​Paradise Found: Four Things You Need to Know About Promising Juno Nominee Daniel Caesar

​Paradise Found: Four Things You Need to Know About Promising Juno Nominee Daniel Caesar
Photo: Rick Clifford

The Juno Awards will celebrate Canadian music in Ottawa this year as part of Canada's 150th anniversary. Until the hardware is handed out, though, it's worth noting the wealth of Canadian talent highlighted by the 2017 nominations, including Grimes, A Tribe Called Red, Weaves, Andy Shauf, Tory Lanez, Dilly Dally and more.
One particular nominee to keep an eye on is Toronto's Daniel Caesar, whose first-ever Juno nomination comes in the R&B/Soul Recording of the Year category for his sophomore EP, Pilgrim's Paradise. Having risen up through Toronto's burgeoning alt-R&B scene quickly since his 2014 beginnings, Caesar's journey to a Juno nomination was by no means an easy one, but it's seemingly come to fruition; the artist himself likened his nomination to "a dream," tweeting that "so many things have been happening that i once thought not possible."
Before the Juno Awards are handed out on April 2, get acquainted with one of Toronto's most noteworthy musical exports with four facts you need to know about Daniel Caesar, below.
1. He began his career couch-surfing in Toronto.
After being expelled from high school in Oshawa, ON, Caesar made the decision to leave home and move to Toronto to pursue a career in music. Upon arriving in the city, he found himself homeless in his first few months, turning to couch-surfing with friends, collaborators and sleeping outside while recording his debut EP, Praise Break.
"Honestly man, I lived everywhere," he told Noisey in 2014. "I was actually sleeping in Trinity Bellwoods Park at one point for maybe a couple of nights."
2. He's a member of Toronto's promising IXXI Initiative.
Planting his roots within Toronto's music community led Caesar to join the city's IXXI Initiative, a collective of young artists with a focus on film and design in addition to a glut of musical projects. IXXI was founded by Toronto-based rapper and artist Sean Leon, who served as Caesar's inspiration in making the move from Oshawa to Toronto. Naturally, the two aren't averse to collaborating, with Leon making an appearance on Caesar's Pilgrim's Paradise with a verse of his own on midway track "Paradise."
3. His music is informed both by faith and fury.
The son of gospel singer Norwill Simmonds, Caesar's work draws from his own religious upbringing both musically and lyrically, though he told Buzzfeed in 2014 that "my music is for absolutely everyone — religious or non-religious."
As he outlined to The Toronto Star last year, he kept both a "hard Billy Talent phase" and his discoveries of psych rock, funk and rap a secret from his parents. Such a breadth of influences is apparent in Caesar's recorded output, though: Kanye West's "Street Lights" became the base for his less-robotic "Streetcar," while Jeff Buckley's slide guitar swells from "Last Goodbye" are sampled in Caesar's "Casablanca."
4. His collaborators include fellow Canadian talents BADBADNOTGOOD and River Tiber.
Caesar's music has caught ears both outside of Canada and within, and plenty of willing collaborators within the city of Toronto have reached out along the way. Beloved hip-hop- and jazz-influenced quartet BADBADNOTGOOD provided the jazzy soundscapes for Caesar and Leon's words on the aforementioned "Paradise" in 2015, while 2016 saw him link up with producer River Tiber to lend his vocals to the hazy yearning of Tiber's "West."
Caesar also teamed up with vocalist Kali Uchis and BADBADNOTGOOD for "Get You" before the end of last year. If Instagram photos are any indication, he's also been at work with fellow Juno nominee Kaytranada and Mary J. Blige. Here's hoping there's even more to come.