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5 things you should know about River Tiber | Musique Non Stop

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

5 things you should know about River Tiber

River Tiber is the musical project/alter ego of 25-year-old Toronto-based musician Tommy Paxton-Beesley. He's releasing his solo album, Indigo, on June 24, capitalizing on a run of increasing critical acclaim since the release of his September 2015 EP, When the Time is Right.

"I think that [Indigo] has many more colours to it," says Paxton-Beesley, discussing his progression since the EP release. "I definitely am influenced by a lot of different stuff on this. I think rhythmically it’s more diverse. It’s just bigger. And it’s like the format of the EP is more concise, so there isn’t really the chance for the energy to build up and go quite as crazy. With [Indigo] it really extends all the way."

Thematically driven by the course of a relationship, Indigo runs the emotional gamut. "It’s like a journey through my mind in a way, spiritually and psychedelically," he says. With lyrics that hint at an uneasy romantic union, the densely layered, jazz-infused lead single, "Acid Test," gives a glimpse into the musical world Paxton-Beesley has created on this new album.

Given the impressive sounds coming from River Tiber, CBC Music spoke with Paxton-Beesley to find out more about the man behind the music.

1. He wasn’t always confident about his voice

As a trained multi-instrumentalist through the Berklee College of Music — comfortable with the cello, guitar and trombone — singing wasn't instinctive for Paxton-Beesley. He gradually incorporated vocals into his repertoire, inspired by Jeff Buckley's Grace.

"I think that more and more, I’ve gravitated to putting my voice front and centre in my productions because it’s just the instrument you carry everywhere that you go," he says. "Even listening to my record I feel that I’ve developed so much since making that record as a vocalist, primarily just honing in on the clarity of it and the lyrics and what I’m saying. It’s so hard to work up the courage to sing in the first place and when you first start out, it’s washed out in the reverb and buried in the mix under these instruments. As I've become more confident, I’ve really been honing in on that clarity and I think it’s only going to be moving further in that direction."

2. Collaborations are key to River Tiber's creative process

While the release of his own EPs — The Star Falls and When the Time is Right — have been serving notice of his talent, Paxton-Beesley has been making his name even more recognizable through collaborations with artists like Daniel Caesar and Doc McKinney, the latter being an esteemed producer known for his work with the Weeknd, among many others.

Paxton-Beesley worked extensively with producer Frank Dukes and BadBadNotGood on Sour Soul, the band's Polaris Prize shortlisted collaboration with Ghostface Killah. Another frequent collaborator is Montreal producer Kaytranada, who released his own critically acclaimed album, 99.9%, earlier this month. The duo worked on the song "Illusions" together (which also featured Pusha T), with Paxton-Beesley incorporating Kaytranada's drums. Kaytranada and Paxton-Beesley will also be going on tour together for a few U.S. West Coast dates starting May 24.

"We didn’t have a mastermind plan or whatever for it but the framework for it was there," Paxton-Beesley says about working with Kaytranada. 

"I love to collaborate," he continues. "The tension between two artists pushes you forward and pushes me into places I wouldn’t expect."

3. He appreciated being sampled by Drake, but hopes the long-term focus will shift to his own music

Drake producers Boi-1da and Frank Dukes sampled River Tiber's "No Talk" from his When the Time is Right EP for the Toronto hip-hop star's hugely successful mixtape If You're Reading This it's too Late.

"I think it definitely gave a big boost to the attention my music was getting but I think the main thing I realized right away that you can’t live off a co-sign or whatever," says Paxton-Beesley. "I just mean you’ve got to be able to back it up with your own story, your own music and your own art."

So while he entertained questions on the notoriety the Drake association afforded him, Paxton-Beesley was concentrating on long-term goals. "I would say now, I feel good where everything is heading. I’m carving out my own space in my music. I definitely am going to keep it rolling in terms of putting out music and keep it building. You can't let it all rest on something like that."
 From left to right: River Tiber, Pusha T and Kaytranada. (Carlo Cruz/Red Bull Sound Select)

4. He’s excited about Toronto’s musical future

The mix of electronic, hip-hop and R&B purveyed by artists like Drake has expanded the city's sonic identity to those on the outside looking in, benefitting artists like River Tiber, who dabble in those genres. So why all the attention now?

"I think that it’s probably because Toronto has been underrated," says Paxton-Beesley. "It’s such a big city, even population-wise. It’s massive and you would think that it would be on the level of a Chicago or an L.A. on the depth of its talent because of the population alone. And I think that it is and I think that with anything it’s a matter of expectation, really. I think people have had low expectations of Toronto, y’know. I don’t think the thing here is like New York, L.A. or Chicago — those places are still to me, meccas of culture and music. I think that we’re really in the process of developing a history as places like that. At least the way I see it. You look at the history of some of those places and it's really deep. I think we’re babies compared to that. But yeah, I think we’re getting there."

5. He could have played every instrument on his album, but didn’t

The album features a variety of intricate instrumentation, says Paxton-Beesley, including cello, violin and trombone, drawing on his classically trained background. Staying true to the one-man band his moniker conveys, Paxton-Beesley could have feasibly played all of the instruments. Instead, he decided to defer to others like live band members Thadeus Garwood, John Mavro, Danny Voicu and David Lewis, when appropriate.

"It’s not just me. I do all that, but it’s not just me," he says, of the musical arrangements on the album. "The way I play drums is so different than my guy Thadeus, who I play with a lot. I play drums on this other [album] track that definitely has a different vibe. I think that once upon a time I would have tried to do everything myself, but sometimes you just gotta serve the song. I’m definitely part of a community of amazing musicians. I think it’s pretty cool to have a lot of different voices that one person might be good at creating. I don’t want [Indigo] to sound like a bedroom record and I don’t think it does at all."


by Del F. Cowie via Electronic RSS