TORONTO — All signs are pointing to an even brighter future for Daniel Caesar, whose blossoming career is already the talk of the music industry.
The Oshawa, Ont.-raised R&B-soul singer, born Ashton Simmonds, arrived seemingly out of nowhere for many listeners in 2017.
Most of the attention centres around his debut full-length album “Freudian,” which recently picked up two Grammy nominations. It also landed a cozy spot on several critics’ best-of-the-year lists, after tracks like “Get You” and “Japanese Denim” enjoyed prime positions on popular streaming music playlists.
On Wednesday, Caesar was finishing off a sold-out run of five nights playing a 1,500-capacity venue in Toronto.
Caesar’s rise in popularity stands out especially because it came without much support from Canadian radio stations. Airplay is still considered a significant tool in making most artists household names.
Here are five things to know about the 22-year-old performer’s background, his rising stardom and his growing fan base of celebrities:
GOSPEL ROOTS: Caesar grew up in a Christian household rich with spiritual music. His father Norwill Simmonds is a gospel singer with two albums of his own available online. Caesar has peppered his music with spiritual flavour over the years, particularly on rousing slow jams like “We Find Love” and “Blessed,” which both incorporate choral vocals. His live shows carry even stronger elements of the church, with a live choir and organist often backing him up.
TROUBLED TEEN: Caesar has spoken openly about a period in his teenage years that briefly landed him in hard times. After getting expelled from private school and a falling-out with his father, he decided to leave Oshawa for Toronto, where he occasionally slept on park benches when a friend’s couch wasn’t available. His aptly named 2014 EP “Praise Break” spends time exploring this period when he distanced himself from his past. Caesar has since mended ties with his family, though he’s stayed put in Toronto.
‘FREUDIAN’ PRINCIPLES: While his two EPs were widely seen as promising, the August release of “Freudian” ratcheted up expectations. Produced by Toronto duo Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans — who’ve worked with Eminem, Drake and Nicki Minaj — the album instantly elevated awareness of his talent. Caesar was selected as Apple Music’s “Up Next” artist, which helped “Freudian” debut at No. 25 on the Billboard albums chart. Even more stunning is that he’s accomplished these feats as an independent artist without the backing of a major record label.
‘SHOOK’ BY HIS PEERS: Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Chris Martin and Erykah Badu have all praised the newcomer. Caesar was particularly smitten with Wonder’s support. “He came in and asked to hear (my) song again. And that was probably the craziest part to see Stevie Wonder vibe out to a song I wrote,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year. “I was very shook…. I’ll never forget that moment.” The singer’s Grammy nominations for best R&B album and best R&B performance for “Get You” will certainly draw more famous names to his team.
HOT TICKET: Capping off a stellar year, Caesar booked a show at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall, not far from where he lives. Tickets sold out quickly, so they added a second show, and then a third. He ended up booked for five concerts. Crowds at his Toronto shows were notably boisterous, considering that Caesar is merely getting his career started. They roared with approval and sang along to his most popular tracks as if he’d been playing them for years. The singer returned the love by marching out surprise guests every night, including Canadian artists Jessie Reyez, Charlotte Day Wilson and R&B veteran Melanie Fiona.