Published Apr 22, 2014Four years ago, Daley was recording songs on his laptop in his bedroom, and today he is still doing that. The difference is, he has just released that music in the form of his debut album Days & Nights on Republic Records. And of course he has some help from the likes of Pharrell, Marsha Ambrosius, Canei Finch, Andre Harris and more. And far from being stuck in that old bedroom, he's now in the midst of a North American promotional tour. I sat down with Daley just as he finished his soundcheck for his Toronto show at Adelaide Hall.
Welcome to Toronto.
Good to be back.
You've worked with a few artists from Toronto already, how did those come about?
Very random really. The first person I worked with was Rich Kidd. I was just sent one of his beats by a friend of my manager's, really randomly. He sent me a couple beats and they were good, but I just didn't get to use them. Then we connected on Twitter and he sent me this other one, which ended up being "Those Who Wait," which was part of my mixtape.
When you were starting out, was it mostly producers submitting beats to you?
The beats thing happened a bit later. I've always written with people in the room but when I started making connections on Twitter and when you find someone you really like it's cool. And Rich Kidd makes so many beats. He sends me so many beats I like that I don't even have time to do more, but he's great. I've worked with him on some other things since then.
And Illangelo, we hooked up in L.A. He's amazing as well. I love the sonics that he brought to the album. Both those artists, I have amazing connections with both of them.
For the album, was it mostly you working in person with the producers?
I think every song was done with the producer in the room.
You have an impressive and varied list of collaborators on this album. People like Shea Taylor, who's output is amazing, but he's not really a household name.
It's crazy he's not a household name, considering what he's done. I just started going over to New York to do some writing trips when I started the album and Shea was one of the people who I hooked up with to write. Really cool guy, really talented, just an instant click musically. We jammed on some stuff and that became "Blame the World."
I've read earlier interviews where you expressed the need to initially leave Manchester and then almost the need to get out of the UK altogether to come to the U.S. Have you moved?
No, no. I mean, I'm contemplating it because I'm here a lot. I don't feel the need to leave the UK because I do love it. I love London and I love Manchester. It's not the need to leave, it's just the need to explore other places as well. It's just amazing to me still that I come to places I'm not from and sell out shows.
Do you feel it's critical to your career to get that recognition outside of the UK?
Definitely. The UK is great and it's a great place to make music, and so much amazing music comes from there, but it's very small. It's easy to get too well known. It's just nice to go somewhere bigger where there are more people and more opportunities.
That's similar to artists from Canada who feel they need to get out to make a name for themselves. But from an outsider's perspective, it seems like the UK has so many acts that seem successful that we don't necessarily hear from. It seems like a somewhat insular community that does well for itself. Where I think a lot of places, like Canada, wishes we could be more like that.
I get that vibe from Canada sometimes, especially when you hear about Toronto and this music scene. I don't know if that's true, but I do get that vibe. But I think you get that in Europe as well, cause even Germany has its own thing. Same with Norway and Russia. I've got friends who are producers who've had ten number ones in Russia and literally no one in the UK knows or cares who they are. It's crazy. It's funny how you can have so much success without anyone knowing about it.
One song that stood out for me on the album was "She Fades." I was wondering if you could walk me through that song.
I have a friend who has a really troubled life. She has a lot of problems and certain things happen in her life that she hasn't been able to break out of because of the people that she surrounds herself with. She's from Manchester where I'm from. Then I moved away and I kind of lost the ability to really help her because I was never there. It's really just me feeling like every time I see her could be the last time, and wondering how I can help her. She's doing a bit better now actually.
Your songs definitely come from a place of strong emotions, but I think there's a sense of consistent positivity throughout.
Well that was my general takeaway. I was just wondering what all these feelings are rooted in? Your own experiences mostly, or other people's like the friend you just described?
It's pretty much all my experiences. Even "She Fades" is my experience. A lot of times I go to work with a producer and I don't actually know what I want to write about. For me I just try to pick what's most on mine that day and just try to summarize it into a sentence and build a song out from that.
Speaking of experience, your experience has changed dramatically over the last few years. How has the writing processed changed since you started?
I think the process has become a bit clearer. I used to have a lot more on my mind, thinking I need to try to do this, or I need to try to do that, or a need to sound like this. I used to almost panic that the song wasn't going to turn out right before I'd written it. I'd always be like "I need to make sure I do this and do that," and that really doesn't produce a good song. I'd say my experience has allowed me to drop all that baggage.
At what point in your career to not being sure, to feeling like, I know what I'm doing now? Being confident enough to walk into the studio with a stranger and get to work.
I got really comfortable with it like two years ago. Not that long ago really. Probably after I did my mixtape. That was the first time I really released something of my own and saw people liked it. When I started to get reactions from people on my music that's when I started be like, "yeah, I can do that."
I always imagine for people who are relatively early in their career that it's a bit of whirlwind and it's a bit all consuming. So when you want to escape from yourself, where do you go to?
Right now it's quite hard. It is all consuming. When people ask "What do you do when you're not doing music?" Hmmm, not sure.
You had some early bedroom productions that first got you some attention. What were you using back then, what was the set up?
Not that different than it is now. I just got my laptop, midi keyboard, microphone and sound card, that's the minimum. And it still works. I might have even done some vocals on the album like that. I think I did some vocals for "Broken" like that in my bedroom. Sometimes it's just easier and it still gets good results.
Days & Nights. Aside from being a song on the album, why is that the title of the project?
Initially I just chose Days & Nights because that's the song that felt like, "I'm writing an album now." I was working with Bernard Butler in the UK and we stumbled upon this awkward electronic feel with strings and chords. And then I started writing the song and felt like, "This is my artistic statement."
And then it kind of took on another meaning. I felt like I was kind of split into two personas writing the rest of the album. One being hopeful and optimistic very human, and the other being heartbroken and worn down with stuff. I really started to feel like I was becoming two people in some ways, then it became this thing of light and shade and opposites.
Do you still feel that way?
Not really. Sort of. I mean, everyone has their ups and downs. so yeah in that sense. I feel a bit more even. Now that the album is out I feel a bit more level.
If I was to have seen you perform two years ago and see you now, what's the biggest learning curve you've dealt with?
Confidence I think. I used to be not very confident on stage. I think I pulled off the performances vocally, but I'm a lot more comfortable on stage now. My album's out, I've really got something that I'm communicating to people and I've got a great band and team. It's just me being a lot more sure now of everything because I know what everything is for and what I'm trying to achieve. I feel like I can give people an experience because I know what I'm doing.
I know the album is fresh, but I know you have to be one step ahead, so what's next?
I'm already writing. I don't want to say it'll be the second album yet. I've got a few other projects coming up. I might be doing an EP in a couple months, just more experimental stuff I wouldn't have put on an album. I've got some cool features on some other projects that I'm really excited about, some stuff in the UK and some stuff here. Videos and some festivals, you know, just ride the wave.