In which we discuss genre-bending, collaborations, and why we are all Beliebers now
Halifax based singer/songwriter/ musician and all round nice guy David Myles just released a new EP, Here Now, produced by rapper Classified. You’ll no doubt remember their incredibly catchy previous collaboration Inner Ninja, which went four times platinum and was the biggest-selling rap single in Canadian history. Wanting to hear more about this collaboration, we sat down with Myles for a quick chat.
Billy: What song are you most proud of on Here Now?
Myles: More than a particular song, I’m proud of the collaboration. It is so different than anything I could produce on my own, or that Classified would do on his own. There are moments, like on the song Where Do I Belong, that just feel like this really cool hybrid of both of our worlds. It has a really old school hip-hop beat, and a trumpet going through the whole thing.
It feels like there’s some new ground that we got to in this record, which was unique to both of us. We worked like crazy on this thing, and we wanted to push it to this other place. I was really open to seeing where it could go, and I did things vocally that I hadn’t done before, I really let it rip. I really got into the pop thing. I had to lose all inhibitions, sing in falsetto, go crazy. I think Class and I have just become so comfortable together that I felt free enough to do that.
What started the collaboration with Classified?
We met at the Music Nova Scotia Conference about six years ago in Liverpool, [N.S.], during a late-night hang around a ping pong table. [Classified] likes ping pong, I like ping pong, so we just started talking.
He invited me over to his studio to play trumpet on some stuff, and when the next record came around I had some hook ideas, and one became a song called “Day Doesn’t Die”, which was on the record before Inner Ninja. Then I got him to produce one of my songs, and we became attached and I’d head out there whenever I could and we either worked on his stuff or my stuff.
Since then it’s been a constant collaboration, and from the beginning we always thought what we were doing was kind of neat and different, as well as being a lot of fun.
When the Inner Ninja thing went off it was really rewarding. There’s something about having something that starts as a small idea become something so big, but also it spoke to the power of the collaboration. It wouldn’t have happened without both of us really going at it. We felt like the energy we had together was special, so to have a big hit come off it was like YES! We trusted our instinct between the two of us and it worked, which as an artist is an incredibly rewarding thing, because all you have is your instinct.
It might seem like a strange pairing to some people, as your musical styles are so different.
I think the weird part is more stylistic. Obviously he dresses differently than I do, he grew up making beats and playing hockey, I grew up taking piano lessons and playing trumpet at the Royal Conservatory. I was 100% band nerd.
But, the differences kind of end there. We both love making music and being in the studio. He is one of the few people I know that enjoys being in the studio as much as I do, and will go really hard on something. He’s got three girls, I’ve got two, we both come from big families, so there are a lot of similarities there. We’ve become really good friends, we talk to each other about projects we aren’t involved with together too.
You’ve collaborated with other east coast musicians too over the years.
I’ve written songs with Matt Anderson, George Canyon, and Alan Doyle. I recorded a song with opera singer Measha Brueggergosman, and Alex Cuba, who is amazingly gifted.
Over the past five or six years I’ve become more interested in collaboration, once I got confident enough to feel like a useful member of a collaboration – you have to have an idea to bring on top of everything else. I love it, because I’m music obsessive, and it’s just so cool to see how the other person approaches a song, a melody, or a lyric, and I learn so much about that genre or style. I’ve always been into lots of different stuff, so it is always fun to work with a real specialist. I just try to sponge it all up.
You’re definitely not bound by one genre then?
I love that I have the kind of career where I can just try anything that I want. I’m a folk artist in some people’s minds, and at the same time I can make a pop record with Classified. I can totally go for it and I don’t have to worry. Of course it is in the back of my mind sometimes, “Uh oh, what are my parents going to think?” or “What are my old fans going to think?” usually just before I release anything, but it has never been an issue.
I think I’m kind of rootless, and I hope that is a thing that keeps people interested in my music, that they know each record will be different, that I’m not going to do the same thing twice. It’s mostly because I feel like its part of this larger exploration of music as a form, so I’m always learning. Now my thing is country music, and if you’d said 10 years ago I’d be into country music I’d have said you were crazy. I saw Merle Haggard live before he died and it was so good that it changed me up.
Eventually you realize that a genre is not what it used to be, and that is in part because of how we consume music. There used to be four radio stations and they were all real cut and dried, but people with iPods are pretty diverse now, and they move around wherever their interest may be, and its more about whether it is good.
I hear you. I became a Belieber this year.
The same thing happened to me. That record is so good. That song “Love Yourself”, the first time I heard it, as soon as he started singing that first verse I said, “Damn, I should have written this song,” because stylistically it is a world that I inhabit quite naturally, and then the trumpet part came in and I was like, “Get out of town!” because it is a sweet solo.
I’m really coming around to pop music. I don’t know if it is because pop music is getting better, or I’m just getting older and somehow pop music makes me feel younger, but I love it. Rihanna’s record is one of my favourite records of the past year for sure, it is just unbelievably good, it is creative and interesting, it is awesome. A lot of pop music right now is legitimately interesting musically, and artists are collaborating with tons of people. There’s a real power in collaboration, obviously.