Daniel Wesley
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Daniel Wesley

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | MAJOR

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | MAJOR
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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Five albums into his career, Daniel Wesley has learned a thing or two about songwriting. The Vancouver-based artist recently released a new album, Easy Livin’, that takes him into new musical territory, hopefully expanding his fan base further across the U.S.

Wesley is sometimes tagged as a reggae artist, a label that even he doesn’t fully comprehend. Certainly, his music is upbeat; a unique combination of his electric and acoustic roots, with emphasis on memorable hooks and well-crafted lyrics, but it lends itself more to contemporary rock or pop than the sounds of the islands. (For the gearheads, Wesley is endorsed by Gibson, Larrivee and Ernie Ball.)

With time, Wesley has fine-tuned his approach to making music and finding his own sound. In this interview, he discusses that process and how he found his way.

You were 15 when you started your first band. Prior to that, what was your introduction to music? When did you begin performing and writing?

I have a huge family, and when we’d get together it was always a bunch of people. I have four brothers and sisters and four cousins, so eight kids, my parents, grandparents — it seemed like every three weeks we’d get together for someone’s birthday. It was always a big, happy gathering with music playing. Music played in the car — we were a big family, so we were always running from hockey practice to soccer practice to something, and my mom always had music on.

I was into sports growing up. I was a bit of a jock; I played hockey, rugby and basketball, and I always liked music. I took piano lessons, and I played piano and ukulele in school. When I got to high school, I joined the choir because I liked singing so much. I had never played in a band, so it was a good outlet.

As I got older, my friends played in a band and I would go to practices and watch them. I loved it and wanted to be a part of it, but I didn’t play any more instruments and it had been a few years since I played piano and sang. I videotaped a concert my friends were playing and it was just so much fun; I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to do this.” I got an electric guitar and started learning chords by playing records. My best friend and I — he was in that band — started playing and singing and I started writing my own songs.

I took television production in high school grade nine, and the first song I wrote was for a class video. It was electric guitar and vocals and it was probably pretty bad, but I started writing songs and I thought, This is where it’s at for me; this is the best part. I took a couple of guitar lessons and I hated it because I didn’t want to play scales or anything. I thought there was more to it, like exploring it on your own and trying to learn from other people, so I’d get together with friends. Our favorite bands were all punk bands, so we’d play punk covers, and it manifested itself into writing our own songs.

At what point did you feel that you “got it” as a songwriter and had the material to take to audiences?

I never really felt like I had that! You write a song, you really like it, you record it, it’s done and you move on to the next thing. I feel more comfortable with my songwriting now, but I’ve learned so much since the first album. Even playing some of those songs live, I change them a bit because they’re like skeletons of what they could have been. I never really completed all of them. They were more like ideas that I recorded, and people loved them because they sound happy.

I’m always learning, but when I started doing this and people started coming to the shows, I thought, I’m doing something right. I’ve heard artists say, “You’ve got to write every day because you’ve got to work on your craft.” I don’t know if that’s true for me. I can’t write every day. I only write when I feel like it. I haven’t even played guitar the last month or so, other than concerts, because I’ve been so busy with other things, and I think that’s healthy. It lets the dust settle every now and then after writing and recording an entire album, but by the time the album is out and I’m talking about it, I’m already thinking about the next album.

Is songwriting an ongoing process for you, rather than a “time to make an album” process?

With five albums in five years, I never felt like I had to make an album. I love going into the studio, so every time I go in, for the most part the songs have all been done. It’s a continual thing for me. On the road, at soundcheck, at home — you get an idea. That’s pretty much how most of the stuff is done. All of the songs are literally written in five or ten minutes, and I think it’s because I’m not chasing anything; I’m just letting it happen when it happens.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I’m going to meet with this guy at noon today and write with him,” and I used to laugh at that — “How do you show up and just write a song? It must be so shitty.” But I’ve started doing that lately for other artists and I know that it works - Guitar World


by Megan McCartney
www.danielwesley.com

Daniel Wesley’s fifth album, Easy Livin’, exposes Daniel as an artist without boundaries in genre. His single “Ooh Ohh” from his third album, Sing and Dance, established Daniel as a well-known reggae artist in 2007. And before listening to Wesley’s new album, I probably would have agreed he was only meant for reggae, as some artists would be stuck in a genre after finding such success. But Easy Livin’ has shown that he has grown from his “Ooh Ohh” days, and created a glowing combination of rock and reggae.
The mixing of genres can be linked to the remarkable list of collaborations, all varying in musical styles. Easy Livin’ features collaborations from Bedouin Soundclash’s Eon Sinclair and Sekou Lumumba, and Dave Vertesi of Hey Ocean! Not to mention, Wesley co-produced seven tracks on the album with Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Marilyn Manson), while the other three were produced by Greig Nori (Sum 41, Hedley).
The song ‘Pirate’ is a clear example of the album’s ability to merge genres with its strong guitar riffs, soft chorus, and reggae infused beats to end the song. However, Wesley’s single ‘Head Outta Water’ is pure rock… and it’s good. There is a Nickleback sound to both ‘Head Outta Water’ and ‘Hello Britian’, which makes sense when considering that Wesley’s label of 604 Records was founded by Nickleback.
‘Dear Mary’ and ‘Girl Gone Crazy’ allow Wesley’s original reggae roots shine through. ‘You and Me’ and ‘Darlin’, a personal favourite, let Wesley’s fans see a new side to the musician. The songs are folk-alternative rock, and Wesley’s voice resembles the beautiful deep calmness of Jack Johnson.
All comparisons aside, Easy Livin’ is an album worth listening to. Daniel Wesley has stepped outside of reggae and showed a new side to his endless musical talent. As I sit on my patio, listening to Easy Livin’ and writing this review, I can agree that listening to Daniel Wesley’s new album makes livin’ seem easy.
- Lithium


The doors are wide open for Daniel Wesley.
As his fifth CD, Easy Livin’, released today, shows, he could go down several paths.
But first he had to open the doors and let himself out.
“I’ve stopped thinking about who I am,” Wesley states. “I’m really happy. I’m just much more comfortable.”
He might have stopped wondering who he is, but there are plenty of people wanting to know, who is Daniel W esley?
Wesley did most of his growing in White Rock, played in a few rock bands as an apprenticeship, and broke through when his band was the first place winner of CFOX radio’s annual Seeds contest in 2007. A single. “Ooh Ohh” from his third album, Sing and Dance, became a big hit and established him as a reggae artist. Although he got into reggae because it generally was upbeat, malleable and danceable, the following year he pursued a desire to be a solo act, broke up his trio and released the self titled Daniel Wesley. That was produced by 54-40’s Dave Genn, was his first album for the Nickelback-founded 604 label and saw him trying to go beyond reggae.
It was another positive statement but had too many ups and downs as Wesley searched for an approach. The reggae identity threatened to contain him.
Easy Livin’ is more cohesive. Produced by Dave Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jackelope, 54-40) and Grieg Norri (Treble Charger, Sum 41), there is a satisfying balance between rock (such as first single and lead track “Head Above Water”) and reggae, (especially the lover’s rock romantic style) and finishes with a string-laden ballad.
“I would liked to have had a few more rock songs but I’m glad I didn’t,” he notes. “The album wouldn’t have flowed.
“It’s my fifth album, and I wanted to explore,” he continues. “It’s kinda me getting back to my roots. It’s like going back to what I was doing before.
“It’s an evolution, and it’s started now. That’s where I’m going and I think the new LP indicates that.”
“When I worked with Dave Genn it was a breath of fresh air,” he adds. “When it came to doing this album, I wanted to work with as many people as possible.”
Although he is full of praise for Genn, and probably would have him produce again, there was a good chemistry with Ogilvie, who didn’t try to change Wesley’s sound and “was a good hang.” Norri has a good ear for a power-pop melody (see Treble Charger) and “he knows what to catch.”
The 604 connection happened when Jonathan Simkin, manager of the label, stepped in for a financial backer who had backed out. Easy Livin’ and the previous album act as evidence that 604 is not a one-note label.
“It’s been a good experience with 604,” Wesley says. “It’s good being in Vancouver and having a Vancouver label.”
It’s also freed him to go down those several different paths.
“I feel like I’m into five per cent of my full capacity.”
tharrison@theprovince.com
© Copyright (c) The Province - The Province


Discography

Discography:
2006 - "Outlaw" (LP)
2007 - "Sing + Dance" (LP)
2007 - "Driftin' " (LP)
2009 - "Daniel Wesley" (LP)
2011 - "Easy Livin'" (LP)

Singles:
"Ooh oh"
"Radio"
"Pilgrimage"
"It'll Be You"
"Drunk + Stoned"
"Head Outta Water"

Photos

Bio

We’re in Vancouver’s Warehouse Studio. In one corner, Greig Nori is hunched over a monitor. Twenty feet away, Dave “Rave” Ogilvie is mixing a huge-sounding rock number called “Head Outta Water”, complete with gales of electric guitar, ten-storey drums, and a classic fists-in-the-air stadium breakdown. In between is Daniel Wesley, who’s beaming like a 29 year old kid, clapping his hands above his head, and bouncing off the walls. It’s not hard to imagine 10,000 people doing the same thing.

Nori, Ogilvie, and the Warehouse – this is Wesley’s dream team, in a venue that he likely never imagined would open its doors to the bull-headed, self-made singer-songwriter who pulled an unlikely phenomenon out of thin air with “Ooo Ohh” four years ago. In fact, it wasn’t until his streamlined, Dave Genn-produced 2009 effort that Daniel Wesley even considered letting another person get their hands on his music.

“That’s the first time I ever worked with a producer,” he says.” Up to that point, I was like, ‘If I work with people, it won’t be what I want.’ But I was wrong. I’m doing better stuff now at 29 than I’ve ever done. I want to keep working with more and more people, and pushing the boundaries.”

Which is what he did, turning newest album, Easy Livin, into a bi-coastal odyssey in the process. Wesley hooked up with Nori and the Bedouin Soundclash rhythm section of Eon Sinclair and Sekou Lumumba in Toronto. Back in Vancouver, he tapped his regular players – bassist Darren Parris, drummer Tim Proznick, along with Hey Ocean! bassist Dave Vertesi – for a parallel session conducted by Ogilvie.

Wesley’s contribution to the enterprise is a batch of songs that veer from the breezy familiarity of title track “Easy Livin’” and “Dear Mary”, to the dubwise extensions of “Pirate Song”, to the fresh and surprising “Vagrant’s Life” – which finds Wesley in a cowboy mood, no less. “That song made me feel like I was driving across Canada,” he says, “staring ahead at nothing but fields of wheat. We thought, ‘Oh, we’ll put a shuffle beat on that.’” Gradually, Dunner and Sammy Masterson from Vancouver’s trucker country-kings Run GMC laid down banjo and slide. “The next thing you know, it’s an alt-country song,” Wesley laughs.

“You get to a certain point where you’re trying to broaden what you have,” he explains. “I mean, you just grow as a musician. You enter different head spaces.” You also learn that a song has a life of its own. And you submit to it. Which is why Easy Livin also features the thrillingly silky “Darlin’”, with midnight sax blowing across a velvety bed of lover’s rock, the insanely catchy guitar pop of “Hello Britain”, and guitar-and-horn driven R&B on “You and Me”.

Wesley concedes that pushing the boundaries is “also kinda scary,” but not so much that he doesn’t top all of the experimentation on Easy Livin with the insurgent, balls-out “Head Outta Water” – it’s the kind of earth-shaking power-rock song he probably hasn’t touched since he was playing basements in Langley.

“All of a sudden the chorus kicks in,” he says, breathlessly, getting excited again, “and the guitars are just huge, and I love it. Songs like ‘Argentina’ – the introspective ones – nobody will be too surprised by those, but I really want to push my limits, and my band’s limits. I think people will be happy that I’m starting to make music like this. I said to Nori, we should release a full-on rock record in, like, six months.”

Don’t be surprised if he does. Daniel Wesley is entering a period of peak creativity, and he has the resources and energy to see it through. If we only sit back and let it happen, then everybody wins. You’ll be bouncing off the walls, too.