increasingly convincing after the realization that earlier in the album, Caesar paid homage to his early works, sampling Violet from his first EP in an outro for his song Loose.

Just a day after the release of his album, Daniel Caesar announced a North American and European tour, promoting and celebrating his latest release. Due to popular demand, Caesar added second shows in both Los Angeles and Vancouver, and extra shows in Toronto, for a total of five performances in five days in his hometown. Caesar will visit 26 cities on the North American leg of his tour, 32 shows altogether – all of which are already sold out. Daniel Caesar will bring his talents to Montreal on November 25th, performing Freudian at The Corona Theatre, which is sure to be an intimate and magnificent concert for all in attendance.

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