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Daniel Caesar: charting the young Toronto singer's rise to the top
By
Caroline Szwed

Published

September 15, 2017

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If you don’t know who Daniel Caesar is yet, it’s only a matter of time.

The 22-year-old Toronto singer-songwriter released his first EP in 2014, and has independently built an online following through subsequent releases: three years ago Caesar uploaded his song "Porn Star" to his Soundcloud page and tallied 156,000 plays; about 10 months ago, the artist released "Get You" (feat. Kali Uchis) and recorded 8.61 million plays. To cap off the last three years, Caesar most recently performed on the popular talk show The Late Late Show with James Corden.

He has won over the hearts of listeners with his falsetto voice, guitar and piano playing, which he uses to create a unique gospel, rock and soul sound that often focuses on religion and unrequited love.

Caesar released his first full-length album, Freudian, two weeks ago today, shortly after he had announced snagging a spot on Apple Music's Up Next series. Below, we look at how the singer evolved from being expelled in high school to almost immediately selling out his first North American tour.

Growing up

Caesar was raised in a Christian household, and remains close with his parents after having moved out. We saw this closeness at the 2017 Juno Awards, when the singer-songwriter shouted out to his father.

“My dad’s here. Dad, I want you to know I love you,” he said before his performance at the Juno Awards Songwriters' Circle as everyone in the theatre started laughing. “I’m being so serious right now. I love you so much and I’m only here right now because you made me a man. And I’m ever thankful.”

From there, his dad shouted, "I love you!" from the audience.

Caesar's response: "I love you too, dad. Forever."

Caesar's father may also be where the Canadian singer-songwriter gets his talent. Norwill Simmonds is a critically acclaimed gospel singer who has released a number of Christian/gospel albums.

Pre-2014: expelled and homeless

Caesar was expelled "for selling 'like two grams' of pot to a classmate" while attending a private Christian high school in Oshawa, Ont. After his expulsion, the singer moved out of his parents' house to pursue a music career in Toronto. After arriving in the big city, Caesar was homeless for a few months — either sleeping on his friends' couches or outside, all in the midst of recording his first EP.

“Honestly man, I lived everywhere. I was actually sleeping in Trinity Bellwoods Park at one point for maybe a couple of nights," Caesar told Noisey.

2014: debut EP

In 2014, Caesar released his debut EP, Praise Break, which garnered exceptional reviews. Rolling Stone said “we’re witnessing the dawn of an abiding talent" when the magazine put Caesar's EP at No. 19 on its list of top 20 albums of 2014, while Billboard claimed that the Canadian was a “new artist that’s bound to break.”

2015: second EP (and eventual Juno Award nomination)

In 2015, Caesar released his followup EP, Pilgrim’s Paradise, earning him a 2017 Juno Award nomination for R&B/soul recording of the year. Although Caesar didn't win the award, the album’s success opened doors for him in both Canadian and international markets.

“With raw talent and an unwavering mystic, layer by layer, Caesar is writing a melodic story rooted in his authentic self — a story that has only just begun,” stated the Junos.

2016: 'Get You' single

In 2016, Caesar released his breakout single "Get You," featuring Kali Uchis — and which has now surpassed 10 million streams on Apple Music. The singer's songs have generally accumulated more than 20 million global stream on Apple Music and 12 million stream on Spotify. Spring 2016 also marked Caesar's appearance on CBC Music's list of top 25 Canadian musicians under 25. "Daniel Caesar’s spiritually infused music runs the sonic gamut and his arresting falsetto, while inimitably his own, can effortlessly recall either Jeff Buckley or Frank Ocean," wrote Jesse Kinos-Goodin.

2017: debut full-length album

After Caesar's success with Praise Break and Pilgrim's Paradise, the Canadian singer-songwriter released Freudian, his full-length debut, on Aug. 24, 2017, via indie label Golden Child. The day after the release, he announced that he will be doing a fall Freudian North American tour — which has already sold out in 29 of 31 locations.

 

In an interview with Billboard, Daniel Caesar shared what inspired his latest album: "I met a girl and got very involved. She brought things and feelings out of me that I didn't know I had. ‘Get You' is a song of praise to a love I didn't even feel I deserved at the time."

In addition to his soulful vocals and instrumentals, "We Found Love" is a raw reflection on having lost love.

Here is Daniel Caesar's much-lauded performance on The Late Late Show with James Corden.