Toronto native, R&B star Dylan Sinclair is coming to be one of the most notable names in the genre. His raw and relatable lyricism and silky vocals will have you enamoured with his discography. GUAP catches up with Dylan, touching on his gospel influences, family orientated upbringing and performing in the UK for the first time.
Kat: Tell us about your latest single Fly Girl, how did that come about and what inspired it?
Dylan Sinclair: True story. That’s all I got. It’s a pretty great picture. That’s just my type of woman – [a] fly girl.
Kat: How do you feel like being from Toronto has had an impact on your music?
Dylan Sinclair: We get some very cold and dark winters, that might sound cliche because that’s every Toronto [song]writer says that, but it’s a real thing. The seasonal moodiness happens. Outside of that, kind of similar to London, it’s a cultural hub where there’s a lot of immigrants, people from very different backgrounds that come together, so there’s a lot of culture. I’ve been exposed to that from very young, so that affects your perspective.
Kat: Do you feel like your Filipino-Guyanese heritage played a part in helping you find your sound and if so what are the ways it translates into your music?
Dylan Sinclair: Definitely, Filipinos love to come together and sing. The culture is very family oriented, so when the family gets together, there’s a lot of singing going on, all the kids have to do some sort of entertaining for the adults. It’s always like, “Okay, the family’s here. You gotta sing for your uncles and aunts,” or something like that from a young age. I guess that was my practice for just singing a lot. We did a lot of karaoke and that was more my Filipino side. On my Guyanese side, I guess same thing, but I’m not as tapped in with that culture as I want to be. I think publicly too, I claim my Filipino side more.
Kat: What’s one piece of advice that your family gave you that you hold really close to your heart that’s helped you?
Dylan Sinclair: Stay humble and level headed. In this business there’s constantly people bigging up your head and whatever, so just staying level headed and just doing it for the levels, music and inspiring the people. You’re staying motivated, of course, and then inspiring the people around you to like put their best foot forward as well in whatever they do.
Kat: How have you grown in between now and No Longer in the Suburbs, as a person and as an artist?
Dylan Sinclair: I’ve become more disciplined, I guess that’s more on a personal level. As an artist that you’re looking inward and seeing how you can improve just your life as a whole. I’ve been more open. My antennas have been more up. I’m more willing to receive, whereas No Longer in the Suburbs, growing up I was a little stubborn and I still am, but in different ways and [I’m] getting more familiar with what I want to offer and give to the world in music.
Kat: Do you feel like the stubbornness translates into the music that you’re making?
Dylan Sinclair: Maybe not. I always try to paint a beautiful picture. But you know what it is? I was more anxious then, and I think that kind of translated in the music. There was a lot of therapeutic writing for me – any feeling of worry or anxiety that I might feel, I put into the music, which I still, which I still do, but I’m not drowning in it.
Kat: How did gospel influence your music?
Dylan Sinclair: Music for the Soul. I definitely take influence from that and then obviously just when it comes to vocal stacks, harmonies, range – a lot of gospel music that I would listen to, like the Kirk Franklin’s and the Fred Hammond’s, there was so much range in one album. You would get so many different styles of music in one album and I’m an album driven artist. I’ll put up singles here and there, but I like to make like full bodies of work. That’s how I like to do it, I like to show like a range of sounds and give you a lot, and then disappear and do the same thing again.
Kat: You’re very album driven, what albums really shaped how you make music?
Dylan Sinclair: It’s always changing, because I be experimenting all the time in the studio, but I would say when I made my first EP, Proverb, I was definitely heavily influenced by Voodoo – D’Angelo, Aijuswanaseing – Musiq Soulchild and Freudian – Daniel Caesar, [are] probably my top three, if you exclude gospel music.
Kat: We can include that!
Dylan Sinclair: So for gospel music, it would be The Rebirth [of Kirk Franklin], honestly everything Kirk Franklin, everything Commission, and everything Fred Hammond – [his] whole catalog was drilled in my brain from when I was young. I like listening to albums that have that level of range, rather than hearing the same song, same beat over and over again. I get a little tired.
Kat: What are your thoughts on the state of R&B at the moment?
Dylan Sinclair: I don’t follow it that closely, other than the homies that I’ve met so far through it that have stuck out to me. Between Ambre, Destin [Conrad], JVCK [JAMES] – those are probably my favorite up and coming artists right now. I really like what they’re doing. Ambre is just wavy, Destin too. Jack – he’s so quiet right now, no one knows what he’s doing, but I’m just excited to hear what he puts out in the world. Oh, and Jordan Ward.
Kat: I adore all the artists you’ve been collaborating with recently JVCK James, Destin Conrad, Savannah Ré, Joyce Wrice, – literally an R&B lover’s dream. Is there anyone else in the genre you want to collaborate with?
Dylan Sinclair: I want to collaborate with some of my heroes. I would love to work with Solange – I always say I want to work with Solange so bad, I feel like we could have a lot of fun in the studio. Dev Hynes, Tyler, The Creator – I would love to work with those people. And other than that, my friends that I meet along the way. I’m very personable, so I wanna get to know you before just hopping on a song.
Kat: From the collaborations that you’ve put out and that you might be working on at the moment – do you feel like you work better in person and in the studio or by sending a verse?
Dylan Sinclair: I do the whole sending a verse thing if it speaks to me, if it clicks, then it clicks. If I’m in the studio, I’m a little more forced to lay something down, I like doing it that way though. That’s kind of what I did with Joyce [Wrice] for ‘Never’ – well actually no, I already had that song and then I was like, “I feel like you would sound really good on this,” and then we ended up making it more of a duet style song, but yeah, it depends. I’m always down for a challenge.
Kat: Are you listening to any UK artists at the moment?
Dylan Sinclair: JVCK JAMES, Sinead Harnett. I’mma go left with my taste – I like Lancey Foux, I like Skepta.
Kat: They loved you at your headline show, what was your experience performing in the UK?
Dylan Sinclair: I love it so much, I can’t even lie. All Points East was cool. It was a nice warm-up. The show was my favourite show I’ve done, my favourite headline show. A lot of it too is having JVCK [JAMES] come out and seeing the support that the city gives him. Everyone’s singing all the songs, the biggest room I’ve done to date, had some family there, all that combined just felt like a relief. It was a good moment to soak in.
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