Toronto showman Clairmont The Second is, by definition, a control freak. But although that term isn't exactly friendly, the artist's latest release, Lil Mont From the Ave, proves that there's something to be said for taking matters into your own hands. He talked to Exclaim! about embracing his independence on The Ave after working with Black Box Music to release his previous project, Quest for Milk and Honey.
"I'm not really a fan of the whole label thing at the end of the day. Doing everything myself had me calm, not stressed. I didn't have to answer to anybody. I didn't have to get other people's opinions on how or when my music should come out. [So] I'm doing it all myself again," he says.
On The Ave, the young creative wears many different hats: writer, producer, instrumentalist, singer and even audio engineer. He solicits only one feature ("I don't do many collabs, because I'm very specific," he says) and even directed the project's accompanying music videos. He says that having so much control allows him to push the boundaries of his craft.
"Having the control of doing everything means I get things sounding exactly the way I want. I grew up listening to a lot of gospel music, neo-soul, R&B and rap. Growing up in that musical environment shaped the way I play piano or my drum patterns," he says. "This album came from me wanting to make something that bangs in the club, but at the same time, still has an element of me. Take more of a mainstream direction, but 'Clairmont The Second-ify' the music. So I would add a jazz break on a trap beat. Push the boundaries with my vocals as opposed to just rapping a song. Jazz, gospel, R&B and neo-soul mixed with slapping beats. My sound is all that in one."
It's that blend of genres and styles that keeps The Ave from sounding boring. And Clairmont's work ethic and laser focus on success contribute to the album's polished finish. He's released a project every year since high school, with each displaying more confidence and comfort than the last. At just 20, he has developed a command over the mic that surpasses many of his peers. And he's constantly working to improve — teaching himself new instruments (so far, he plays drums, piano, bass and guitar) and assessing his strengths and weaknesses with clear-eyed, honest self-critique (he's pleased with his cadence and showmanship, but says his voice and freestyle capabilities could stand to be better).
He has big ambitions and is determined to become a household name; his biggest motivation in music is to be able to represent his city on a global scale. A win for Clairmont The Second means a win for his whole west end neighbourhood, and that's exactly what he's after. "West side Toronto is what influences me most. It's where I grew up," says the Weston Road native. "This album is for the west side. I want to be that guy that takes the west's sound worldwide."