24 minutes with Dan Talevski
Dan Talevski. (Ryan Faist photo)
Gaining a massive fan base originally as a YouTube sensation, Dan Talevski has since gone on to amass an impressive resume of credits; working alongside the likes of Timbaland and will.i am in the process. Joe Leary spent 24 minutes with the now Toronto-based singer/songwriter.
24: You’ve been touring around with Nick Carter recently and playing some Canadian dates and you’ve played here before. Do you remember anything specific so that you know what to expect say, from a Vancouver audience?
DT: Based on my past experience performing here twice before; great crowd, loud, super supportive and high energy.
24: If I read correctly, you were just googling and had your “aha” moment when you saw people on YouTube doing versions of other people’s songs. Was it really that profound that you decided that you had to do it as well?
DT: Yeah, I started looking up YouTube for songs of my favourite artists and saw other people covering my favourite songs and I thought, 'How have I never thought of that; how can I get my foot through the door in the music industry?' I tried for Canadian Idol. They hated me and said to consider a new career; that I would never make it – they were pretty harsh on me. So I decided to post a Justin Timberlake cover and it went viral very quickly and it snowballed into this major label record deal and I started developing my artistry in Los Angeles for four years. Fast forward to around 2011 and I found that they were kind of dictating how everything was playing out; what I was going to wear; what my lyrics were; every little thing I was did was like I was some sort of puppet – basically a puppet in a major label situation. I decided to walk away from it all and come back home to Canada and start to build my resume as a writer and be respected that way rather than just a YouTuber. I started writing songs for other artists and then I started my career again and here we are now.
24: Now, you’ve kind of expedited the whole process but basically from what I understand, you asserted the fact that you weren’t just some teen, you were older and mature enough to decide this isn’t what you wanted. That’s a pretty ballsy thing to do because you could potentially be pissing off the very industry that embraced you.
DT: Totally, and It’s fun at first and it’s great to be working with huge producers and huge artists and you’re singing these kind of hit songs but when the lyrics don’t come from you, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s not real. It’s just not authentic. It only goes on for so long; it gets repetitive and you realize that your happiness is way more important than singing a song that’s been fed to you by some guy you’ve never met. It was kind of ballsy to walk away from it all but after about four years of that experience, it just wasn’t for me. Either I was going to live that kind of life and be miserable or take control into my own hands. It was a risk I was willing to take and go back home and start over from nothing.
24: When you’re touring around with Nick Carter, you’re seeing some of the Backstreet Boys hysteria and the frantic nature of fans. Did that have an effect on you?
DT: I'll always be that guy; a performer with a big fan base but I wanted to do it in a way that I could look back and say, 'I started that' and the lyrics are mine and the way I look onstage is what I wanted to wear . I wanted it all to come from me. With my Interscope Records situation, it was all, 'here is your outfit and you’re going to dance this way.' It gets old quick!
24: You’ve certainly had a lot of influential people that you’ve rubbed shoulders with. That must give you a great sense of pride.
DT: Oh yeah. I got to work with producers like Timbaland and will. i am; huge writers in the States. I was like a sponge. It was like going to college for artists because I was pretty much plucked from a small town and moved to the big city of L.A. – that was so beneficial for my growth as an artist and I took whatever I could from those experiences and then used it to my advantage when I decided to leave the major pop world and do my own thing.
24: Are you going to let the career path go where it may or are you on top of it all?
DT: I don’t know if it’s good or bad but I always set goals for myself. I always try to envision something great for myself and the bigger picture. I always think to myself that I’ve made it this far for a reason and I envision myself doing big things. Everything is a stepping stone for me. I’ve been truly blessed to get this far.
24: You’re now Toronto-based and obviously we’re at the point where you can be in Canada and have a big career. You don’t necessarily need to be in L.A. or New York.
DT: In the last couple of years there have been Canadian artists like Drake, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber and MAGIC! They’ve all kind of opened up this new world for us Canadian artists where people are coming to us now; we’re setting the tone for what music is like.