Indian born, yet Toronto-based singer, Rehan Dalal, is influenced by major soulful singers that left an indelible mark on the music industry. These acts include such icons as Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder, to modern influences of Raphael Saadiq and John Mayer. His full-length debut album, Got To Feel It, debuted on iTunes June 25, 2013, and he recently played Toronto's Fringe Festival's Fringe Club on July 13. The ten-track album was produced by Justin Abedin.
Says Dalal of his musical upbringing, "growing up in Bombay [India], I was exposed to a lot of Indian classical music, Bollywood and classic rock cover bands. It wasn’t until I heard “Inner Visions” by Stevie Wonder that I was really pulled in and excited about music. I love the groove and the emotion that soul music inspires."
Rehan chatted with Examiner about his love for music, what drew him from India to Canada, his influences such as Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and much more. Read all about the fun and insight our chat consisted of:
When did you first determine that you wanted to sing and perform?
Rehan: I think it sort of happened when I was doing a lot of singing, writing and playing in my basement. It just kind of hit me that that was something I wanted to do more on stage, and thought letting people hear what I was doing in my dorm room. So, I started hitting up local stages, slowly that grew into playing shows, and here we are today...got a record!
What made you want to pursue music in Canada, per se?
Rehan: I guess it was a better option than going back to India where I'm originally from. There's very few people there that probably want to listen to soul music, and you know, Canada still has an audience for that music; maybe not the kind of audience that would have it in the States or maybe, Europe. There's definitely an audience for it here, and its an exciting place to make music. There's a lot of support for the arts, and a lot of great musicians to work with here.
What was the process like recording your debut record, Got To Feel It?
Rehan: Basically, I showed up with a bunch of songs, brought them to my producer and had him listen to them, and he sort of sat down with me, and we both decided on which songs worked and which ones didn't. We ended up picking only four songs from the original 15 some odd songs that I had. Spent the rest of that summer writing more songs for the record, a nice collection of songs, and then we just got into the studio and recorded some tracks, then just tracked all of the vocals, horns and strings, stuff like that, and adding all the flavor. I spent a couple of weeks working on the art work, which I did myself.
You put a lot of heart and soul into it.
What is it about the soul legends of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding that influence your music and style?
Rehan: You know I think it's just hard not to get swept up in that music. It comes from such a deep place. Musically, it's so complex and beautiful; thematically and lyrically, it's so beautiful. You throw all of these people's incredible voices on top of it and what's not to love. How do you not love that stuff? I think, generally soul music has always had a hold on me. It's everything that I love about music rolled into one.
What's your favorite song by Sam Cooke?
Rehan: Man, that's so hard. You know what, I really love the song, "Only Sixteen." You know it's probably such an odd choice and it's not the most obvious Sam Cooke song, but I really love that song, although probably "A Change Is Gonna Come."
Such a great song. How could you not like that song? Such a defining song!
Rehan: It's the defining song of Sam Cooke, and I don't want to be that guy that gives you "Oh yeah, Sam Cooke, "A Change Is Gonna Come."
(laughs) You had to spice up a little bit!
We then discussed the impact Sam Cooke and others had on music, transcending even after their passing.
What would be your dream line-up gig, dead or alive?
Rehan: Ooohh, wow! Stevie Wonder would be on that gig, for sure. Probably Stevie Wonder, Raphael Saadiq. Bill Withers would be on there, Donny Hathaway. There you go, three living, one dead. Bill Withers is fully still alive, but just not doing anything, except sitting in his house and making music for himself.
What are your overall goals in music?
Rehan: I think just to keep playing, get the music out there, and reach more and more people, bigger audiences, make it across the border and play for you guys down there. Cause I know how much ya'll love the soul music. I think just playing as much music as I can with amazing musicians, and keep doing it until they stop me.
What was your first album on CD, cassette and/or vinyl?
Rehan: On vinyl, that's kind of hard to say. My Dad had a lot of vinyl records, so it's...I just really kind of picked up stuff from his collection, and I don't really remember what the first one was. It was probably a Herbie Hancock record or something like that. First ever cassette was T for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens, so totally a different zone of things. But, I love that record, such an amazing record. My first CD, wow, I wonder what my first CD was...it was probably 90's music, so it was probably something terrible. I don't actually remember. I think it might have been a Savage Garden record.
Did you have a first vinyl?
Rehan: I think my first vinyl was Kinda Blue by Miles Davis.
What are top five albums or bands you wouldn't want to live without?
Rehan: Alright, let's do this...
Stevie Wonder- Inner Visions (that record changed my life). It is an unbelievable record. I would say Stevie Wonder is an artist I wouldn't want to live without. He's amazing.
Louis Taylor- Louis Taylor. That record is so phenomenal. It bugs me so much that almost nobody knows who he is and what that record is. That was a life-changing record to me.
Probably, Axis Bold is Love by Jimi Hendrix. Love that record, and it's a testament as to how great of a songwriter Jimi Hendrix was outside of distortion, guitar God guy, that everybody knows him as.
Ahh, so hard, I hate this game...
Bill Withers- Just As I Am. Amazing songwriting.
Herbie Hancock's Future to Future.
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