As Posted On VIBE.com
Q&A: Daley Talks Collaborations, New Album And Opening For Kelly Rowland Backstage At His SOBs Performance In New York
December 5th at SOBs in Manhattan was where British soul singer Daley graced the stage as part of his first ever US Tour Look Up, with a backdrop of festive decorations, disco red and purple lighting and a live band to set off his effortless vocals. It was a small, intimate venue with two bars and tables for those dining from their food menu. The crowd featured an assortment of ages and ethnic backgrounds, and was generally a pretty trendy bunch of people, including Best Man Holiday actor Taye Diggs who was posted up in VIP. As we waited for Daley’s opening act, from the upper deck the DJ played some 1990s R&B tracks for the audience to vibe to, including some classic Craig David remixes. True to any sold out R&B/Soul concert, there were plenty of loved up couples and swooning females awaiting Daley’s arrival. Dressed in leather from head to toe Travis McClung, Daley’s supporting act, strolled onto the stage full of energy and warmed up the audience with covers of Drake’s ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’, Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’, R Kelly’s ‘Ignition Remix’ and three of his own original tracks including ‘Party For Two’ and ‘Losing You’.
Anticipation was building for Daley’s arrival, so when the 24 year old hit the mic the crowd went wild. His first track was ‘Remember Me’, the duet with UK pop star Jessie J whose vocals were recorded. This was quite a jazzy number, updating the classic track by Blue Boy. Daley sported an all-black ensemble, including his signature black spectacles and mohawk of ginger curls. He then went onto introduce himself and his story before starting track number two, followed by ‘Those Who Wait’. The place became busier by the minute and you could tell from all the smiles and looks of awe that the audience was definitely feeling him. ‘Game Over’, Chaka Khan’s ‘Sweet Thing’ and ‘Blame The World’ were the next songs in his set. ‘Good News’ Daley described as being a song that preached positivity against the very negative messages society is bombarded with daily by the media. Half way through his set Daley brought out a stool and sung his slower numbers acoustically, switching from breathy undertones to silky falsettos seamlessly including his cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Give Me Love’.
He has very similar vocal talent to the likes of Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke but his music, despite this, is still very unique. In tribute to Nelson Mandela, who sadly passed away on the same day, Daley sang one of his songs that felt the most appropriate. Followed by fan favorite ‘Be’, which Daley explained as being about knowing someone for so long and getting to the point where there are no longer expectations, you just allow each other to just be. The cover that got him online attention, Maxwell’s ‘Pretty Wings’, came next and then ‘Songs That Remind Me Of You’ and ‘Love Lost’. Throughout his performance, the Manchester native showed his gratitude for his growing fan base and gave the crowd little snippets of his life, like how the cold weather has made him become slightly addicted to cups of tea. Love was definitely in the air as Daley serenaded us with popular covers: Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinking About You’, Usher’s ‘Climax’ and ‘Nice And Slow’. Daley rounded the amazing night up with his latest tracks, ‘Look Up’, which was produced by Pharrell Williams, and his song with Marsha Ambrosius ‘Alone Together’before he left the stage to do a meet and greet with his fans to take pictures and sign autographs. SOBs motto is ‘Food, Rhythm and Flavor’ and Daley’s performance definitely delivered the rhythm for the night and more, VIBE caught up with him just before he hit the stage.
VIBE: You’ve worked with some great UK singers like Marsha Ambrosius and Jessie J, are there any other UK artists that you can relate to and would like to work with in the future?
Daley: I think Laura Mvula is my favorite at the moment, I’ve been captivated by her album ‘Sing To The Moon’ so I’d love to do something with her.
Have you had a chance to meet her yet?
Yeah, I met her a few times and I went to her headline show in London at Shepherds Bush, it was just beautiful. So she’s definitely someone who I’m listening to at the moment.
You recently collaborated with Pharrell on your new single “Look Up” how was that?
It was really good, it was slightly nerve wracking because he’s someone who I respect a lot and I’ve listened to his music throughout my whole youth. It’s a bit scary meeting with someone like that because I would never have wanted to have a bad experience or come out of it with something that I didn’t like. In that way there was a bit of subconscious pressure on myself. But we got in there it was just two musicians, he’s just so about the music and he’s so humble. He was really keen to get into my head and create something that worked for me, rather than a lot of big producers who feel like you’re privileged to be a part of their sound and it’s definitely not that, not with him. It was great and “Look Up” was the song we wrote together and it’s one of my favorites on the album.
Was the collaboration something that was preplanned or was it spontaneous?
I’ve been in the states quite a lot, I’ve been finishing off the album. Then I bumped into him three times, one was at the BET Awards and then at a festival in New York, Afro Punk in Brooklyn. It was a bit weird. So we were like ok let’s make this happen and a couple of weeks later we managed to make it happen and we just did it. We spent the first day just literally playing music to each other, just stuff that we were listening to. I was playing him some Soul II Soul that I was on that day and he was playing me some El Debarge. Just random stuff so we kind of vibed it out then got to writing.
That must have been pretty surreal?
It was, it really was. It was probably one of those moments where the build up almost got the better of me because I was quite in awe of him. But like I said he’s just really humble and really about the music and when you get two musicians in a room there’s only really one thing that can happen.
What can we expect from your upcoming debut album Days and Nights?
Days and Nights is something that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now and I really feel like it’s finally right. All the little pockets of influences and feelings that I wanted to get in there are now there. I’m really excited for people to hear just essentially the next level of who I am as an artist. All the songs are first of all written with soul at the core, that’s why I feel it’s quite an honest album. But then I’ve really spent my time production wise and sonically making it something that really describes who I am. I worked with in the UK a guy called Bernard Butler who used to be in a band called Suede, a UK band. We made some really beautiful, I think it’s really unique, music. Then I’ve also been over in the states, I worked with Pharrell and Illangelo and Andre Harris of Dre & Vidal. So I feel like it’s a really good mix of UK and US vibes and I’ve just basically tried to put my best songs into it so I hope people will enjoy it.
You also worked with Questlove on the album, what do you feel that Pharrell and Questlove brought to the album in terms of production?
Working with Questlove was amazing, well with The Roots essentially, it was actually a new experience for me because the song that we recorded we actually recorded in one take, which I’ve never done before. I mean I always try and do it in as few takes as possible but this was literally press record and it was eight minutes long and then we edited it afterwards, a song called ‘Rainy Day’. It feels like how it was supposed to be, it was really seamless, and just again two musicians in a room doing what they do. It was a really special thing to have on my album I think and the same with Pharrell. It kind of fits within what I’m doing for the album, so it wasn’t like they came along and everything changed. It was just really nice to be able to work with them and have it be a part of my album.
You recently opened for Kelly Rowland at her show in DC, what was that like?
It was fun, it was really good fun. I had my headline show in DC on the Friday which was sold out and obviously that made me very happy. Then I opened for Marsha Ambrosius on the Saturday and then Kelly on the Sunday. So it was really cool I got to do a bunch of shows in DC and obviously Marsha and Kelly are two very special ladies.
Is there any chance of collaboration with Kelly in the future?
You never know, obviously I’d love to; we’re on the same label. But nothing planned for right now.
You’ve previously toured with the likes of Miguel and Maxwell. Did they give you any useful career advice?
I think with Miguel it was just really nice to tour with him because obviously he’s a few steps ahead of me in his career. I really respect what he’s doing, I love his music. It was so nice of him to invite me to be on tour with him, I can see how he’s dealing with it and it was a nice thing for me to observe at this point in my career and he’s been really supportive of my stuff as well.
Was there anything you learned from watching them perform?
Not especially, I feel like I have my performance down. I’ve got the things that I do and everyone does their own things but it’s always interesting to see how other people approach it.
Anyone you wanted to work with on this album that didn’t make the cut?
Honestly no, I was really happy. I’ve been really fortunate to work with pretty much every producer that I wanted to work with that was right for the album. I got to at least try it. In terms of collaborations, I wanted ‘Alone Together’ with Marsha to be on there and aside from that I’ve done quite a lot of collaborations over the last couple of years so it’s nice for me to just be able to for the rest of the album just be like this is me you know?
What is your favorite song to perform and why?
That’s difficult actually; it’s probably out of two. It’d either be ‘Those Who Wait’, because obviously it’s a personal song for me, but also it’s something that my fans really connect to, it’s like a fan favorite. Then there’s a song called ‘Be’ which is going to be on the album, but some of my fans know it because there’s an acoustic version of it online and it’s become a favorite. ‘Be’ is something that I really like because I can connect with the audience with it.
As the year comes to a close what have been the most memorable albums of 2013 that you’re still in love with now?
Definitely Laura Mvula ‘Sing To The Moon’, and Robert Glasper. I’m not really a massive hip-hop head, I can’t even lie, I’m more into my voices. I do like (Jhene Aiko) I haven’t actually heard her new album yet. I’ve been listening to some Joni Mitchell this year, a bit of a throwback but yeah.
Have you got anything you do to prepare before you go on stage?
Just my little vocal warm ups and it just has to be relaxed and we have incense and stuff like that to get everyone on the same vibe, nothing too crazy.
Fans of UK music should also check out my interviews with JP Cooper and Johnny Dean from Menswe@r: