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With his signature black frames and mohawk, Daley’s image already surmises his budding status as soul impresario for the 21st century. At only 24-years-old, the homegrown UK singer-songwriter is on his way to redefining the way R&B/Soul not only looks but sounds and feels.
“If you’re expecting the same old soul singer, that’s not necessarily who I am,” the prodigy divulges as perhaps the most telling description of his work. “I call my sound ‘future throwback soul’ since it’s what people love about old soul music, that throwback sound… but I bring it into the future.” Growing up in Manchester, he put in his time studying the soul greats of yesterday and today, developing his sound as a teen through bedroom recordings and making his name performing on Britain’s underground urban stages. “It was tough fitting into the Manchester music scene which had always been really focused on guitar and dance music, the urban scene was almost non-existent… so, in making those recordings in my bedroom, I figured out how I wanted to sound…It was my training ground. Everything really began there for me. It was the first step in becoming the artist I am today.”
He first perked mainstream ears accompanying the Gorillaz on their 2010 chart hit, “Doncamatic,” after a mutual friend introduced the group to his music at one of his many London shows. He released the single, “Smoking Gun” in 2011 to impressive airplay, gaining ground as an independent artist on BBC Radio 1xtra and being listed as one of the station’s ‘Sound of 2011’ honorable mentions. He later fueled Wretch 32’s “Long Way Home,” for which he co-wrote.
His gradual ascent didn’t come easy, however. Pulling in favors after nearly being dropped by his label and investing his own money into promotion, Daley completed his EP, Those Who Wait, spawning his initial viral online success in 2012. “I made the EP a free download because after the Gorillaz track there really wasn’t much else out there for people to get ahold of from me and in doing so, it spread around the world and helped me gain the attention of more listeners,” he explains. “In being free, it took on a life of its own and became like an introduction for me as an artist… I knew I had to get it heard stateside and that was really the best way.”
His second EP, Alone Together (also released in 2012) continued his rise with his first stateside single, the subtly seductive “Alone Together” featuring Grammy nominee, Marsha Ambrosius, for which New York R&B radio station WBLS gave its first spins. Since his US debut, he’s garnered two Soul Train Award nominations and has racked up over 5 million YouTube/VEVO views with the video for his Jessie J-assisted duet, “Remember Me.” Supporting the likes of Miguel and Emeli Sande, along with megastar label mate, Jessie J, he’s performed to sold-out audiences around the world and counts icons, George Michael and Bobby Womack, among his fans. 2013 scored Daley his first MOBO nominations, for “Best Newcomer” and “Best R&B Artist,” along with a guest spot on Nelly’s latest single, “Heaven.”
Part of Daley’s international appeal comes from his ability to harmonize the sounds of yesterday and tomorrow with the technologies of today. His Twitter hash tag “#ASKDALEY” has trended globally, while he’s notably become one of BBC 1xtra Live’s most shared acts to date. He says of his digital following: “I can gage people’s reactions and I like to hear their feedback. It’s important to me to hear how people feel and relate to my music.”
All signs point to a massive full-length debut from the artist in 2014.
Entitled Days & Nights, the album balances the bright young star’s individual style and awe-worthy falsetto with illuminating vulnerability and substance. “Days & Nights is literally my life for the past couple of years. It’s trying to balance your career, your love life, your ‘everything’ and keeping them all in check… it all blurs into one like your day’s and night’s,” he describes.
Fusing R&B/Soul aesthetics he grew up on (from Prince’s funky fervor to D’Angelo’s neo-soul) with sparse electro-ambient stylings, he effectively captures this generation’s sonic amalgam. While his palette’s rooted in the classics, he pushes music forward with a sound beyond his years. “It’s soulful at its core and in terms of sound and production, the album reflects me and my influences – a combination of US and UK sounds,” he details.
On “Be,” he employs 80’s percussion with moody piano chords to achieve a Sade-like AC stunner. “Blame The World’s” boom-bap brass and orchestral backing show off his bombastic versatility, while the empowering “Broken” proves he can easily hold his own as a triumphant balladeer a la Adele. Pharrell’s co-production on “Look Up” even reminisces Marvin Gaye’s seminal “What’s Going On,” begging a comparison to the icon’s greatest moments.
Tackling the everyday has never sounded so sensuous.
Days & Nights welcomes Daley to the world stage without compromise.
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Last Played on May 12, 2014 1:00am