INTERVIEW WITH DEL HARTLEY
Big things are happening for Del Hartley. After a year of new music and a brand partnership with Uniqlo, Hartley has proven his unique sound really stands out. You can see Del performing live October 7th at the Night Owl for The Iscream’s Toronto R&B Sounds (get your tix, so you can get some tingles down your spine).
How would you describe your sound?
Emotional and honest. A lot of the inspiration comes from life, either from my own personal experiences or experiences that people close to me have been through. In life there’s only so many new events we all go through, that what we bring to it is our perspective, right?
What inspired your latest song “Money”?
It’s just like...money’s a tool. Today in society, a lot of people base their whole social staus on having money and that’s it. There’s just more to it, so it’s just like the first verse. For anybody who wants to look at me with that—because I come from nothing. I come from nothing, my parents both immigrated here mid-eighties from West Africa and, like, they just worked for everything they had and they kind of showed me that you should work for everything you want. You know kind of growing up and like, you’re thrown into a public school and kids are so mean! So moving here and just being on my own and just kind of growing into myself, you just realize at the end of the day that money is a tool, it just makes it look better, so that’s the hook of the song.
Where did you move from?
I was actually born and raised in Ottawa.
What led you to come to Toronto?
In Canada, Toronto is one of the Meccas, really, when it comes to just anything. Like right out of high school, I was like 17 and I just kind of packed my things and moved down here and just started the journey. Started networking and building and here we are.
How have you found the difference between the Ottawa music scene and Toronto’s?
Well—this may sound bad, but Ottawa is kind of a government town. It’s a governmetn town, so there’s not much of a spotlight, not to say that there isn’t anyone from Ottawa doing their thing. But if you want to gain more traction, if you want to meet more people then you have to go to a bigger pond. That’s why I’m here.
So you did a partnership with Uniqlo—what was that like?
Yeah I was actually surprised when they hit me up! It was cool. I got to meet some of the creative directors, some of the guys from the marketing agencies that were working on that campaign and it’s cool that they...I mean, I guess the way I took it is I kind of have a sense of style! No, but it was an awesome experience and I’m just looking forward to the next campaign.
Does that mean we can expect more brand collabs in the future?
Well hopefully, but I can’t speak too much about it….
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Definitely Michael Jackson. He was one of the biggest one. When I was young, my dad used to DJ our family friends parties and I used to go through all his record collection, his CD collection and my mom used to tape all the concerts. There was this one concert—I don’t know if it was in ‘92, but it was Live In Bucharest. It was weird, he wore that army thing and he had like a gold thong—it was weird! It’s weird to describe it, but it’s one of those things that when you see it you’ll be like “ooh yeah!” But it was just nuts and just what he could do and how in-depth he was in his artistry, you know, how is one person doing all this stuff? And then you can’t look away and just from there it sort of ignited the spark and then I started singing to myself. So I was an “in-the-closet” singer, I never used to sing to anyone. So yeah just all sort of self taught. It’s funny, nobody in my family really does music. Like my mom might sing a bit, but it’s just around the house
Who are you listening to right now?
Listening to a lot of Maxwell right now, lot of Musiq Soulchild, Anderson Paak, a lot of J. Cole, some old Usher, John Legend, Hiatus Kaiyote.
What’s your favourite aspect of live performances—either your live performances or watching someone else?
It’s really just the music. Just the energy of the singer and the band and the tightness of it—and the pocket. Especially when a band or somebody finds that pocket and you’re just in there with it, that’s the most mesmerizing part of it.
What’s it like being in the pocket when it’s you performing?
It’s one of those things where you don’t really notice, you’re just kind of in the moment. But then—because sometimes I play while I sing as well and sometimes when you’re in that pocket and you find that pocket and sometimes you can find yourself listening to yourself, then you catch yourself and mess up! So it’s one of those things where when you feel it, don’t overthink it. Just be in the moment.
By Robyn Bell