Preston Pablo has the world at his feet. One of the biggest emerging acts to come out of Canada in recent years, the pending superstar is already platinum selling, with his major label debut cut, “Flowers Need Rain”, amassing over 43 million streams. Boasting names like Partynextdoor, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber as spearheading influences, the talent is a multi-faceted enigma, writing, singing, producing and playing multiple instruments.
Since emerging in 2019 with momentous hit “OMO”, Pablo has gone from strength to strength, unleashing a motley, intelligent and provoking array of singles throughout the following four years. His latest, “AY AY AY”, was originally released back in January but has now been accentuated by a sleek visual, and is one of his most vibrant efforts to date. A groove-laden, colourful pop soundscape acts as the perfect backdrop for Pablo to spray charisma all over the palette, with his unique vocal tone cutting through the chopped vocal samples, ethereal synths, and lively bass and percussion.
With a commercially acute sound, definitive musicality and an image that more than matches his talent, Preston Pablo looks set to achieve huge success. We had the pleasure of catching up with Preston, discussing the reaction of listeners to his music, his background and upbringing, discovering his signature sound, and what’s to come this year.
Watch the video for “AY AY AY”
Read the full interview below
Preston! How are you doing? How has this year been for you so far?
I’m doing great, this year has been crazy. It’s been so eventful. But it feels so good to be at the top end of a new year with so much new stuff to come.
Recapping 2022, do you have any particular highlights?
Yeah, for sure. Last year was just one big highlight — I’m still so new to all of this. It feels so insane. The key moments for me were playing shows, touring a little bit around Canada which was amazing. It was like I finally got to see my own country in a different light while also playing these insane shows and meeting fans. Also, my record “Flowers Need Rain” went platinum and recently went double platinum — I’m still in disbelief. Something else I thought was really cool was that that song went to number one on Shazam in Canada for almost the whole of summer. That really hit home that people were hearing my song and actually wanting to find out where it came from and listen to it again.
Did you ever foresee that happening? Were you expecting that reaction?
To be honest, definitely not. I was always confident in my music and always believed in myself, but I could never have imagined it happening the way and as fast as it did. I’m only just stepping into the industry as a whole and discovering who I am as an artist so I think having a song that did as well as it did just wasn’t in my plan. I feel very fortunate and grateful that it did, but if you were to ask me a while back if I thought that was going to happen I would have laughed in your face.
I wanted to know a little bit about your upbringing. I read you grew up in a really small town, what was that experience like?
I did! I grew up in a town called Timmins. For reference you have Toronto – where I live now – and then you have Timmins which is an eight-hour drive north of there. I think I appreciate it more now that I’ve left the town, but it was very difficult as a creative to find the resources to create music — there are no studios or music communities out there. So being an artist it was definitely a DIY style of growing up. But I found a group of friends and my brother and we formed our own little collective to bounce creative ideas off of each other. It was cool in that sense because we had to figure it all out for ourselves, it was free and fun at the time.
Do you think that influenced the artist that you are and want to be?
Definitely. Something that I always think of now that I’ve moved on from Timmins is that having that town as my home allowed me to find my own voice — there were no artists around me where I felt pressure to compete or sound like them. There was no present community that I had to cater to, so I had a clean slate where I could take my own passions and influences to shape my artistry. At the time I didn’t realise it, but I’m so glad I had that beginning.
Given that you didn’t grow up around a musical community, where do you think your passion for music stemmed from?
Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that since I can remember I’ve been so mesmerised by seeing artists performing on stage. I was so attracted to that — being someone that others can look at for entertainment or inspiration. My parents would always play music in the house, my mum was a huge Michael Jackson fan. I ended up taking up drumming and found myself surrounded by music within my home.
It sounds like something you might have been born with!
Yeah, it’s weird to think, but I’ve always been a shower performer. It does take time, when I started signing there were a lot of times where I’d hear it back and think, “Oh, I don’t know if that’s for me”. But your voice is an instrument and can be trained.
How did you discover your signature sound?
I think I’m still in that discovery period. I’m definitely finding a comfortable sound for me but I wouldn’t say I’ve finessed a Preston Pablo sound. Truthfully, I’m not sure I ever will, but what keeps me going as an artist is to always be trying something new and constantly learning. I love having that freedom to experiment, I want to keep things fresh — it’s so important to stay relevant and keep that passion alive. I just want to create music that reflects where I am or how I’m feeling at a certain point in my life.
Are there any specific artists that you look up to that inspire you?
A big artist for me is The Weeknd — I’ve been a fan of his forever. I so appreciate his artistry and his vocals, it’s so well curated. I’m not sure if it is always intentional, but the way everything comes together is always perfect. As an artist, I aspire to achieve that one day.
If you could have written any other song that is already out there, what would it be?
That’s a great question, there are so many great songs on this planet I would have loved to have written. This morning I was listening to “Somebody Else” by The 1975, and right now, that’s the song that comes to mind. I’d love to write something that beautiful.
Speaking of which… Congratulations on the release of your new track, “AY AY AY”. What prompted you to write it?
That song wasn’t intended to be the song that it is now. The birthplace of that song was just in the studio where the energy was so high. I was there with my producers and we were all just bouncing off of each other and we wanted to replicate that within a song. At the end of the day, we got to the chorus which just describes all of my craziest desires and fantasies — stuff that I envision in my head but never say out loud. So this track just gave me the freedom to be a little bit cocky and allow myself to manifest those desires and own them.
What do you think is the biggest message of the song?
I want people to listen to it and to not be scared to dive into whatever they want for themselves. I want them to recognise what their desires are and to make no apologies for it, and rather chase them. That’s what I hope people can take away from this song. I feel like this past year has taught me that if you have an insane dream, it really is possible — it just takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s all in the confidence you have within yourself.
Did you ever find it difficult to recognise your own desires/dreams?
I think I just don’t want to portray myself as a cocky individual. I’ve always known what I want, but it’s just how you go about saying it. I don’t want people to think I’m talking about money, cars and girls and that that is all I want my image to be. This song is just showing that I am hungry for everything I can get within this world.
What has the reception been like to the song so far?
The reactions have actually been amazing. My favourite one so far is seeing people listen to the verse going into the chorus. I love watching the element of surprise kick in. But people have also reached out to me and told me it has instilled confidence and energy within them, which is something I put into the track — so it was great to have that pay-off.
How does that feel? Having people reaching out to you already to tell you your work has had a real impact on them…
It’s such an amazing feeling. It is so rewarding. Knowing I’ve helped anyone connect to something I have created, it just puts a huge smile on my face for sure.
What are you hoping to achieve by the end of the year?
Hopefully a lot. I want to spend a lot of time writing this year. I have so much music floating around and I want to get to a place where I can put that all into a bigger project. I’ve also fallen in love with performing so I am looking to do that more and grow as an artist.