THE GOODS | #013–FW15

Name: Daniel Caesar
Occupation: Musician
Age: 21

Daniel Caesar, also known as Ashton Simmonds, walked through the shop with humble shoulders a little slumped; a demeanour suggesting that he’s not entirely sure why he’s here or, at least, is hesitant to accept it. When we get to the location and he paces from shade to sun and back again, looking at the ground and counting lists on his hands of his influences and goals. He quickly whittles down the latter to just one; be the best - a long term do-list that feels fast-approaching. “I don’t mean that in a cocky way,” Caesar interrupts himself, “I just think I have the potential to do it.” 

This process of self-negotiation is equally as apparent on his most recent album, Pilgrim’s Paradise, released on November 12th. Each song on the album can read as rooted in a feeling of tension; with religion, with family, his decisions, or his own future as a musician. His arguments with himself are rehashed through the verses and underscored by melancholic instrumentals that invoke a religious ambience. Upon release, Pilgrim’s Paradise settled into a significant stint on iTunes top 10, alongside words of praise on all the major music platforms. The album was produced by Jordan Evans (who was featured in Nomad’s mix series), with artwork created by Nomad alumni Sean Brown and Liam MacRae.

As retrospective as it is apprehensive, the album opens with Trinity Bellwoods, a prelude presumably consisting of sounds of the Toronto park that Caesar had slept in around the time of Praise Break, his first album in 2014. Continuing through the songs, any moment of self-doubt or criticism is rebutted by the devil on his shoulder, “Show no regret/ It’s what you asked for” (Show No Regret). In Paradise, he reminisces, “I used to stand on the rock/ the rock of Gibraltar”, a reference to the solid, limestone monolith in Europe, the height of which could function as a metaphor for the success Caesar felt after Praise Break. But the chorus reveals a period of reckoning where the musician justifies his decisions to himself, "Don’t forget you chose this life/ Welcome to your paradise”. However, as the song comes to an end he doesn’t quite seem to accept it. His strong but tumultuous relationship with religion is also critiqued in a feature by friend and fellow musician Sean Leon, “You made you 100 verses/ Why you need you 100 virgins”, implying music might be Caesar’s religion now.

Back at the shoot Caesar listed Stephen Hawking as a person he looks too for inspiration, explaining plainly “I want my music to change the world.” After mounting success from both Praise Break and Pilgrim’s Paradise, he is quickly approaching a crossroads. He will have to decide wether to branch into commercial mainstream music or stray deeper into the alternative realm - each with its own defined set of success and consequence. There is no doubt that his ample potential and versatility will allow for successful careers in both, the only question is if his capacity for sacrifice is just as strong.



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