Wednesday 2 September 2020

'The Journey' by Rhys Daniel

'The Journey' marks the new album from British producer and pianist, Rhys Daniel.

With a strong theme of collaborations running throughout the project, 'The Journey' boasts pairings with numerous vocalists who breathe life into Daniel's compositions.  The music throughout the album's fourteen tracks seeks inspiration from various styles and genres but is very much, proudly, the product of the neo-soul generation.  For the genre's pioneers - including world class names like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Bilal - their music laid down the groundwork for their vision of contemporary soul for the hip-hop generation; that aesthetic has not only expanded in the twenty-plus years since but also inspired waves of artists, producers and musicians to carry that torch for subsequent generations.

'The Journey' is indicative of that long-standing vision for R&B music but is also looking beyond and attempting to carve out its own lane.

A number of predominantly US-based vocalists are featured throughout the album with some serving as new collaborators and others as long-standing Rhys Daniel vocalists including Zulema Nakinda Cheek who guests on two tracks for 'The Journey' - 'So Anxious' and the soulful house-esque groove of 'Just One of A Million'.  Further, their 2016 collaborative project, 'Love Again', recently saw its reissue this year presenting their charming dynamic over the course of twelve tracks.

While all of the project's vocalists, including Lina, Roszunn, Alisha Glover and Yvette Meadows, each find their way to connect to Daniel's productions in a unique and distinctive way, Carlos Budd Ford's appearance on 'How Can I Not Love You?' is another track that warrants special mention as a genuine standout from the eclectic and diverse project.

'The Journey' delivers as a strong showcase of Daniel's talents and ability, and successfully sees the multi-talented producer on track to carve out his own lane.  Blue-in-Green:RADIO secured time with Rhys Daniel to discuss his own musical influences and how 'The Journey' came to be.

What are some of your earliest memories of music growing up?
When I was a child my Mum used to put on lots of Jazz vocalists like Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin and Dinah Washington. This lasted till I was about 10. I never liked what my Dad listened to because it was mainly rock and country.  He didn't really get Jazz.  But they were eclectic parents because when friends would come over and a few bottles were opened everything was played.  My Granddad (RIP) was a fantastic singer who could sing Frank Sinatra songs very well, all the time!  I didn't discover my vocalists until later on, which would become an obsession with Donny Hathaway 'Live at the Filmore West' and Amy Winehouse, 'Frank'.  I liked a lot of 90's R&B but found it really aggressive in sound, lyrics and production.  Then Jill Scott and Erykah Badu came about but since then they have changed and meanwhile so have I and don't really listen to them anymore.  I'm the sort of musician that makes music based on current influences.  I can't read theory music, play sheet music or perform or sing really but I've got amazing ears and have a great personal connection with soulful music whatever the outcome.  So to answer your question, black music started me off and now I listen to more Snoh Aalegra; since Amy passed away, it's harder to listen to her music even though I do.  I think if I was to choose it would have to be Dinah Washington over Sarah Vaughan and Donny Hathaway over Marvin Gaye but I appreciate all good music be it white, black, soulful, whatever... if it is great music, I'll play it.

Can you tell us a little about the artists that were a big influence on you?
I've sort of answered it in the first answer but recently I've been heavily influenced by Lady Gaga.  I thought she was a commercial giant.  But she actually has a really authentic voice and I love BloodPop's production.  She's had a few album flops like ArtPop but when I hear passion and honesty in a voice I am hooked, no matter what genre it is or how crazy the artist is.  I've become a fan of Jhene Aiko for a while, I think she is great.  Her new album is very impressive. I enjoy listening to the first two Anderson .Paak albums.  I'm not really a fan of Adele anymore even though I appreciate her musicality, vocally she doesn't hit the spot.  Lana Del Rey is inspirational for me, but to answer your question, Whitney Houston made a huge impact on me growing up.  I loved her keyboard songs.  George Michael is another one too, Amy, just for her sense of humour, Donny Hathaway, Dinah Washington, so yeah, a bunch of random artists.  I'm probably eclectic like my parents.  I felt a connection with Soul/R&B artists from a young age.  I still do but remember listening to a lot of Whitney Houston.

How would you describe the creative process when it comes to making new music?
My music production is based on feelings and sounds.  It's probably why I failed my production MA, haha.  I like to produce using very warm sounds. Not using many effects unless the piano or keyboard needs reverb or tremolo.  It's quite an organic process even though it's MIDI! But I always think if it's done organically I could be producing quite new music that doesn't really fit into a genre.  I've stopped producing music since Covid-19 because I've not been feeling great so therefore haven't been producing great music.  But will be booking my new studio in a few days to start my instrumental electronic project, 'Let It Flow, Vol One'.

Congratulations on the release of The Journey: how did the concept of this album come to pass?
Thank you.  I had a lot of help on my debut, probably too much.  My next album I want to minimise the amount of people involved as it gets too complicated.  But I am still grateful and the outcome is a quality one.  I wanted vocals on my beats.  Met a handful of gifted artists who said yes, and the playlist of 'The Journey' came about over time.  I produced most of it in my living room, so I know I can do better.  I connected via social media with artists in America, did a couple of video calls with them, got along, sent them contracts, worked on the track(s), some wanted to change them, most wanted to write to them, and now I have signed a worldwide contract with a sync licensing company for 'The Journey'.

Who would be a dream artist to have feature on one of your songs?
That's a tricky question because all my dream artists aren't alive anymore. From the UK it would have to be Maverick Sabre or Jorja Smith. From the US it would have to be Jhene Aiko, Lady Gaga (a boy can dream!), Billie Eilish, Brandy because her music is eclectic and her voice is sensational, so consistent; Charlie Puth; I LOVE India.Arie, she's never changed and always been talented; Emily King is great; definitely would like to work with Fantasia who won American Idol because she is underrated.

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