R&B lovers can collapse into their chairs feeling satisfied at the quality of output from the genre in 2019. From Mahalia and Snoh Aalegra to Steve Lacy and SiR, we have seen some great work rightly praised – and sometimes wrongly snubbed – to varying degrees. One artist who can definitely throw his name in that hat, as well as boast FOUR Grammy Nominations in his breakout year, is New Orleans triple threat David Debrandon Brown, otherwise known as Lucky Daye.
With singing, song writing and (occasionally) rapping in his locker, the soulful upstart has made waves with his debut album ‘Painted’ and has been busy touring the world, catering to his Daye Ones (you saw that here first) and new fans at the same time. On the eve of his second sold out London show – in the space of 5 months might I add – we chopped it up with Lucky Daye in the heart of Shoreditch. Our conversation bounced around quite a bit, but mostly centred on ‘Painted’ and rightly so; it’s nominated for four Grammys! Pull up a seat as we paint a picture of who Lucky Daye is.
Lucky Daye incorporates warm strokes of R&B, funk and soul that paint pictures of love, life and everything else in a way that connects with both the contemporaries and the traditionalists of R&B. Before we get into his palette we exchange pleasantries briefly touching on his feelings about being back in London so soon; “It’s good to be out here. First time sold out. Second time sold out… that’s a good run!” Lucky laughs as I tell him that his enthusiasm is clearly matched by the queue fans outside in the London cold. “For real? Man, that’s crazy! I love it out here. It’s cold! But other than that, it’s cool. I can’t do the cold, I’m from New Orleans!”
‘Painted’ for me is all my emotions mixed up into one thing
Swiftly moving onto warmer topics, I give Daye some insights on my own interpretation of ‘Painted’ as a whole package. Daye’s EP’s ‘I’ and ‘II’ use a range of warm and tonal colours that emphasise the warm funk in his palette. The videos taken from the album show range and careful curation from his creative team. From the performance based ‘Love You Too Much’, to the subtle ode to ‘Mary Jane’ in ‘Roll Some Mo’, to the sitcom feel of ‘Karma’ – each video forms part of a suite of visuals packaged for an album that deserves it. “We just wanted to match the visuals to the concept of the whole thing. Because ‘Painted’ for me is all my emotions mixed up into one thing, so people can understand that it’s not so monotone to digest. Which is why we released it in parts.” This level of craft makes me question a fun fact I stumbled upon in previous sleuthing; ‘Painted’ was reportedly made over a nine month period. “It was interesting because it was 9 months but 14 sessions, so at every session I had to hit it out the park. There was no room for error.”
Daye appears at ease during the conversation, engaging intently while his manager Jason as he looks on. Jason is one of two visible constants in Lucky’s young career, the other constant is producer D’Mile who produced 13 of the album’s 14 songs (they actually made 15 songs in those 14 sessions.) “My relationship with him is good, he just gives me the space to feel comfortable in the studio. I’ve worked with him on one or two other things before [Painted], we just vibed and made some stuff. We ain’t chasing no sound or what’s hot right now. He allowed me to open up.”
That penultimate point about not chasing a sound rings true because the album sounds like it was made with old souls in mind. Lucky seems to stay true to his influences from Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill but he doesn’t answer a hypothetical question about a collab with one of those greats as I would have expected, “…it would probably be someone that you didn’t mention. I gotta think about that one.” One legend who has openly embraced Lucky’s artistry is Oakland singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Saadiq, one of the more influential figures in the neo-soul movement, who invited Lucky to join him for a NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.
What’s surprising is Daye’s early life, given his strict upbringing he didn’t actually grow up listening to the type of music that he now makes, or pretty much any music at all. I tell him that hearing about that brought back memories of my own childhood in the church and having bootleg CD’s snapped by my mum. “It [listening to music] felt natural to me, it felt good because it was more of a ‘wow this feels good’ type of thing. I got isolated because I was curious and wanted to catch up. Even with my homies, they knew a lot of stuff musically that I didn’t know.”
I ask about his interest in other genres and without giving away too much, he manages to give us a little insight into what we might look forward to, “I like rap. But um, there’s gonna be a little of that on the second album.” His pen game shows in and out of the studio as we continue to delve into his feelings while making the album. When he hears what I liken ‘Painted’ to, he elaborates on feeling “free” during the process. “It was a desperate feeling of just getting it out while I had that opportunity. For me, it was my last opportunity to do anything musically, so I just wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. Without the opinions of everybody that thinks there are certain rules and stipulations [to making music].” Having creative control is one thing, but having the environment and feeling of freedom is completely different.
We begin to look into some of the tracks on the album, so where better to start than at the beginning? ‘Painted’ kicks off with ‘Roll Some Mo’, a very dreamy way to introduce himself to the world as he and his lady can’t get enough of the rush. “What’s crazy is ‘Roll Some Mo’ was the first song and I literally thought nothing when I was writing it. I was writing from a place of freedom. I had one of my friends in the studio who [recently] passed away and I did ‘Karma’ about her. Everything I did as far as the album, is me trying to express myself and not feel constricted.”
When I bring up ‘Concentrate’ he laughs as I mention that double entendre that he said he would come back and explain one day. “Aight so. All my songs have a double meaning for me but I wrote ‘em in a way where people could kinda take it how they want. But on ‘Concentrate’ I had a friend who I would spend time with and we started getting creative cos he did music too. And over time, he fell in love with me. So it was like “oh damn” I don’t wanna stop working *laughs* like damn. So for me it was like let’s just concentrate, I respect that and appreciate it but *laughs*.”
As light hearted as Lucky’s demeanour is when telling his story, I can’t believe how candid he is. The duality in the meanings of ‘Concentrate’ are reminiscent of fellow NOLA-raised-LA-resident Frank Ocean and his musings. And while Lucky can laugh now, his predicament ends up being bittersweet. “Yeah it got crazy though man. He started following me. But he decided to just go ‘head and move on. I thought it was about the music.”
Lucky’s bag seems to be feel good music that is easily palatable no matter the season. With his featured track ‘Little More Time’ – a duet with Georgia songstress Victoria Monét off the official soundtrack of HBO’s Insecure Season 3 – it’s natural to wonder if he sees himself going into the world of acting. “I actually have a script in my email right now. Like I’m doing that [writing a script] but I got the email for a movie.” The budding journalist in me stops short of pressing for more but we laugh as he tells me he hasn’t read the whole script yet. “I enjoy writing. I was writing the script, not that script, but like scripts before I got scripts. I don’t do fiction cos I’m not too good at that; I just write what’s on my mind.”
We continue on the topic of writing and I express how ‘Painted’ sounds like a clinic on the labour of love, as he begins to delve into what that means to him. “I mean I think love is being able to look at everybody everywhere and treat them with the same amount of care that you treat anybody. Whether they’re homeless, they rap words or they’re just friends. In all my relationships I always try to love everybody but sometimes it ain’t work. I don’t be blaming them though.” Exuding a penchant for balance between the rough and the smooth, even Lucky can appreciate love for all its enduring effects.
With show time looming, and having seen videos of his performances, it adds fuel to the thought that this album would sound amazing performed with a live band. Daye’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert session suggests that being backed by a live band is something he’ll be hard pressed not to do in the future “It was the first time I had that many people and horns! At that time I was doing the Ella [Mai] tour and I think I had like a two piece and that [the NPR session] was a surprise because we had drums, horns, bass and guitar. And I had never met those people so it was reminiscent of being at home and jamming out. It was like perfect harmony for me.”
With a stellar breakout year in 2019 that saw him touring with Ella Mai in America, Khalid in Australasia, two sold out London shows and a debut album, Lucky Daye is opening the new decade on a personal high. The announcement of the nominees for the 62nd Grammy Awards revealed news that Lucky is up for four gongs: Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance (both for ‘Roll Some Mo’), Best Traditional R&B Performance (‘Real Games’) and Best R&B Album. Not a bad breakout year by any means.
As our time is cut short, we close by looking ahead to a new decade. “Oooh 2020. You already know the album is coming, you already know the TV stuff is coming. Other than that I’ma just work on visuals and stuff. I know I don’t be on social media but I’m gonna be on there more. Act a little dumb. Show the fans my goofy side! I’m gonna become more personal with people. This year for me was like ‘I can’t believe this is happening, let me see where I can take this’ and it’s really happening. I can start opening up now.” As we exit the hotel room and share pleasantries one last time, curiosity takes a hold of me once again as ‘Roll Some Mo’ plays in the inner crevices of my mind. Everyone laughs at me because of these random outbursts and this time is no different as Lucky Daye quickly recalls when he had his first blunt. “Man, that’s an easy question! 14!”
Later in the evening at Lucky’s return show in London’s XOYO, he graces the crowd with his signature beaming smile and tantalises the female attendants on the night as he proceeds to paint the room shades of purple and red. Our very own Hamzaa and Mahalia join Lucky on stage to perform the latter’s album cut ‘Regular People’, capping off a riveting performance to an 800 strong crowd. It won’t be long before the boy from New Orleans takes the big venues by storm. For now though, he’s waiting on the Grammy Awards and working on his sophomore effort, one brush stroke at a time.
Lucky Daye’s ‘Painted’ is out now on all good digital vendors.