Published Apr 22, 2014With his trademark curly pompadour and a powerful voice, young UK soul singer-songwriter Daley is ready for the world to take notice. His debut album Days & Nights, released this February, is filled with emotionally heavy songs, at times drenched in heartache, and at others motivational and uplifting. The balance between those two extremes provided the inspiration for the title and final song on the album.
"Initially I just chose Days & Nights because that's the song that felt like, 'I'm writing an album now,'" Daley tells Exclaim! "I was working with [Suede's] 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.'"
With songs like "Broken" and the Shea Taylor-produced "Blame the World," Daley is surprised when I suggest that there's a general thread of optimism, even through the album's darker movements.
"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," he explains. "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. Now that the album is out, I feel a bit more level."
In addition to that internal battle, there was also the eternal struggle of self-assurance as a performer and songwriter.
"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. I got really comfortable with it like two years ago. Not that long ago really. Probably after I did my mixtape, Those Who Wait [in 2012]."
While harnessing the courage to enter into a studio to work with established artists like Pharrell and Marsha Ambrosius is daunting enough to some, there was also the challenge of perfecting Daley's live show, something he feels more confident about on this tour.
"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. I feel like I can give people an experience because I know what I'm doing."
The North American leg of his tour brought Daley back to Toronto, but he's already familiarized himself with a couple of the city's prominent musicians. Known for his work with the Weeknd, producer Illangelo sets the tone for Days & Nights with the introductory track, "Time Travel." But this isn't the first instance of a Daley project opening with a Toronto sound.
"The first person I worked with [from Toronto] was Rich Kidd. 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,' from my mixtape.
"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."
Days & Nights is out now via Republic/Universal. You can see the remaining dates on his North American tour schedule over here.
Read our full interview with Daley here.