Plenty of people make sacrifices to pursue a career in music. But for Daniel Caesar it really was an all-or-nothing situation. Kicked out after a fight with his father on the weekend of his high school graduation, the 17-year-old felt he had no choice but to pursue his calling.
The fast-rising singer-songwriter grew up on a diet of soul and gospel in surroundings that were shot through with musicality and religion, but his parents were wary of the temptations that come with music. Born in Oshawa, a suburb of Toronto that felt more like a “little city, tucked away”, his father was a pastor so he grew up in church, singing in front of the congregation. Living just an hour’s drive from the city – close enough to see its skyline, but not close enough to touch it – led to a hunger: “I felt very isolated from what was going on in Toronto,” he says. “When you live in the suburbs you spend a lot of time counting down the days until you can get there.”
His music takes the gospel and soul of his childhood and supplements them with a modern take on r’n’b and electronics. Alongside BadBadNotGood, he’s part of a pool of talent responsible for Toronto’s rising international profile. His lyrics touch on religion and love, his voice reshaping itself on each track, sometimes lilting in the style of Jeff Buckley, often hushed like Frank Ocean at his most introspective. Musically, he cites Ocean, Kanye West and Beyoncé as role models; aesthetically, he draws from the psychedelic croon of The Doors’ Jim Morrison.
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