Berlin based Toronto born singer talks dream collaborations, sex with Halle Berry and his love for Liam Gallagher during a New Noise grilling
So when did you first realise you could sing?
Ha. To be honest, I’m still not sure I ever figured that out. When listen to my idols, such as Thom Yorke, Bono or Stevie Wonder, I kind of cringe at the idea of proclaiming to be a singer. They’re just so damn good!
So these are the sort of people you grew up listening to?
My pops loved roots reggae, soul and classic pop, so I heard everything from Rod Stewart to Dennis Brown as a kid. Oddly enough, he hated Christmas, but loved kitchy Jamaican Christmas covers, so I knew those better than my multiplication tables. Albeit last, I got into ‘90s Brit Pop and indie rock, which changed my pallet for music a lot. I taught myself the guitar and was convinced I wanted to be a white British rockstar, mod haircut and everything (laughs). The haircut never lasted.
So who influences the music you create the most?
All of the above, but for me, I hold a special place in my heart for Liam Gallagher. I think he was a large influence, not just the musically, but as a performer. His confidence was on overdrive, at all times. Either that or the drugs, but regardless, his sashay really stuck with me as kid.
Can you explain the story behind Secret Garden?
It’s about breaking the story to your lover that you’ve got others. Cheating essentially, but in the most beautiful and cute way possible.
Zane Lowe spun it on his show last week, how did that feel?
That was like having sex with Halle Berry to me – a fucking dream come true! I’ve been a huge fan of Zane Lowe’s since I started my first “real” music project, and at the time I had a plan to get spun as his “Hottest Record in the World” one day. My plan hasn’t fully unravelled itself yet…not yet, but I’m getting close, so I’m honoured.
When it comes to your lyrics are they all based on your life experiences?
Mostly, but not all. We’ve only got so many, so sometimes you have to steal a few. Some are from my friends, lovers, or even strangers. One of my favourite things to do is have heart-to-heart conversations with absolute strangers in shitty bars over cheap whiskey. For folks, I convinced the easiest time to purge is when you know you’ll never see that human being again. Oftentimes people tell you things about themselves you wish you didn’t hear.
You sing that you ‘got love to give’, who do you give your loving to?
I think that’s rather obvious, no? My mom.
You’re one of 8 children right? Can any of your siblings sing?
Not to save their lives. My father used to DJ, and sing in the choir as a kid, but none of siblings. I’ve a got a niece in Toronto who’s coming up and is pretty incredible, and older cousin, who sang backup with the Satellites in his hay day. But that’s about it.
You stole all the vocal talent then! Some people have called your sound ‘wonky R&B’, what would you call it?
That’s cool, but I didn’t even think it was R&B to be honest. It wasn’t until I read a couple reviews for “I Don’t Need Much” and I recall saying to my partner Fernandez, “oh, I guess it is kinda soulful…”. But…if you’re forcing me to classify it, I would say: “R & B meets Brit rock”.
We like it! What would be your dream music collaboration?
Damon Albarn, Andre 3000 and Stevie Wonder. But I’m pretty fickle, sure that’ll change by tomorrow.
What about living in Berlin, how does it compare to Toronto?
That’s like comparing a novel to a painting for me: both dope, yet extremely different in their own right. Toronto is my birthplace, so I’m biased, however, it’s the most multicultural world I’ve ever been to, so it has this special open-mindedness to it. Berlin has that same quality, but slightly different: it’s more innocent and curious. I think given its recent history, like a teenager it’s trying to find him or herself, so anything goes here. You don’t find many places, so it’s an incredible place to create an idea.
If we came to Berlin to say hi, where would you take us?
Depends on how hard and dirty you want to go. There is so much history in such a small area. We could go to the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park (fucking bananas!) or the abandoned NSA spy station in Teufelsberg. It’s endless. But then there is the dark “24-hour Party People” scene, where you can get lost for days, or even weeks if you’re not careful. Such a beautiful dichotomy, I think.
Maybe we’ll come get lost with you soon! Lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I’m just concentrating on writing, and playing live, really. I’ve put together an amazing band of friends for touring, so I’m hoping to be playing as much as possible. I think I’ll be playing in London over the summer. I can come and interview you for a change.
We like the sound of that!