Britain's next rising star has got talent.
Straight out of Manchester comes Gareth Daley, one of the UK’s newest soul acts. Although the debut album by the soon-to-be 23-year-old, rising star has yet to be released, Daley has spent the past two years working with the BBC, Damon Albarn and the Gorillaz, while touring Europe and America honing his craft. Using his surname as his nom de plume, Daley shares his influences and his fresh vision as a newcomer in an expanding scene.
There’s been a lot of hype recently about your upcoming debut album. Especially since you’ll be working with Bernard Butler, Shea Taylor, and Dre of Dre and Vidal. Can you tell us a little bit more about your album that you haven’t told anyone else?
I’ve been working on the album for the last couple years. I’ve been between the States and the UK doing bits of writing. I think it’s different from the stuff I’ve been putting out before now. I put out a mixtape last year, which was an introduction to my music and who I am as an artist. And with the album, I’m just trying to perfect the sound. I just want to put out the best sound possible. I just want to keep the soul— the core of my music and bring it into now. It’s definitely more of a contemporary thing than a retro soul thing.
When do you plan to have that out?
I have an EP coming out in October, and I’ll have a couple things from the album on it. And that has a bunch of new tracks on it as well. The album itself comes out in January of next year. The last two years I’ve just been spending trying to figure out what I want to do in terms of writing and the kind of album I want to make, and I’ve done a lot of that in the UK trying to put that together. I’ve been over here every now and again, working with people and getting to know the layout. I just did a few shows over in America. And it’s great, it’s like a whole new audience for me. I feel like people really feel my music in a slightly different way over here. So it really makes me feel like it’s somewhere that I belong and want to be.
Tell us about hitting the public with the BBC. That must have been a bit intimidating for someone so fresh on the scene.
I couldn’t find a scene to be involved with in Manchester, so I went up to London and did as many live shows there as I could. I did the open-mics and jam nights, and underground clubs, and just anywhere I could get to sing and get my name out. I did that in London for a few months and I caught the attention of the BBC, and they had a program called BBC Introducing. So I recorded a couple of my songs, and that was the first thing that really got me out there into the industry. And that lead to me being signed, in a round-about way.
I’ve always had a good relationship with the DJ’s in the UK and it’s great that they were able to play my music. I kind of went away for a few months and focused on writing. I came over to the States and did some sessions, and then did some sessions in the U.K. I met Damon Albarn, and we hit it off and got into the studio together. I put out a song with the Gorillaz called “Doncamatic,” and that was my first official song that got released and that was a boost in my career. Then I went away for a bit, worked on my own stuff, and I put out my mixtape called Those Who Wait. That was the first thing that I released that showed who I am as an artist, what my sound was and what I want to do. It allowed people to get to know me a little better. And the single that’s out now, “Alone Together” with Marsha Ambrosius, is also on there, and it’s the kind of thing that got people talking a little bit more in the States.
We often hear about London, but we don’t hear to much about Manchester. Describe the music scene there and why you made the move?
Well, Manchester is the second biggest city in England. It used to have a really big music scene in the ’80s, and a lot great of music came out it like New Order and Joy Division and The Smiths, and a lot of pop music followed by a lot of dance and electronic music. But since then the scene really died out and it doesn’t really have that much of a scene anymore. It’s kind of hanging on to what it used to have—obviously there’s still a lot of talent there, but I found it really hard to find gigs and places that I could perform my music at. So I love it, but it didn’t have that much diversity in my opinion. Which is why I moved to London. London is this international city….
Could you tell us a little bit more about “Alone Together”?
It’s a song about contradiction. It’s a song about two people— there’s no reason why they can’t be together, they love each other, they want to be together, but the logistics of life and the day-to-day things that keep people apart…. It’s the contradiction of two people who love each other, but can’t make the step towards being together. I wrote it in New York.
You’re featured on the re-release of the album Plastic Beach by the Gorillaz. Since we only know the cartoon versions, what was it like to write, record and perform with them?
It wasn’t like a huge record, but it was an amazing experience for me. Damon Albarn is an amazing British songwriter. He’s the lead singer from Blur, and he masterminded the whole Gorillaz thing. With the writing process, we wrote it together. He had this beat and was like, “What do you think of this, can you write to it?” So we just jammed together a few times in the studio, and it came out as “Doncamatic.” And Damon is an old-school writer. He doesn’t spend a lot of time going over things or analyzing things. He taught me to just go with it, with my instinct. If it sounds good, keep it. Don’t worry about redoing it or trying to make it perfect, just go with the feeling of it. I also got to go on tour with him, and that was the first time I got to go on tour in the States. They have a huge band and so many featured artists. I was on tour with Little Dragon, De La Soul, some UK rappers called Kano and Bashy. They collaborate with so many people that it was just amazing for me to be on a tour bus with all these old acts, new acts, all from different genres.
So how did the two of you meet?
I was in London and I was doing shows, just doing shows wherever I could. And on one of the shows, Damon Albarn’s wife came down to the show. We were introduced and I think she literally went home and just played my music. So he said, “Let’s do it”. So right place, right time.
How would you describe your sound?
I would say that if I was going to put it into a term, I would say “future throwback soul.” Soul is always at the core of everything I do. It’s always where my songs start. It’s always about how I feel and things that I feel. I take throwback things and things from the past, classic music, and artists that have influenced me, but I’m trying to put it into a sound that is very much now.
So tell me about your influences. Who did you grow up listening to and who has had an impact on you?
You know some people’s parents really influence their taste by playing music a lot. My parents listened to music, but they weren’t like crazy music fans. I pretty much would just sit in my bedroom in Manchester, UK, and listen to soulful stuff that would have been in my mum and dad’s collection— Shawtay, George Michael— the UK soul artists. And then I started getting into commercial R&B, [in the] late ’90s and early 2000s, and neo-soul—Jill Scott and D’Angelo. I just really felt that it was the soulful stuff that really did it for me. Prince is really my biggest influence, he’s someone I respect a lot. I really think of him being the ultimate artist. Listening to his music led me to understand what it is to bean artist. I love Radiohead. I also like the sonic stuff, not maybe commercial, but that’s just really amazing to listen to. I try to fuse all those things together.