There's a song on Daniel Wesley's forthcoming album, Easy Living, called "Beggar's Life," where he sings about how life on the road, as jarring as it can be, has actually made him quite happy.
This is a considerable shift in tone for a man whose biggest hits to date have been more concerned with getting stoned than growing up. But grow up Wesley has. The Vancouver-based singer-songwriter is married now. He's older and, naturally, he has more perspective coming to terms with living the nomadic lifestyle that some musicians can never quite get comfortable with.
"Every record I kind of develop," Wesley says from a tour stop in Grand Prairie. "Obviously, I'm getting older and more experienced at making albums. This is probably my most mature album I've made."
But "mature" doesn't necessarily mean "subdued" or "soft." Dave "Rave" Ogilvie, who has worked with industrial rock luminaries Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and Marilyn Manson, produced seven of the album's 11 songs. Former Treble Charger vocalist Greg Nori produced the other four tracks.
"I got the best songs that I probably could have out of it. Everyone says that their next album is their best but I definitely feel this is a huge step for me," says Wesley.
Easy Living, due out on July 26, is still rooted in the reggae-pop that has marked his career so far but Wesley says he's branched out to include more rock, folk, and alt-country, styles of music that he hasn't included before. Aside from the notable producers, he also invited Bedouin Soundclash members Eon Sinclair and Sekou Lumumba to play on bass and drums alongside his regular backing band.
"I tend to write with no direction at all," he says. "I don't really sit down and write, it's just whatever comes out, (but) with this album I was definitely more conscious about taking a few liberties that I haven't before."
"It's about finding that balance with how many new sounds you are going to involve while not alienating your fan base. It was a lot of fun and I think there's a good balance on the record."
Wesley was virtually unknown in the mainstream when Vancouver rock radio station 99.3 The Fox picked his marijuana-toting single "Ooo Ooh" for heavy rotation. Before that, Wesley was a 20-something living in the middle-class suburbia of White Rock. He'd released two albums, 2006's Outlaw and 2007's Drifting to little attention. But with the success of "Ooo Ooh" from his album Sing and Dance, he was suddenly selling out venues in downtown Vancouver. He was headlining tours. He was, as it happened, a career musician.
He says those years were developmental. Following the success of Sing and Dance, he fired the backing band he'd played with since Outlaw was released, parted ways with his management, signed with 604 Records and charted the path he's on now, as a solo artist. He released his self-titled fourth album in 2009.
"The fact that I can call my own shots, go where I want and play with whoever... it's new for me, all the time," he says. "There are good and bad things about it, but I always try to look at the positive," he says.
He's currently on tour with Toronto hip-hop-folk artists KO - who will return to Whistler after a stint at the 2011 World Ski and Snowboard Festival - and Rebel Emergency.
Rather than perform as three separate bands, they all agreed that they would tour together as one band, playing on each other's songs throughout the night. Rebel Emergency is essentially backing KO, who is assisting Wesley, and vice versa, in what's essentially one three-hour set.
"It's kind of interweaving our sets," he says.
"These days you have to try to do something out of the norm. Money's tight for everyone these days, so you have to kind of stick your neck out there and do something different that people are going to want to put their $20 toward."
A fiscally responsible Daniel Wesley? All grown up, indeed.
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