Reporting Courtney E. Smith
Some artists are discovered in back room deals by industry insiders who package them and turn them into a commodity that the iTunes buying public can stomach. And some artists, like Manchester’s blue-eyed soulful son Daley, spring (nearly) fully formed from their own imagination with accolades from their peers.
Daley is part of the burgeoning soul and R&B movement out of the UK. He came on the heels of Adele and Amy Winehouse, whose “Love Is A Losing Game” he covered and released on the date of her untimely passing, but he’s very much his own man. Daley’s music at times harkens back to the ’90s, and at others takes listeners back to the Sade vibe of the ’80s. Sometimes he can even go further back to the ’60s, but his music never seems to rely very much on the idea of being grounded in modern day production and style.
“I think the term that I’ve come up with that I really feel like works is future throwback soul, if I was going to have to put it in a little phrase, because it is literally what it says,” Daley said in an interview with Radio.com. “The music I make definitely always has soul at the core. When I write, I write from a very honest place and hopefully a very relatable place. In terms of where it is musically, it’s definitely inspired by music from the past and the things I’ve been influenced by and inspired by. I really want my music to feel of its time and even a little futuristic. Although there are many artists who pull it off very well, I don’t want to be an artist who is retro or old school.”
Daley comes from the old-school music town of Manchester. Although it’s the birthplace of Joy Division, the Smiths, New Order, Badly Drawn Boy, the Verve, the Chameleons, Simply Red, Doves, Elbow, the Stone Roses, Ting Tings, the Fall, Inspiral Carpet, James, Oasis — the list goes on and on — Daley said he never felt quite at home there. He tells a story that sounds familiar to any Morrissey fan.
“I have a strange relationship with Manchester musically, I think because for a lot of the time, when I first started making music, I found it very frustrating. Because although it has a very rich musical history and it does have a music scene, it wasn’t something that really catered to me at that time and the music I was making. I found it quite difficult to get out and have my music find — a place to showcase my music. So, I guess what it did for me is force me to stay in my bedroom and really just think about what I wanted to do and develop an identity by myself as opposed to being part of a scene.”
He headed out on tour as support for fellow new face/old sound Miguel, around the UK in January 2013. And ideal pairing, but it wasn’t Daley’s first big tour. That break, along with his most notable career lift, came from Damon Albarn and Gorillaz.
Albarn’s wife heard Daley at an open mic night in London and liked what she heard. Fast forward a few weeks, when Albarn called Daley up and asked if he’d like to join Gorillaz in the studio. The group cut the single “Doncamatic.” Daley described his reaction as “baffled” because Albarn was just about the last person he’d have expected to champion him. He ended up on the Gorillaz world tour, next to idols like Bobby Womack, which he describes as another “strange, bizarre” experience in his career.
“The Gorillaz tour in general, it was such an amazing mix of people. I was there with everyone from Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn, Little Dragon, De La Soul, Kano and Bashy who are two British rappers — you know, just a crazy mix of people on that tour so it was very inspiring.”
As Daley has moved into his own career, he hasn’t shied away from continuing to work closely with other artists. The lead single off his forthcoming album, “Remember Me,” is a pop-leaning affair recorded with Jessie J, who Daley calls a friend.
“I guess ‘Remember Me’ was probably my first music video where I feel like it was really from start to finish [my own]. It was something that I really enjoyed because when I wrote the song I had this vision. I had this visual in my head of what the visual should look like. I have quite a visual mind anyway. The color scheme — the peach backdrop with the black and the striking visual elements were something that I started to storyboard and put together…We planned it out and the day of shooting was a lot of fun. Me and Jessie J are good friends so we just had some fun with it.”
Daley’s debut album, Days and Nights, will be released in 2013. His current EP, Those Who Wait, which features the singles “Remember Me” and “Alone Together” with Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius as well as Daley’s cover of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” is available now.