The attentive music aficionado might recognize Gareth Daley
— known in the R&B world simply by his surname — from the video for the 2010 Gorillaz single “Doncamatic,” in which the bespectacled British crooner pilots a tiny submersible between schools of fish and stacks of underwater wreckage. Daley co-wrote “Doncamatic” at the behest of Gorillaz founder Damon Albarn, scoring him the starring role in the single’s music video. He's since gone on to record and release three EPs and a full-length album of his own.
The soulful singer has become known for his consistently excellent — and breathtakingly daring — vocal performances, and he is currently on tour in support of his newly released single “Until the Pain Is Gone,” which features Beale Street Music Fest performer Jill Scott as a guest vocalist. I sat down with Daley before his set at Minglewood Hall last week to talk about his new single, his current tour, and why he doesn’t have a Bucket List of potential collaborators.
The Memphis Flyer: Your new single, “Until the Pain Is Gone,” debuted in March, but you began writing it back in 2015. How does it feel to have it out?
Yeah, it’s great. It was one of the first ones I wrote for this album project, so, it was just there, waiting while I finished the rest of the album. I wrote the song kind of just self-contained at first, and then, further in to the process, connected with Jill Scott, and she loved it. So, we made it a duet-type thing.
Speaking of getting things out there, what inspired you to release your first EP for free?
To be honest, to release the first EP for free was kind of … It just felt necessary at the time, because I had been signed to Universal, and they were just basically holding up the process with all the label crap and the red tape and this and that. It was just like we had this music and people were kind of ready for something, and we were just like, we just have to put this out. And so we did it ourselves, me and my management did it. It was the right thing to do because it allowed things to keep progressing and moving. And then eventually the label jumped on once they saw things were picking up. It was just one of those things of getting over the label red tape and just keeping the momentum.
What inspires you to write? What inspired you to write your new single?
I just try to find little details that I want to talk about, or feelings. It just helps to get them down. It makes me feel like I’ve dealt with it and tamed it in some way. That was my initial reason, just to express, almost like a diary. But as I’ve gone on and I’ve done my first album cycle, and as I’ve seen how music affects the people who listen to it and I hear those stories of what songs mean to them, this time around I have another layer of meaning to it. Obviously, I still write for me, but I’m also aware that it’s stuff that people embrace and take into their own lives. So there’s also that thing of being able to connect to people and relate. … Especially today, when everything feels so bleak, especially in terms of connecting.
You mentioned that your newest single was completed before most of the rest of the album. When you write, do you typically try to write an album as a whole?
No, I don’t go into a studio for two weeks and try to write the whole album, … which a lot of bands will do. I had a bit of freedom with this album because I had parted ways with Universal. So I had some good time to just figure out what I wanted to do. I just started off by working with the people I like the most, my favorite producers who I have … and just going in with no expectations at first. It wasn’t that “Until the Pain Is Gone” was separate; it was just earlier in the process. It gets to the point when things start to feel like an album. The first year or whatever, it just felt like I was writing. Once themes start to recur, once it starts to feel like an album, I start thinking about which song can come after which. That’s when it becomes the album.
How is the tour with Leela James going?
It’s really, really nice. It’s kind of a new experience for me. We’re sharing musicians, and we’re kind of splitting everything. I had never done anything like that before, so I was a bit nervous about that, but it’s all worked out really well. We’re on the road with great musicians. I think our audiences really compliment each other, so she’s gaining fans from my pool, and I’m gaining fans from her pool. It’s been a cool run — really easy and fun.
Are there any other artists who you want to collaborate with?
People ask me what my bucket list is, but I don’t really have one anymore. I mean … Prince was on my bucket list. Probably he was the only one really, and that’s not gonna happen now. But I think collaborations for me just happen quite naturally. I started off working with the Gorillaz. I did something with Marsha Ambrosius and Jessie J, who is a friend of mine. So, yeah, I don’t really have a list or anything. I just like to fall into place with people, like with friends or with artists who I have a connection with. No one’s on the list right now, but I feel like it will just happen.
When can fans expect your next album to be released?
It’s going to be this summer. It’s called The Spectrum
. I think they’re locking in a date this week. I don’t know what it is right now, but it’s definitely going to be this year. And I’m so ready. I’m so ready for people to hear it.
Are there any tracks in particular you’re looking forward to getting out there?
Yeah, there are a couple of songs on there. The reason I call it The Spectrum
is because I wanted to tap in to a range of different vibes. When I first started making the album, I felt like it was going to be quite a dark, kind of atmospheric, soulful album. And as it went on, I wasn’t in that zone for the whole time. That wasn’t all I wanted to do. … There are some moments that I think are really sonically interesting, where I really feel like I’m pushing my vocals and the combination of musical elements. I won’t name specific tracks, but there are definitely some really fun moments and some really emotional moments.
It sounds like you hit the whole array. Is there anything else you want fans to know?
Nah, I think that’s good. Just, you know, the album’s coming out this summer. The single’s out now. Please go and get it.