IT has been fascinating finding out about…
Toronto’s ColinResponse. The name alone beckons intrigue but the man is dashing, compelling and a fascinating interviewee – someone who, as you will note, does not skimp on answer-detail! I ask him about his self-titled E.P. and comparisons to Bruno Mars and André 3000. He talks more about his five-piece band and what the music scene is like in Toronto – and what tour dates he has coming up.
ColinResponse is a hot name in music with a rich and film-worthy past. I ask him about his influences and when music arrived in his life; what advice he would give new songwriters – and whether he will have some time to chill at Christmas.
Hi, ColinResponse. How are you? How has your week been?
Man, I’m great.
My week has been a whirlwind. You know; I don’t know when one week begins and the other ends. People are like, “How is your weekend?” and I’m like “It’s not a weekend really: more like a week-continue” (laughs). But I’m doing great. Staying focused, praying; meditating - keeping my mind aligned for everything that is to come.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is ColinResponse. I’m a Pop-Soul artist from Toronto, Canada. I love music; I love people and I love what I do. Every day’s a journey and I’m excited to have more people involved in this journey - to go along with me.
Your eponymous E.P. is out on 27th October. It seems romance and relationships are at the heart of the work. How important was passion and love to the song’s best moments?
Not to say it doesn’t exist in some brief instances of the work, however, I should make it clear that for certain: love passion and relationships are at the heart of the work (but romance is not).
With that being said, aren’t relationships at the heart of everyone’s work?! I feel like, whether it’s between someone or something, everything that we experience and share (as artists) is something that (is of) an expression and experience of one’s relationship- whatever the subject matter may be. So, if you ask how important passion and love was to my songs’ best moments, I would say it is of significant importance.
There are certain songs that particularly speak to romantic situations without a doubt. Some unrequited; however, some songs - like Something About Your Love, for example - you’ve just chosen to interpret it as romantic - when that song isn’t about anyone at all: it’s actually about my love and appreciation for music.
But that kinda further exemplifies my point: that everything we write is about relationships; whether it is about romance or not. I’ve left enough open in my music for listeners to interpret it as it best suits them.
How important is it to you that the E.P. brings people together? Do you hope, through your music, there will be a sense of unity?
I don’t hope for anything - I never hope for anything...
I made a decision, some time ago, when I heard the infamous quote “Hope for everything, expect nothing” that I would live my life by the opposite. So, I “hope for nothing; expect everything”. I’ll paraphrase by saying, when you hope for something, you can sit there without taking action. But, when you expect something, you can only expect it when you give reason to expect it - which means you must take action. So, I expect there will be a sense of unity and I expect to bring people together - because that was my intention - whether that be through the lyrics; whether that be through the way people feel or whether that be through anything for that matter.
But, what I do know is that I spent a significant amount of time ensuring there is congruence between what I am sharing and how I am sharing it - and that there’s a congruency between not only the music and the lyrics but (between) the song as a whole and myself as an artist…and, furthermore, congruence between myself as an artist and what I wish to express for the outside world to see.
So…I truly do have faith that my music and this album will bring people together….
You came second on Shaw TV and Fontana North's Urban Star televised talent search competition and first in the industry-vetted and fan-driven Hennessy Artistry's International Talent Quest. She Dances in the Rain beat some heavy competition, there. How important have those experiences been and what is it about your music, do you think, that makes it so easy to connect with?!
What is it that makes my music so easy to connect with? I should ask you! (laughs). I’m just making music that is honest, you know?!
I’m making music that expresses my intent and I spent a lot of time to ensure that I do that. I’ve also spent a lot of time in general working on my skills regarding communication with others. That doesn’t mean I’m the best writer in the world - and I don’t even mean artistic writing - I mean just general writing; but I have spent a lot of time making sure that I do my best when it comes to not just delivering a message, but ensuring that the person on the other side understands the message. I feel so many people confuse communicating with ‘saying what you mean’ – it’s not.
Communicating is ensuring that the person on the other end understands what you intended for them to understand (regardless of how clear you may think you are). I feel like I’ve done my best to do that through my music, harmonically and melodically – not just the lyrics. I did that by making sure I focused on conveying the message musically first, before even thinking about including the lyrics...because I believe they shouldn’t be delivering the message: they should only be reinforcing the message that my music delivers, or I’m not doing justice to the music.
Some people work the opposite way around, too, and have their music reinforce the lyrics - but there’s no magic formula. As long as it accomplishes the objective, then we good.
PHOTO CREDIT: @philsphotocanada
Your music has been compared with the likes of Bruno Mars and André 3000. Are those artists you follow or do you want to be valued in your own right?
Well, I would go as far as to say that they’re not exclusionary: you could both follow them and be valued in your own right. I think it would be unrealistic to believe that both those artists, Bruno and André, didn’t have artists that inspired them – yet, we see them as artists in their own right. Personally, I’m a huge Bruno fan. I’m constantly impressed by him as a songwriter, producer and, most significantly, by the way he connects to his audience as a performer and artist as a whole. André is also dope but, to be honest, I never really knew André 3000 until really later on. When I was releasing some of my earliest music, I heard a lot of people saying that I reminded them of Andre and I was like, “Cool. I don’t really know much about the guy” (at least I didn’t think I did).
After looking back, I discovered there were tons of songs by him that I knew and loved as a kid - but I didn’t even know it was him or OutKast. They were just popular songs at the time. I was never an active music listener so a lot of my Pop influences came from what was in my environment. Now, knowing so much more about him, I think it’s interesting and I certainly see the similarities in the energy; the quirk and the fun he has in his music and his performance.
Looking back on your career – and where you are now - what is your favourite memory from your time in music?
Every day, I pray and meditate and I reflect on the past - the recent-past; I reflect on the day before. As I reflect, I see so many amazing things happening. I have been working hard and I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort to get to this point and – so, it’s exciting (every day) seeing how the day before brought me to the place I am today…and, so, I’m grateful for all of that - and I feel like I will continue to be so.
Toronto is home. It seems the city is sporting so many interesting artists. What is it about the area that means we are seeing such a range of brilliant musicians emerge?
I tell you what I believe it is: it’s not just Toronto but it is the G.T.A. (Greater Toronto Area): all the suburbs surrounding Toronto - i.e. Mississauga, Brampton; Scarborough...
Around fifteen-to-twenty-five years ago, all of these places developing around Toronto, and of course Toronto included, I feel were home to so many families – and so many people whose parents came from other places wanted to give their children a better life than they themselves had. Now, when people mention the areas around Toronto (Scarborough, Mississauga; Brampton...) - if you’re Canadian - you have an impression about those places. But, back then, when I was growing up, there was no reputation or expectation per se.
I feel like so many people were being brought up in an environment where there was no ceiling on their imagination, you know. There wasn’t this idea that ‘if you were here, you were this’.
Canada is a young country and it’s also filled with multiculturalism – more particularity, Toronto. So, you’re getting people from around the world whom have a nature of fighting and looking to make the best of what they have.
When you have all these types of people from cultures around the world - all localized in one place - you better believe that their children are going to share similar attributes - or that those parents are going to instill the same values into their children. They came here wanting their children to live a better life than they had or to have better opportunities than they had. I feel like (that) the spirit of a belief that ‘you’re here for something great’ really shines through these artists and athletes that come out from the city and the surrounding areas.
One of the most powerful things in the world is the freedom and openness of the mind. At such an early age, when you’re put in an environment where there is no pre-conceived notion designed influence your behavior, all that is left is for you is to imagine where and what it is that you want to be. That’s why you see these pro basketball players, pro football players; musicians, actors...coming out of this small city. The population of California is larger than Canada – one state has more people than our entire country. Yet; you keep seeing people pop out of here - that’s not a coincidence. It has become a breeding-ground for it - and I genuinely believe that’s why…
Listening to your music and it seems you were raised on an eclectic collection of artists. Who were the big acts you held dear when you were younger?
There were specific artists, to be honest. I know a lot of people were raised on different bands and stuff like that but the people who influenced me most…
Number one, Michael Jackson. No questions asked; 10/10; would listen to again, because he influenced both my songwriting and performance. The other people on par with influencing me, musically, are Nobuo Uematsu (植松 伸夫) and Koji Kondo (近藤 浩治). Both (of the latter) are video-game composers. I bought my first album for myself when I was eighteen or nineteen. Everything before that point I consumed by proxy of where I was - whether that was playing video-games, simply hearing the music blasting from my sister’s room or being in my basement when my dad was listening to Jazz, Reggae or Motown.
I am a product of my environment: I did play a lot of video-games and I do still love orchestrated music and Pop music – very carefully, all those things have combined themselves into what it is you hear today.
I want to talk about the five-piece band that performs with you. How did you meet the musicians you play with and what is it like touring with them?
I met them at school; I went to school for music...
Over the eight years that I’ve been doing this; my team has had several reincarnations - as we continue to elevate what we are doing. People started to fall off; people decided they were going to move to their own path for their own particular reasons and, also, people, who were more aligned with our vision as a team, started to surface. There’s actually only one member of my band who has been playing with me since my very first show - and that’s Brian Dhari, my sax player. It’s been almost a decade of us doing this.
The team’s strong and the team’s tight: everybody has a great level of care, compassion and emotional intelligence - I couldn’t be happier, honestly.
What tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we see you play?
Well. We just finished a campus tour and it was crazy. Our next priority, right now, is the album release on the 27th Getting close to that date, we’ll be booking some more shows. So, if you wanna know where and when we’re playing, you can join our fan list…that’s where we do all our announcements: new videos, new music; show dates and stuff like that. So, hit up: http://Fans.ColinResponse.com.
Are there any big plans before the year is through? Will you have a chance to chill before Christmas or are you pretty full-on until then?
(Chuckles) “Chill”... yeah, the only ‘chilling’ I’ll be doing is freezing my ass off when winter hits (laughs). It’s gonna be full-on; been doing a lot of work up to this point in time and, with the album releasing at the end of October, I’ll be pushing really hard throughout that time - and it’s gonna be a lot of work. It’s gonna be a lot of playing and a lot of planning for the future.
IN THIS PHOTO: Daniel Caesar
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
Sheiz! Daniel Caesar. But, I feel like I can’t even say that anymore because I feel that everyone’s hearing him so much now, that it’s not really warranted for me to share anymore (laugh).
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
I’m gonna say, number-one, is Michael Jackson: Off the Wall
That record reminds me of my father: it’s the first record he’s ever shared with me.
The next one is gonna be Bob Marley and The Wailers: Legend
One of my best friends in middle-school bought that for me on my birthday - we had the same birthday. I wonder if I even got him anything...I probably did but his gift was certainly better and of greater significance.
The final is going to be the original soundtrack to Final Fantasy XII, composed by Nobuo Uematsu.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Am I qualified to give advice at this point?! Sure! (chuckles).
Well, here it is: some people say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; however, my mentor once told me: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows what you need”. So, I encourage you to be open and ask for help: also, be willing to help. Remember: all these greats that we see did not do it alone, although the media makes it look like that; they all have a strong team behind them: a team of people who are just as skilled as them at what they do.
All these people working in-tandem are what enables that person - in the public’s eye - to raise to the level that they do (they’re held up by so many people. The only other thing left to share is that (there are) only three things that you need: Persistence, Consistency and Optimism. If you have those three things, your success is an inevitability. So just remember: to ask for help, and throughout your journey, to be persistent and to be consistent and to be optimistic.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
My song choice is to further emphasise my previous statement - that you need only three attributes to find your own personal success:
Stay persistent, consistent and optimistic under all circumstances; regardless of what anyone else says. You need only these three things…Nothing Else…
Gatekeeper - Jessie Reyez