We’re less than two weeks away from the release of Daniel Caesar’s debut album Freudian, but you’ve probably heard of the Toronto-based singer by now. His early EPs such as Pilgrim’s Paradise and Praise Break earned him widespread attention as a name to watch, and recent singles like “Get You” and “We Found Love” have kept his momentum going. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole Caesar into any one genre, but the way he blends folk, soul, and gospel among other influences is more than impressive.
Before Freudian hits your speakers, make sure you know a little bit about Daniel Caesar’s background. His honesty is what’s made so many people obsessed with his music, as its filled with messages to relate to. Check out our list to find out what inspires his story, and see who else has been jamming to his vocals!
1. His father is a gospel singer, and used to perform at restaurants in Jamaica.
Daniel Caesar’s made his religious influences known in his music, and much of it comes from his God-fearing parents. The combination of church and music played a huge role in his early life, as his father’s music career helped inspire him to pick up singing at an early age. Although the music stuck, Caesar’s struggled with religion since leaving the house, as he says he’s still looking for the personal connection many Christians feel with God. “One day, I just had this realization that everything you’re supposed to say and do as a Christian, I’m just taking what other people have said he’s done for me,” he told CBC News. “I’ve never heard the still small voice.”
2. Mary J. Blige is a fan of his music, and recruited him for background vocals on her most recent album.
You’re doing something right when Mary J. Blige has your song on her playlists. Next to Anderson .Paak, she listed Caesar’s “Get You” on the soundtrack to her summer. She’s not alone; the song’s racked up over 25 million plays on Spotify since being released last October. Six months after “Get You” released, Caesar popped up on Blige’s album Strength of a Woman, singing background vocals on “Telling the Truth.”
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul didn’t give the Canadian singer space for a verse, but could you imagine what a true collaboration between the two would sound like? Bouncing between her silky flows and his passionate notes… maybe the world just isn’t ready.
3. Daniel Caesar was kicked out of high school for selling weed to his classmates.
Despite his parents’ best attempts to shelter their child, Caesar was caught selling weed to fellow students his junior year of high school. They told the school upon discovery, and the Christian private school unsurprisingly booted him from campus. Similar to Chance the Rapper’s 10 Day story, the discipline pushed him further into the music, and he eventually met Jordon Manswell. The connection led Caesar to Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans, two beatmakers out of Toronto whom he’s worked with extensively ever since. The producers had made their name working with hip-hop royalty like Drake and Eminem, but displayed great versatility crafting the music on Caesar’s acclaimed EP Pilgrim’s Paradise.
4. He’s a huge movie buff, and got the idea for his song “We’ll Always Have Paris” after watching Casablanca.
Humphrey Bogart’s iconic line from Casablanca has popped up as the title for a number of books, TV episodes, and corny speeches, and appears on Daniel Caesar’s EP Praise Break. It’s a song about the memories that last long after the relationship fades, filled with extended metaphors that reference back to the movie. The watery soundscape, consistent in much of his earlier work, fits with the “Marvin’s Room”-esque vibes set early on, submerging the listener in his 3 AM drunken thoughts. His impressive songwriting is what truly carries the track though, showing that even in the early stages of his career he knew what to do with the pen.
5. He’s had a stint of homelessness, sleeping in parks and friends’ couches while working on his music.
The starving artist trope isn’t new, but it’s certainly not an overstatement for Daniel Caesar’s living conditions just a few short years ago. After bolting from his parents’ house, Caesar took his chances with music and began working his way through Toronto, sleeping wherever he could. He says his parents’ likely would have welcomed him back (on their rules), but the hatred of suburb life and the feeling that he was destined for greatness pushed him to stick it out.
Fortunately at least, many of the parks in Toronto provided gorgeous scenery to look at in his vagabond days. He spent several nights sleeping at Trinity Bellwoods, a small park in the heart of the city’s downtown. Years later, he returned to the park with a guitar and a mic stand, performing an intimate show for his fans in what used to be his makeshift bedroom. Kudos to you, Daniel Caesar; Trinity Bellwoods fits better as your concert stage than as your residence.