Congo born, Canadian raised artist Desiire has crafted a sound and aesthetic all his own, by blending the sounds that influenced his upbringing to shape the artist he is today. As one of the top up and coming artists based out of Toronto, he’s one to watch for 2019 — and hard to miss due to his eclectic sound and stunning visuals. Holr caught up with Desiire to talk all things music, art and style.
Interview by Felicia Mancini
Photography by Antonett Ewan
HOLR: Can you tell us about your first interaction with music and how it shaped the artist you are today?
DESIIRE: Music was always a big part of my family life growing up. A lot of my siblings were involved in music in different capacities. My older brother used to rap so he introduced me to a lot of Hip Hop like Fugees, Tribe called Quest and Jay Z. My sisters were also singers so they introduced me to a lot of R&B from Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige to Maxwell and D’Angelo. In addition to that, my parents also raised me around tons of local African music as well. All of this mixed with my natural childhood love for Jazz music, I grew up with a different mix of music that has really shaped the artist that I am today. I always try to make it a point to showcase of all these influences in my music.
HOLR: Can you tell me more about your journey migrating to Canada from Congo and the influence it has had on your career?
D: Yes! The experience was truly surreal. It’s a bit of trippy story. I came in Canada with my single mom and siblings. We arrived with almost nothing but the clothes on our backs, didn’t speak any English and didn’t know anybody.
We had to stay in a homeless shelter for women called “ The Red Door “, where we lived for 3 months in a tiny room. Fast forward to the present day- a couple months ago when a songwriter friend of mine invited me over to a session at a recording studio. Turns out the shelter ended up turning into a full fledge record label/Studio and I ended in the same space almost 18 years later doing the exact thing I dreamed about doing as a child. To say this was a full circle moment is an understatement! Migrating to Canada changed me so much as a young man and being back in the same space all these years later made me incredibly grateful to be doing what I love to do at this stage in my life and career.
HOLR: How would you describe your sound and what does your creative process entail?
D: I grew up listening to a variety of music and I think that’s starting to show in my music a lot more. I’ve always been a huge fan of artists that have been able to create music and sounds as they wish to create without paying attention to genres and labels. My goal with music has always been to push myself creatively as much as possible. With the rise of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and etc, musical tastes have become incredibly eclectic. Listening to music has become more of an genre free experience with different genres of music being consumed at the same time and I love for my music to reflect that. It really all depends on my mood and vibe while creating.
HOLR: Your Paradise EP is such a perfect blend of all the genres coming together in a melting pot, from electronic and dance to R&B and jazz. What was it like working on your EP?
D: The EP was such a dream to work on. My last project “ AS I GO ALONG “ was more based in mid tempo R&B with hints of Hip/Hop and I loved it for what it was. With this project, I wanted to show more of my colours with my beat and melody selection. I’ve always been a huge fan of Electronic & Dance music but I was never really able to blend the genre into my music in a way that felt authentic to my previous work. I was finally able to do so while working with producers like SPRILL who is an upcoming producer from Australia. I really connected with the way he made upbeat dance music but with an R&B edge. He produced the title track as well as 2 other songs. The project came together quite naturally. Was able to put it together in 6 months and i’m super happy with what we ended up with!
HOLR: Your personal style is so well tuned much like your sound, do you have a trademark look or vibe you find yourself recreating on or off stage?
D: Thank you so much! My personal style has really evolved and gone through different incarnations throughout the years and i’ve finally gotten to a point where i’m fully confident in showcasing in my music. I’ve always loved colours and statement prints so you’ll almost always find me in a somewhat flashy coloured print in the spring/summer. One look I find myself always recreating would be a sharp pair of pants and turtleneck. I love the ease and classicness of the look, so I always go back to it.
HOLR: Do you have a favourite places to shop in Toronto, and how does your style and your career as a musician influence your look and wardrobe?
D: So many great places to find great clothes in Toronto. Vintage shopping is always my go-to for one of a kind finds so that’s where you’ll mostly find me. Queen West has tons of fantastic small vintage stores with incredible selections as well as the East end of the city as well, all along the Danforth especially.
I truly believe fashion and music go hand in hand. A lot of my fashion finds will influence my videos and vice versa. Music is about telling my stories and playing around with fashion is and has been a great way to do that for me to do that.
HOLR: Can you tell us about any memorable shows you have performed that stick out in your mind that have you had the pleasure of playing?
D: Actually, the last show I had was pretty amazing! Performed at a great venue in Kensington Market in Toronto and it was a blast. I hadn’t done a show in a while so I got a chance to perform some of the songs from my current EP as well as some cuts from the previous one. This was actually the first time, I heard the audience singing back the words to my songs to me. Being a new artist, often times you perform to audiences that may not know you and may not know the songs on the setlist so I’ve been so used to performing that way. This was totally different. It was great feeling to be able to share that experience and connection with the audience. The energy in the room was incredible. Performing live is definitely my favourite part of being an artist. There’s nothing like it!
HOLR: What are some obstacles as well as some benefits about creating and performing in Toronto as an independent artist?
D: I can really only speak for myself but I think the main obstacles that I’ve faced is creating a space for myself as an independent artist. The music industry is quite a challenging and tricky space to navigate and a lot goes behind the scenes that the fresh new artists coming into the industry don’t know about. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great mentors guiding and showing me the way so I’m incredibly grateful for that. The Canadian R&B/Hip Hop landscape is still being developed and there’s still ways to go in order to really make a space and create an infrastructure for the genre but it’s coming along. Everything takes time and all in due time.
The city is amazing place to create. The amount of talent in the city is unbelievable. From producers to singer/rappers to directors and writers. The city is booming with incredible creators. I’m beyond happy to be part of the movement!
HOLR: What and who is on your playlist right now?
D: Where do I start! I listen to music almost every minute of the day. I love discovering new artists and sounds. Currently i’m listening to a lot of artists friends from the city. Some incredible talent like TiKA & Casey MQ, both of whom I just collaborated on a single with. As well some incredible Toronto singers like Vica, Denver Haylee, Naranie, Adria Kain, Leila Dey. All of whom have projects out right now. R&B is my favourite kind of music to listen to, so being in Toronto and being surrounded by so many beautiful voices is so exciting!
HOLR: What are do future plans for your music include and what can we look forward to next?
D: I’m always working on music so you can definitely expect a new EP in the next little bit as well as some collaborations as well. My single ” Goodbyes ” featuring fellow Toronto artists, TiKA & Casey MQ is out now. All in all, more music, more visuals, more art!
Listen to his brand new single “Goodbyes” by checking out https://soundcloud.com/desiirenow/goodbyes-with-tika-casey-mq .
Desiree’s music including his EP “Paradise” is now available on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and Google Play.
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