Daley’s long-awaited inaugural LP, Days & Nights, is two years and a handful of EPs in the making. Generating a following in the United States and his UK homeland, his soulful approach and falsetto vocals have transcended cultures. With records produced by Pharrell and others featuring Marsha Ambrosius, Daley’s official coming out party is a solid first impression for sure. He breaks down Days & Nights and details his journey for Life+Times here.
Life+Times: Where does the title come from?
Daley: The album is something I’ve been working on for a couple years now, so it’s been awhile in the making. I called it Days & Nights because I found myself split into almost two people when I was writing it. One person being a very positive, helpful person who was looking for love and trying to find out what that is. Then, the other person being a lot more pessimistic. It’s about all that stuff and the reasons why. So, it’s coming from two different perspectives. That’s the concept behind it. In terms of how I’ve made it, I’ve written it between the UK and the US. I’ve done some work in the UK with a producer named Brandon Butler, he’s a well-established musician out here, and in the States I’ve been working with Illangelo, Andre Harris, obviously the song with Pharrell. Sonically, I just tried to push it not away from soul, but away from what people expect from soul music; just make it feel of its time and keep the soul at the core.
L+T: Expand on that. What is it that people expect from soul? Define “future throwback soul” and what listeners are getting beyond the “average” soul record.
Daley: “Future throwback soul” literally just comes from having soul at the core of what I’m doing. I think soul is relatable, honest and that delivery with feeling. It’s the real elements people relate to. When I’m writing a song that’s where I always try to come from at the very start. I’ve been drawing and building the sonic around that, making it slightly different from what may have been done in the past. Some of the stuff I’ve done in the UK with Brandon Butler is a little bit more [minimal], so it’s kind of dark actually a lot of the album. It has that edge to it. You’ve [also] got warmth with a bunch of the songs, [so] it’s kind of juxtaposed.
L+T: Soul was first an American music, but the UK soul scene has been strong for a long time as well with Soul II Soul, Sade, Omar, etc. How has the UK soul scene influenced you?
Daley: It’s weird because a lot of the UK soul greats were around slightly before my time or before I was able to really appreciate them. I guess there’s just something about the sound and nostalgia that I still remember. My parents always listened to quite soulful music, but it was never forced upon me or never a big thing. It’s just what I naturally drifted to when I started to make music. That maybe planted the seed and then in my teens. I discovered American R&B and soul and I had a whole phase of being obsessed with that. I went back again to the UK and got some other influences like Radiohead. You start to find a middle ground where you start to find yourself as an artist and all of those things come together with what you want to do yourself. I’m from Manchester in the UK, which is quite different from London, musically. It’s not exactly known for soul or R&B, so that kind of forced me to find my own way. Rather than being a part of the scene, it was more me in my bedroom working out what I was gonna do.
L+T: Having experience in both countries, how would you compare a UK and US audience in their reception of soul music?
Daley: That’s actually a quite difficult [question], because I find that, really, the audience that comes to see me whether it’s the UK, US, Germany or whatever – they come to see me because they like a certain thing, which is the same thing. In that sense, it makes all of the audiences alike, so I find it kind of hard to say, you know, from my audiences what makes them different. I guess, from an American audience, there’s a slightly deeper appreciation for the R&B and soulful side of what I do. It’s more ingrained in American music, you know. There are some things I know will go down well in States slightly better than the UK. It’s really subtle, but overall I think my audiences, wherever they are, are the same kind of people.
L+T: You worked with Pharrell on “Look Up,” and ?uestlove on another record. Talk about working with those guys and the gratification it gives you to work with two people like that.
Daley: It actually happened quite late. A bulk of the album had been done and I had the opportunity when I was in LA to work with Pharrell, and when I was in New York, I worked with Questlove. It was cool because [since] the album was more or less done, there was no pressure. I didn’t feel like it was depending on those sessions to make the album happen. It was really cool in the sense that I was quite relaxed about it. Pharrell is just a musician, so all the things that I was thinking about before about how [big] he is, once you get two musicians in a room that’s all it is. We spent the first day just listening to music, we barely wrote anything, then really got into it the second day and it kind of just came out. He’s a professional, man. Working with him, I can see why he’s done so well, he really understands the way it works. It was the same with Questlove. I got to appreciate his music firsthand and it was great to have him involved.
L+T: Your record with Marsha Ambrosius, “Alone Together,” has been out for a couple years, but is really a timeless kind of record. It’s gotten lots a late-night radio spins. Has that been a key song for you in terms of building your audience?
Daley: Definitely. “Alone Together” was one of the first songs I wrote that brought the attention of a US audience. I think it was essentially the song that got me signed in the US, because previous to that I was just signed in the UK. When that came out, it kind of generated some interest. It was one of the songs I did for the album. [Marsha] was very cool, because I was completely unknown at the time, so she took a chance on me and just set out to make a dope song. I don’t think we really realized – I don’t want to say how good it was, that makes it sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet – how much people would connect to it, which is what really happened. It took on a life of its own. I was hardly even there to promote in the states. I did one promo trip and a couple of small shows. It’s nice that you say it’s timeless, because I do feel that [it is timeless] in the sense that people feel it, I don’t have to explain why they should like it. You either like it or you don’t, and luckily, a lot of people did. It’s still one of my favorite songs that I’ve written and a massive stepping stone in my career.
Days & Nights is available now.