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Olivier Daysoul on widening his palette
At this year’s Soundwave Festival, soul vocalist Olivier Daysoul cut an inspired figure. When he wasn’t delivering a short-but-sweet set alongside Alex Nut, he was filming, taking pictures, eating food, or talking to Beatnik about exploring new sounds and hoping to dedicate his time—all his time—to music.
Daysoul is a well-travelled musician, but every now and then, he’ll still get star-struck.
“I got in last night from Germany,” he said when Beatnik caught up with him after his set at Soundwave Croatia in July. “I was at the Splash Festival with Hudson Mohawke. I walked past a dude going to the dressing room, bumped shoulders with him and went ‘oh, my bad.’ When I looked again, it was Raekwon. I’m standing there like… ‘I grew up on you!’”
His unexpected encounter with the influential Wu Tang Clan-member caused him to reminisce on the influence 1990′s hip-hop has had on his music career. Despite being known for his powerful soul vocals, the Washington DC-bred artist considered trying the rapping thing for a while.
“[90's hip-hop] was a huge influence on me. I was singing in the background, but hip-hop was where it started for me. I tried to rap a little bit, but throughout my young years I was known for my ability to sing, and I was told not to be a jack of all trades and a king of none.
“Once you’ve mastered it, then you can look at doing something a little different. I haven’t mastered singing yet. I’m getting there, I’m doing alright, but I still got a long way to go.”
On his way there, Olivier Daysoul will probably circle the planet once or twice. Having moved from DC to the attend a boarding school near Wales in the UK in his teens, his profuse travelling has undoubtedlty shaped his sound, which jumps from analogue nostalgia to undefined futurism about as often as the artist crosses the Atlantic ocean.
“Before going to boarding school, it was all hip-hop and r’n'b,” he says, explaining how his musical reference points broadened. “Once I got to the school and I was exposed to people from all over the world, I got into house music and, funnily enough, I caught on to reggae more once I went over there rather than in DC, where there’s a huge Caribbean population. Next thing I know, I’m coming home, listening to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.”
Since linking up with Glaswegians Mohawke and Mike Slott, Daysoul’s thirst to throw himself beyond his early influences and test the waters of the unfamiliar has certainly been met. It all began with a track called ‘Bop Gun,’ a synthed-out George Washington-cover.
“I was already working on using my vocals in different ways, I was working with Parliament Funkadelic influences when mixing my vocals. I’ve always loved to experiment with my vocie and do different things.
“I didn’t realize how much ['Bop Gun'] caught on until my friends got back from tour and said ‘yo man, everybody in Europe is talking about that track ‘Bop Gun’. They know you for that, son!’”
While Mohawke was recording Butter, a highly awaited album that dropped last year, Daysoul laid his hands on one of the crazier of HudMo’s crazy beats (“Leave that one with me,” he recalls saying to HudMo). The result, as can be see from the video, is something quite unlike all else. Yes, there’s a medley of disco, funk and electronic music, but that description doesn’t really do justice to this spaceship.
“When we did ‘Joy Fantastic,’ he sent it over and we went back and forth over the internet and when we finally finished it we were like… ‘man, what do you think it’s gonna go? Where do you place this?’ It was a release for me.”
On the track, Daysoul’s vocals shift between a funky, squeaky falsetto, a flight attendant’s instructions and rhythmically tight verses—the latter a sign of his coming full circle from the rap influences from his teens. Above all, his work with HudMo and the like shows a clear desire to break out of confines and see what may come of the end product.
“As much as I come from a soul standpoint and I love r’n'b and try to follow those influences, I love the idea of being innovative and tryin stuff out just for the sake of trying. Sometimes I don’t feel like being soulful, I just want to scream!”
But when the DC native does feel like being “soulful” in a more traditional sense, it doesn’t come out blasé. Even when it’s more conventionally delivered, there is something about Daysoul’s energetic delivery that’ll keep most tracks interesting. The fact that he’s been working with some of the finest producers around since his MySpace—say 2006 or so—may also have something to do with it. In contrast to ‘Joy Fantastic’ and Daysoul’s more futuristic numbers, ‘Long Distance,’ a track that was recorded with French producer Onra, is throw-back music, though the synths hint that even retro-ventures must still look past the horizon.
Olivier Daysoul is now working on a handful of things: one EP with Oddisee (who is an old friend of Daysoul’s), another with London outfit Crystal Clear on Alex Nut’s Eglo imprint, and one all by his lonesome (in collaboration with producers). Between these projects and the occasional side hustles to cater for his physical apetite, Daysoul is keeping busy. In fact, his last side hustle wasn’t very secondary. Or at least it wasn’t meant to be.
“Unless you make some huge promotional hits—which will be coming soon—you gotta sustain yourself. i was working as a scientist [in Oxford] until about three or four weeks ago.”
Did having a full-time commitment elsewhere drain your creative energies?
“It did start to drain my energy a bit towards the end. Creativity requires time, and time is money. I didn’t really have time to record the way I wanted to. There are so many cats I want to work with, with whom I have plans to do things. I need the time to sit in the studio all day. As an artist, you have to be creative to find different avenues of making a living within music.”