Professional Sound - February 2018 - Page 31

Just a year-and-a-half after his first-ever concert, Daniel Caesar played five sold-out nights at Toronto’s 1,500-capacity Danforth Music Hall. That, quite frankly, is unbelievable. It was a fitting end to 2017, which, for Caesar, was a year like few Canadian artists have seen. Caesar is, without doubt, Toronto’s new superstar, following in the footsteps of Drake and The Weeknd. In April 2017, the 22-year-old native of Oshawa, ON, released his debut LP, the hauntingly beauti- ful neo-soul record Freudian, which reached the Billboard top 25 in both the U.S. and Canada. That was followed by a sold-out American club tour, a hit collaboration with hip-hop star Chance the Rapper, appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show With James Corden, and two Grammy Award nominations, including Best R&B Album. Along the way, he earned praise from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Chris Martin, Mary J. Blige, and Rick Rubin. Caesar’s heavenly voice, vulnerable songwriting, and subdued guitar playing made even Barack Obama swoon; the former president listed the Chance collaboration “First World Problems” and Freudian track “Blessed” among his favourite songs of the year. As Caesar passed one milestone after another in 2017, it almost felt like the triumphant act in the script of a Hollywood biopic. Life was not so celebratory for the young artist only a few years earlier. Raised in a deeply religious household of Seventh Day Adventists, Caesar was kicked out of his home as teenager, moved to Toronto, worked dead-end jobs, and lived nearly-homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches and park benches while finding hope and relief in music. So it’s almost odd that by December, given his meteoric rise in the preceding months, selling out five nights at The Danforth didn’t even seem surprising. These shows were a homecoming and Caesar was returning as the conquering hero. “I did Danny’s first show at the Mod Club in [April] 2016,” recalls Cam McLellan, Caesar’s FOH engineer. “I got a text from Riley Bell, who mixed, engineered, and mastered the album, and I worked with him at Revolution [Recording] on Protest the Hero’s Volition. Riley was the assistant engineer and then, when he started working with Danny, he said, ‘I need a front of house guy and it’s this guy, Daniel Caesar, and it’s his first show ever and it’s sold out.’ I was like, ‘How the hell do you do that? How do you sell out your first show?’ So I signed up, I did the Mod Club, the guys were happy with me, and a year-and-a- half later, I’m still here.” It was an extremely fortunate break for McLellan, being brought in on the ground floor of a soon-to-be superstar’s career, partic- ularly considering most of his professional work at the time was studio-based and as a musician. “Just a year-and-a-half ago – it’s wild,” McLellan marvels, looking at the trajectory of Caesar’s – and there- fore his own – career from that first show to now. “When Cam contacted me about [the Danforth shows], he was on the U.S. tour … and there was serious buzz,” adds monitor engineer Mike Rowland, whose credits include runs with Marianas Trench, AFI, and Theory of a Deadman. “Cam would tell me, ‘Yup, just sold out another show,’ and that kind of thing. He’s been going no- where but up.” As the Danforth shows began to take shape and grow in scope, through necessity, Rowland took on the duties of de facto produc- tion manager. 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