Q&A: Daley Talks Forthcoming Album ‘Days And Nights’ And Working With Pharrell & Questlove
British soul singer Daley has a look that sticks. Before he glided across the stage on Thursday (Dec. 5) at S.O.B.s in New York City, a pit stop on his first ever U.S. tour, the musical import sported sported an all-black ensemble topped off by his signature black spectacles and mohawk of ginger curls. But his tracks are even stickier, swapping a batch of co-signs from Miguel and Pharrell Williams, who produced his tour’s title track “Look Up.”
The crowd was a healthy mix of ages and ethnicities, a trendy bunch that also included Best Man Holiday actor Taye Diggs. It was a night for the R&B heads as opening act Travis McClung whipped out his original tunes “Party For Two” and “Losing You” along with covers of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” and R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).”
Once Daley gripped the mic, he started on a high note with “Remember Me,” the duet with UK pop star Jessie J and a jazzy number that updates the Blue Boy classic. He serenaded the crowd with other deep cuts from his Alone Together EP including “Those Who Wait” and “Game Over.” He broke up his resume by covering Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing” and Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love. Whether singing about his upbringing across the pond or woes of love, his seamless transitions from breathy undertones to silky falsettos call to mind a Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke-esque influence but his low-key demeanor is distinctly his own.
Before he took the stage, VIBE caught up with Daley on the British invasion of music, working with producer heavyweights Skateboard P and Questlove, and more.—Megan Saad
VIBE: You’ve worked with some great UK singers like Marsha Ambrosius and Jessie J, are there any other UK artists that you can relate to and would like to work with in the future?
Daley: I think Laura Mvula is my favorite at the moment, I’ve been captivated by her album Sing To The Moon so I’d love to do something with her.
Have you had a chance to meet her yet?
Yeah, I met her a few times and I went to her headline show in London at Shepherds Bush, it was just beautiful. So she’s definitely someone who I’m listening to at the moment.
You recently collaborated with Pharrell on your new single “Look Up.” How was that?
It was really good, it was slightly nerve wracking because he’s someone who I respect a lot and I’ve listened to his music throughout my whole youth. It’s a bit scary meeting with someone like that because I would never have wanted to have a bad experience or come out of it with something that I didn’t like. In that way there was a bit of subconscious pressure on myself. But when we got in there it was just two musicians, he’s just so about the music and he’s so humble. He was really keen to get into my head and create something that worked for me, rather than a lot of big producers who feel like you’re privileged to be a part of their sound and it’s definitely not that, not with him. It was great and “Look Up” was the song we wrote together and it’s one of my favorites on the album.
Was the collaboration something that was preplanned or was it spontaneous?
I’ve been in the States quite a lot, finishing off the album, then I bumped into him three times. Once was at the BET Awards and then at Afro Punk festival in Brooklyn. It was a bit weird. So we were like, ‘OK, lets make this happen’ and a couple of weeks late,r we managed to make it happen and we just did it. We spent the first day just literally playing music to each other, just stuff that we were listening to. I was playing him some Soul II Soul that I was on that day and he was playing me some El Debarge so we kind of vibed it out then got to writing.
That must have been pretty surreal.
It was, it really was. It was probably one of those moments where the build up almost got the better of me because I was quite in awe of him. But like I said he’s just really humble and really about the music and when you get two musicians in a room there’s only really one thing that can happen.
What can we expect from your upcoming debut album Days and Nights?
Days and Nights is something that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now and I really feel like it’s finally right. All the little pockets of influences and feelings that I wanted to get in there are now there. I’m really excited for people to hear essentially the next level of who I am as an artist. All the songs are first of all written with soul at the core, that’s why I feel it’s quite an honest album. But then I’ve really spent my time production wise and sonically making it something that really describes who I am. I worked with, in the UK, a guy called Bernard Butler who used to be in a band called Suede, a UK band. We made some really beautiful, I think it’s really unique, music. Then I’ve also been over in the states, I worked with Pharrell and Illangelo and Andre Harris of Dre & Vidal. So I feel like it’s a really good mix of UK and US vibes and I’ve just basically tried to put my best songs into it so I hope people will enjoy it.
You also worked with Questlove on the album. What do you feel that Pharrell and Questlove brought to the album in terms of production?
Working with Questlove was amazing, well with The Roots essentially. It was actually a new experience for me because the song that we recorded we actually recorded in one take, which I’ve never done before. I mean I always try and do it in as few takes as possible but this was literally press record and it was eight minutes long and then we edited it afterwards. It was a song called ‘Rainy Day’. It feels like how it was supposed to be. It was really seamless, and just again two musicians in a room doing what they do. It was a really special thing to have on my album and the same with Pharrell. It kind of fits within what I’m doing for the album, so it wasn’t like they came along and everything changed. It was just really nice to be able to work with them and have it be a part of my album.
You recently opened for Kelly Rowland at her show in D.C. What was that like?
It was really good fun. I had my headline show in D.C. on the Friday which was sold out and obviously that made me very happy. Then I opened for Marsha Ambrosius on the Saturday and then Kelly on the Sunday. So it was really cool. I got to do a bunch of shows in D.C. and obviously Marsha and Kelly are two very special ladies.
Is there any chance of collaboration with Kelly in the future?
You never know, obviously I’d love to. We’re on the same label but nothing planned for right now.
You’ve previously toured with the likes of Miguel and Maxwell. Did they give you any useful career advice?
With Miguel it was just really nice to tour with him because obviously he’s a few steps ahead of me in his career. I really respect what he’s doing. I love his music. It was so nice of him to invite me to be on tour with him. I can see how he’s dealing with it and it was a nice thing for me to observe at this point in my career and he’s been really supportive of my stuff as well.
What is your favorite song to perform and why?
That’s difficult actually; it’s probably out of two. It’d either be ‘Those Who Wait’, because obviously it’s a personal song for me, but also it’s something that my fans really connect to, it’s like a fan favorite. Then there’s a song called ‘Be’ which is going to be on the album, but some of my fans know it because there’s an acoustic version of it online and it’s become a favorite. ‘Be’ is something that I really like because I can connect with the audience with it.
As the year comes to a close, what have been the most memorable albums of 2013 that you’re still in love with now?
Definitely Laura Mvula Sing To The Moon, and Robert Glasper. I’m not really a massive hip-hop head, I can’t even lie, I’m more into my voices. I do like Jhene (Aiko). I haven’t actually heard her new album yet. I’ve been listening to some Joni Mitchell this year, a bit of a throwback but yeah.
Anyone you wanted to work with on this album that didn’t make the cut?
Honestly no, I was really happy. I’ve been really fortunate to work with pretty much every producer that I wanted to work with that was right for the album. I got to at least try it. In terms of collaborations, I wanted “Alone Together” with Marsha to be on there and aside from that I’ve done quite a lot of collaborations over the last couple of years so it’s nice for me to just be able to for the rest of the album just be like, ‘This is me,’ you know?
Daley’s ‘Days and Nights’ LP is expected to touch down Feb. 11.
Photo Credit: Getty