A young artist so profoundly true to his craft, Daley balks at references to himself as a crooner because he is so much more. He deems himself an artist, using melodies, chords, and his own words to craft brilliant songs. He takes his artistry seriously. At 23, his emotional vulnerability shows in “Be” and his cover of “Love is a Losing Game.” I caught up with him recently and he shared with me his process, being on tour with Miguel, and why he prefers to have his milk in a wine glass.
VIBE: I hear you prefer to drink your milk out of a wine glass.
Daley: “I do. Sometimes you just want an elegant glass of milk.”
Who are you listening to now?
There is not a whole heap of stuff [on my iPod[ because a lot of things I listen to are just things from the past. But one of the artists that I listen to that is one of my favorites and we’ve kind of become friends is Stacey Barthe. She is an incredible songwriter. We met randomly a couple years ago in L.A. and connected. We didn’t even play each other any music. Then a year later I found her EP and mixtapes. I connected the dots and we reconnected. I had a new appreciation for her and her song writing. It’s an amazing EP.
Speaking of songwriting, how do you craft songs? Where do you go to bring out that emotion heard on “Be”?
When I’m writing songs, I have different ways of doing it depending on who I am working with or whether I feel like writing to the beat or from scratch. My favorite songs, “Be: being one of them, come from sessions where I go in and write, and there is something kind of pressing emotionally. It’s about summing up the emotion or what’s going on in a phrase. Whether that ends up being the title of the song or just one line starts the ball rolling for the rest of the song. And in that way, they come from an honest place that is really relatable. We are all human and go through the same kind of thing. It’s just trying to hone in on the essence of the emotion or the situation and then kind of build it up from there. The details you find them naturally. In terms of constructing the melody, my favorite part of the process, the music and the chords will tell me what the emotion is that will go with that song. It’s a combination of those processes.
Who do get the most comparison to?
It’s strange for me. I’d say like 60% of people will automatically compare me to someone who is white and who sings R&B or soulfully. I get those comparisons almost from just a visual perspective. In the past, I’ve had the obvious Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Jon B, all great artists, othing to be insulted by. And sometimes people say George Michael, Simply Red, which is fine. I guess one of the first things that got me noticed on YouTube was a cover I did – “Pretty Wings” by Maxwell. The reason I did it was because it is one of my favorite Maxwell songs. I did it so early on in my career, I didn’t think too hard about it, I just really liked it and I put it out. Maxwell and I had a chance to talk recently and he calls me every now and again and I call him. He was saying that it was interesting for him to come across someone who hears music in the same way that he does. He finds that interesting because we are 20 years apart in age and it kind of is actually. It is an interesting connection.
You’re also called a crooner…
Yeah, crooner is my least favorite word in the music world, I think.
I get it but the reason I don’t like it is because crooner seems to depict someone who just sings songs in a certain way, and it’s almost not fair to someone who writes their music. To be called a crooner is a bit of a downgrade actually. I’d prefer to be called a singer/songwriter or artist.
How would you describe your sound?
A phrase I’ve come across that I really like is future throwback, soul. There is always soul that is the core of everything I do and I try to make my music futuristic. I don’t want it to feel like I am trying to be in Donnie Hathaway’s or Marvin Gaye’s head or someone not of my time, although obviously I’ve learned from those artists. The throwback is the nostalgia, what everybody loves about R&B and soul, just incorporating that into a modern sound.
Tell me about some of your favorite venues to perform at worldwide and your experience at SOBs in NY.
I haven’t played a lot of shows in the States yet. I did SOB which was amazing. It was my first trip to the States to perform and it was so surreal. I had just released a mixtape and it was the realization of those download numbers. You see the download numbers or you see your Twitter followers go up but it’s not real people. So I arrived to NY, to SOBs, to this crowd of people who were just there to listen to me, that’s when it became reality. SOBs was a really intimate venue where you get to connect with the people who are listening to you. The only other place was with the Gorillaz when we did the Gibson Theatre in L.A. In the U.K., I’ve done the Jazz Café which a lot of American artists come over to do. I just recently did my biggest venue in the U.K. called CoCo [where] I managed to sell out just on the basis of my mixtape. It was a really proud moment to get just under 2000 people and everyone in the room was singing my lyrics, word for word.
There has been this talk of the emergence of soul singers from the U.K. Would you say that you and those singers are changing the musical landscape?
I don’t know. It’s interesting to me because even though there seems like a wave of U.K. soul artists or vocalists, it’s not like it’s a U.K. sound because all of the artists are quite different. You’ve got Amy Whinehouse, Adele, Lady Emily Sunday, if you want to put me in there, all these people don’t sound the same. The link is the vocals I guess. The way I see it U.K. and European artists were just so amazed by American soul artists and R&B. I still am. There was a long period of time where people just tried to emulate [what they heard]. Now as time has gone on throughout the ’90s, soul has crossed the seas.
How did you come to work with Marsha Ambrosious?
During one of my first trips to NY, I was in a studio and our managers knew each other. Obviously I knew her music from Floetry and I thought she was amazing. We never met before so it was a little bit strange. She was happy to do it, so we literally just got in the studio together. I didn’t know what was going to happen because it’s always strange when it’s someone you’ve never met and you go in to write a song with them. But we had a few things in common. She’s from Liverpool and I’m from Manchester so we clicked. It was just amazing how the ideas we had fit together perfectly.
Do you see any future collaboration with Marsha?
I’d love to, I’d never say no to Marsha. At the moment I’ll concentrate on some solo stuff. I’ve done a lot of collaborations so I’m definitely ready to step out on my own.
Before you go completely solo, who is the most unlikely artist you would like to collaborate with?
I think it would be Imogen Heap. She is a singer/ songwriter from the U.K, who did the Jason DeRulo sample for “What You Say.” She’s not soulful I would say but she has incredible vocal arrangements and sounds. That’s something that people wouldn’t expect.
How was your experience on tour with Miguel?
It was the most satisfying tour that I’ve been on because I was with an artist who I really respect, and an artist who really warmed to my music as well so it was really enjoyable for me. I could just do my thing. We went out, hung out in a few cities. We went to a couple of clubs. It was the most natural tour process that I’ve had. We had a strange experience. Once at 2 A.M. we went to a greasy pizza place in Birmingham in the U.K. and we just hung out there, listening to what I am sure was the most amazing soundtrack. It was like some Kendrick Lamar and other great artists. It was a random good time. Taking photos with the shop owner was interesting.
Is there anything your fans should look out for coming soon?
I am really excited about the next single, which I can’t give too many clues away yet. But it’s going to be a twist on a song that people know of mine. I am working on a very interesting feature with an American artist for the next single. So I guess yeah just kind of keep your ears peeled for that.