Dvsn Talks New Project, Working With Mariah Carey and R&B’s Festival Takeover


Weekend one of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival marked Dvsn's debut desert performance, but they didn't show any signs of apphrension once gracing the Gobi stage on April 12. I

It definitely helps that the Toronto R&B duo (comprised of singer Daniel Daley and Grammy-nominated producer Nineteen85) have been touring nonstop for nearly a year. Dvsn's confidence exuded throughout their set, which stemmed from experience — and also from liquor, as the pair revealed to Billboard that part of their festival ritual includes prayer and taking a shot of either tequila or vodka.

Before taking the stage, Nineteen85 got the crowd going with an onslaught of hit turn-up songs that he actually produced — from Drake’s “Hold On, We're Going Home" to DJ Khaled’s “For Free.” At one point, the producer paid tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, as fans shouted lyrics to soon-to-be rap classics like "Last Time That I Checc'd"  and “Hussle in the House.” 

Soon after, a choir entered the stage to bring the crowd to church. Once Daley's sensual vocals to Sept. 5th highlight "Too Deep" flooded the speakers, the musical love affair with the audience officially began. The duo ran through fan favorites like "With Me," "Hallucinations" and "Think About Me," before throwing in some unexpected covers: Daley's rendition of Usher's 2001 classic "U Got It Bad" sparked a passionate audience singalong, while his mash-up of Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" created a slow-burning groove.

Now that Dvsn have mastered the art of conquering Coachella and various other festivals (London's Lovebox is one of their favorites), it's finally time to get back to their first love — recording music. Ahead of their Coachella debut, Billboard spoke with the duo about what's to come for their new project, their thoughts on R&B and working with Mariah Carey.

What are the songs that always gets the crowd riled up the most?

Daniel Daley: “Nuh Time,” “Think About Me,” “Too Deep,” “Hallucinations" and "Body Smile.” It’s usually the records that they see themselves in, so we wanted to make an album that would be as honest and true to that. We love the songs where the crowd gets so into it that I don’t even have to sing. They’re just going off so much!

It seems like R&B is infiltrating the festival space now more than in previous years. What are your thoughts on that?

Daley: It’s the best thing. It’s a completely new vibe and time for what we’re doing. There’s a bunch of R&B artists now — it’s like a new wave where you can just sing. You don’t have to rap it, or do what everybody else is doing. You can just go on stage and do your own thing. And for us, that’s always what DVSN has been about — not listening to what anyone else is doing.

Nineteen85: The last two years were so big for R&B breakout acts. If you look at mainstream music as a whole, a lot of them are R&B. I think that’s sort of changing everyone’s perception of where R&B fits, whether it’s the radio, TV or festival spaces.

How about R&B in general — do you think it’s in a solid place right now?

Daley: I think we’re getting there. We’re going to break down a lot of barriers. I think this specific generation of R&B is about to do some shit that the last ones didn’t do. Even though the ‘90s is known as the golden era of R&B, I think we’re going to make a new era.

Nineteen85: Right now you can tell that all the new rappers are listening to R&B. There’s so much melodies in songs now.

Speaking of the genre, I have to ask about Nineteen85's production on Mariah Carey's "GTFO."

Nineteen85: We’ve spoken [about collaborating] before but it just never happened. Then her A&R reached out to me and said, “If you’re free this weekend we’d love to have you out.” And for Mariah, of course I’m free! Working with her is just amazing. She’s so chill and down to earth and such a good writer. She actually knows way more about production than most artists, so that whole process was easy easier than I expected it to be. I think the reaction to the track was really cool. She hadn’t done anything in a while, so a lot of people were like “Oh, Mariah’s back!”

Can you share any wild fan stories you have while being on the road?

Daley: I remember being on stage at The Roxy in LA in 2016 — I think that was our very first time being there. There was a section of girls going crazy, so I went over and touched one of their hands. One girl just straight dropped and fainted! I remember in my head just being a little taken aback by that because I didn’t know what to do, so I walked away. The moment I looked back over there, she was standing back up, and jumping up and down. I’m pretty sure she fake-fainted just to look like she was that supreme of a fan.

Do fans throw anything to you on stage — like bras?

Daley: Yeah I’ve had that happen a couple of times. But I don’t keep them, that’s nasty! We just leave them onstage or someone takes them backstage, but we don’t go on the tour bus with them. [Laughs.]

Tell me a little about your new music. How is the vibe different this time around?

Nineteen85: I think being on the road definitely changes how you go into an album, just seeing how people react to certain songs and what songs get them into it more. So subconsciously you start doing things knowing how the songs will translate for people.

Daley: This is probably the one where people will feel that it’s important to them — even outside the bedroom. The first and second albums were more [suited for] the nighttime. This one is for every day, it’s lifestyle music. We’re just as excited and anxious as everybody out there. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll let everyone know.

What always drew me to your music is that you’re very love-centric. Many male R&B singers nowadays don’t really embrace romance as much.

Daley: I think some people are just afraid to be themselves. Our stories have been this way because we’ve focused on that area. There’s much more to us than romance. We go through the same things that everyone else does. Just where you are mentally, spiritually and with your friends. No matter what it is, you’re always just trying to find that balance. But there’s so much more with the new music that we’re doing, you’re going to get a lot of different sides. It’s going to be exciting.

Nineteen85: Now [the new record] is lifestyle music. Before it was so relationship-based. Even when it wasn’t meant to be, it still felt like that. Where now, it’s like “this is us in our everyday setting.” And sonically we’re exploring more genres, it’ll be a little more fun.