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R&B is supposed to make you feel something. It provides a soundtrack for unforgettable moments like when you went on your first date, first fell in love or even experienced loss. But in an era where R&B music is no longer about romance, devotion and emotion, DVSN has found success by pushing different R&B approaches to mainstream audiences — and it’s working.
The Canadian R&B duo, comprised of singer-songwriter Daniel Daley and famed producer Paul “Nineteen85” Jefferies, narrate their new album, A Muse In Her Feelings, which is a collection of romantic ballads (and a few bangers) that finally bring back the essence of R&B music: vulnerability.
On Twitter, they explained the title a little further (in all caps, no less): “A MUSE IN HER FEELINGS AMUSING HER FEELINGS I’M USING HER FEELINGS.”
With Daley’s undeniable falsetto and Nineteen85’s beats (he’s responsible for some of Drake’s most popular songs like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling”) it’s a match made in R&B heaven and a producer-singer combination we haven’t seen in at least a decade.
ESSENCE caught up with the fellas, who are also signed to Drake’s OVO label, where they opened up about the new album, Drake, musical inspirations and how they hope to change R&B music.
ESSENCE: By definition, a muse is a person who inspires an art form through the exploration of themselves. Who was the muse in this project?
Nineteen85: There wasn’t one specific muse since this project spans over the last couple of years of our lives. There are definitely different people at different time periods. And also because there are two of us, we have different muses for sure. But I think it’s kind of a testament to that every person that we have a personal relationship with…and we pull these different inspiration and stories from.
Talk about the process when you’re working together. How do you come up with concepts?
Daley: This is a collection of conversations between me and 85. A lot of our studio sessions start with us sitting down and talking about whatever is going on with us and whatever situations we might have. We’ve been a little bit on our own roller coaster ride for the past couple of years: we’ve been on the road, we’ve traveled, we’ve met people, we’ve had people come into our lives, we’ve had people leave our lives. These are the stories of that. And all the things that we’ve experienced, we kind of just put them on the table.
You’re narrating on behalf of women with A Muse In Her Feelings. What’s one central theme that this album conveys?
Nineteen85: The feeling of being misunderstood. The feeling of not being heard enough. Even us from a male perspective giving more of a voice to this. I think a lot of women hear this album and say, These guys are saying the things that I’ve never heard other people say. Even the first song, with that approach to love, to say, I don’t think I’m very good at this. That’s something that I don’t think modern R&B has done well enough. Modern R&B isn’t as vulnerable as it used to be. That’s the feeling that everybody keeps saying they want back.
Daley: I want them to feel like they’re not alone. We’re all going through these same cycles: losing one thing, feeling a bit lost and in your thoughts and then wanting to get out and get over it.
Your last two albums (SEPT 5TH and Morning After) were critically acclaimed with no collaborations. This one pivots to include a bunch of features. Why the change?
Nineteen85: It was a natural progression. For instance, the first album we made, we had made before we were signed or before we even knew that getting features was an option. The second album, we made it in between touring for a couple of years and just being in our own space. This is the first time where we actually took the time. We were thinking we should reach out to some of our friends and involve some people that we talk to and hang out with on a regular basis. Literally everybody on the album that we have is friends or family, and the only exception to that was having Buju [Banton] on “Dangerous City” with Ty [Dolla Sign]. So we were super fortunate to have such amazing friends be able to contribute to it.
Both of you have Jamaican heritage and there were a few nods to the culture with features from Banton and Popcaan. How important was it to bring those Caribbean elements into the music?
Daley: It’s second nature to us. We’re Toronto kids; both of our moms are Jamaican. If you’ve ever been here, or taken in the vibes of the city, you can’t even go to a party without hearing a reggae song. You can’t even go out and not hear records that have that influence. For us to make a record like that, it wasn’t even a concentrated effort of we want to make a reggae song now. We’re just making songs that we love and touching the different moods that we were in or feeling at the time. It was just a natural process.
Teddy Riley versus Babyface broke the internet last week when they went head to head. If DVSN could go up against anyone in a Verzuz battle, who would it be?
Daley: There aren’t many producer/singing combos that I think are out and existing in the same way. We have our family and our brother Majid Jordan, which I think would be an OVO fan’s dream…to see us play songs from our catalog and watch the fans react. The major one that comes to mind, when it comes to our family — Drake and 40. And we don’t want any smoke with that. I’ll tell you that.
Nineteen85: Not many similar people come to mind. The only ones that come to mind are like way older: Timbaland and Missy, Timberland and Justin Timberlake, Michael and Quincy — and again we don’t want smoke with any of them.
Toronto’s unofficial king is Drake on the hip hop front, but do you feel a weighted pressure as far as R&B, coming out of Toronto?
Daley: I feel inspired. I don’t know about pressure. But I feel inspired. Drake is one of the greatest of all times. It’s literally watching history every other day. He drops a song and it’s like what record did he just break? As far as what it does to us, it’s just fuel. The whole city is just turning up crazy. We saw it coming after the beginning of Drake, The Weeknd and PARTYNEXTDOOR. You can’t help but to be inspired. To look around and to see your peers and your city going crazy — it just makes you want to go harder.
Will this quarantine inspire a TikTok song from DVSN?
Nineteen85: I don’t think we’re going to make a song for TikTok. But we do have two songs on the album “Keep It Going” and “Flawless” featuring Summer Walker that we’ve seen a lot of TikTok videos starting to pop up recently — we’ll see where that goes.
What do you want people to remember about DVSN?
Nineteen85: One thing I took from the Teddy Riley versus Babyface battle was that every time they played a song, everyone’s reaction went back to the first time they heard this song…so if we can have even a bit of reaction with these songs then I think we’re doing what we want them to do.
Daley: For us, these are your stories, we’re just telling them. I want people to feel that when they hear these records. I want people to feel like: he’s talking my life, my experiences and they didn’t miss a beat.
A Muse In Her Feelings is available on all streaming platforms now. This interview was edited for clarity.Share :