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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Zallo

Dayton James Sets the Bar High with Debut Single ‘Change My Ways’

Today we are excited to share an absolutely beautiful debut single from new artist Dayton James.  Born and raised in the UK, but currently residing in Toronto, Dayton James knew from a young age that music was his passion.  While he was always immersed in music and began singing and writing at a young age, getting into music was never really a career choice that he had considered.  While growing up, singing was never considered ‘cool’, all it took was for an upload of Dayton singing to be uploaded to YouTube by his mother for all of that to change.

After the video made its way around his school, no one had any doubt that Dayton James had an undeniable talent.  From there, Dayton went on to write behind the scenes for other artists, including multi award winning, international artist Shaggy and signing a publishing deal with Black Butter / Kobalt.

Now ready to step into the spotlight, Dayton James has just unleashed his debut single, “Change My Ways”, and it is an absolute jam.  While I often have a hard time latching onto more contemporary R&B stylings, this one quickly grew on me and has since become one of my go to morning mood boosters. The smooth as hell tune not only puts Dayton’s silky, rich, dynamic vocals on full display, but also shows an impressive knack for songwriting and storytelling.  The ever-relatable, easy to follow lyrics make this tune accessible to the masses while his impressive vocals and the slick production get you absolutely hooked. 

About the tune, Dayton James says, “Change My Ways” is a song about every time I’ve felt down, and how my mood/selfish ways can get in the way of my relationships and their growth. I always feel like people deserve better when I’m in that state of mind; the last thing I want to do is drag anyone down there with me to ultimately sink.

Serving as the lead single for his upcoming debut EP, “Nonnative Vol, 1”, Dayton James has set the bar way high with this one.  To get the know the new kid on the block fresh out of the gate, we figured we’d chat a bit so we can share a bit more insight.  See below for a quick interview and make sure you keep an eye out for the EP coming soon!

RDFO: How old were you when you wrote your first song and what was it about?

DJ: I think I was either 13 or 14. My Nan (Grandmother) passed away a day before my 8th birthday. She was my best friend and I never really got over it for years and years, or didn’t know how. Even though I’ve sung my whole life, Around 13/14 was the ages when I was more so experimenting with music. I had an Acer netbook, (for those who don’t know what one of those are, its a TINY windows laptop which has an 8inch screen), downloaded a trial of a program called Acoustica Mixcraft, and had a pair of Turtle Beach X1 (Xbox gaming headset lol). I found this one ballad beat on youtube put that into the program and then taught myself how to record on it. Eventually I wrote a song called No More, which was a direct letter to my Nan. The lyrics were obviously very very bad haha but the chorus went like this, ‘I cannot bare, to see you not there, in front of me. And I can’t take the loneliness no more, no more.’ Basic… haha. It was my first song but it was also my best song and only song, so I was proud of it none the less. Nobody other than my family heard it! And nobody other than my family ever will! 

RDFO: Do you come from a musical family? What is it about music that first drew you in?

DJ: I do and I don’t. In the sense of were my parents musicians? Definitely not. My dad can hold an annoying tune for sure haha but other than that not at all. But in the sense of always having music in my life and in my home? 110%! My mum’s music catalogue when I was growing up was probably 85% reggae and 15% charts (of the time). So my musical knowledge would range from Beres Hammond to Madonna. I would say this is what first reeled me into being able to sing along to songs but more importantly the ability to be able to harmonise, as I would always find myself singing the 3rd of the 5th above/below when a song Is on, not that I knew what 3rds or 5th’s were at the time… I just felt it. I didn’t find my REAL love for music until around 2000/01 when I discovered Craig David. At first it was Rewind with Artful Dodger which gave me a love for the Garage genre as a whole. BUT when this man released 7 days, I can honestly say that was the day I learnt how to SING.. because I would not move past the 3rd line ‘As I WAAAAALKED through the subway’ … for those who know, the word ‘WALKED’ has a certain riff attached to it, and I refused to get to the end of the song until I learnt how to do that riff. Eventually I got it down, but by failing miserably a thousand times before, I learnt how to ‘accidentally’ do every other riff in the book, and eventually after that learn how to really control my voice. So yes, Craig David first drew me in! 

RDFO: What was it like writing behind the scenes for other artists?

DJ: You know what, I can honestly say that it’s bittersweet for me. The reason why is because deep down I never ever wanted to be ‘behind the scenes’, I always knew I wanted to be the one singing. The fact is, I got into songwriting by accident which then turned into strategy. After a short-lived period with a band, I managed to savour some of the contacts I made during that time, including my friend MNEK, a super producer, writer AND artist who at the time was only 16/17. Him and I got in the studio together with another amazing writer called Gift who I also met during the band days and we made a song called Don’t Ring The Alarm (DRTA) (never released or anything but again at the time was the best thing I had ever made). Anyways around the same time an A&R who was at the time at Polydor records found some covers I had put online and asked me to send him some original music. I sent him DRTA and he immediately invited me down to meet with him. I was super excited and thought I was going to be signed and become this huge successful artist. He said I have potential and he wants to keep an eye me, and He wanted to know what the follow up was. What the hell is a follow up???? haha. Whatever it was I didn’t have it. At this point MNEK is crazy crazy busy as he’s blowing up and as you can imagine his schedule is packed. So it was a long while before we got back in the studio to go and make this follow up. But when we did, we made a song called Right Now. The music industry is a very very forgetful place, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ so by the time I was ready to send this song to him, he wasn’t interested anmore, I don’t even think he worked there anymore haha. So as time went on I would meet new people, mainly producers, and play them my songs as you do to try and get to work with them and make new songs, and I noticed a pattern, everybody wanted payment for me to work with them. Where were all the MNEK’s who just liked the vibe and liked working together and seeing what happened?!? I obviously didn’t realise at the time that time is money and people spending their time on something that could potentially go no where is a risk to other things they could be doing for money. And then I met this one manager guy who heard Right Now and said ‘This would be perfect for Conor Maynard’… WHAT??? No, this is perfect for ME… what does that even mean? Obviously I didn’t say that out loud I didn’t really have the balls to back then and I was still extremely green to this music industry so everybody was smarter than me. So my reply was more like, ‘yeah I guess it would be’. Before you know it, he tells me he pitched my song to Conor Maynard ’s team and that we should wait for a response, in the mean time I should write more songs and pitch to more artists. As time went on, I found myself in more rooms with more producers writing for other artists even though they weren’t present in the room, which was the most bizarre feeling trying to imagine what someone else would be thinking or feeling and putting it into words. It just didn’t work, but what did work was the fact I was getting into more rooms. Eventually I would start writing about my own stories but making them more vague so they’re more relatable and then pitch those out. I would get in even more rooms. Eventually these rooms would end up having artists in them which was cool but at the same time as I said before, bitter sweet because these people are singing MY songs, the greatest honour, but I can’t help but wish it was me. To this day this is how I feel about writing for other artists. No matter what anyone tells you, NOBODY has an unlimited supply of ideas, yeah you’ll get periods of times when the ideas just flow but you also get the times when nothing is coming to you. So every idea is precious and its a constant battle to not be selfish with your ideas. 

RDFO: What made you finally take the leap and start releasing music as a solo artist?

DJ: The first real taste and urge I had to become a solo artist was when I had the pleasure of going on tour with UK Duo Blonde. I was there frontman/singer meaning I would be the one that was singing their songs since they are DJ’s. This meant that a lot of the time on tour, people thought that I was blonde, people were cheering for me and asking me to take pictures with them etc etc. And then when we did our headline show in London where A lot of my music peers were in attendance, after the final song there was a point where instead of chanting blonde, the crowd were chanting my name. Tie all this together and you can see why anyone would want more. However at this point im stuck in songwriting mode, its now something Im really good at and something people are seeking me out for. So I went to LA and disappeared for a while as a songwriter which then lead to signing my publishing deal with Black Butter / Kobalt. Even more reason not to bother trying as solo artist… now im pretty much employed to write songs. As I said before in the previous question, im still getting in more and more rooms and where as before people would want payment for working on my artist project, over time I start noticing a new pattern which sounded like, ‘have you ever thought of doing your own music?’.. I would laugh it off with a few no’s but then they would mostly always follow it up with ‘I’d be so down to work on your project’. The thought would always stick with me but then ultimately turn into NAHHHHHH. But then one day in February 2018 whilst in Toronto, I get introduced to a producer called TEE. We have a session and hit it off and immediately book more sessions in and this time with an artist he had been working with. In one of the sessions we are full steam ahead writing a song for her project and then I suggest a lyric to which she responds ‘I wouldn’t usually say that’. Internally my brain went haywire. I wasn’t insulted or anything like that but she was honestly the first artist who REALLY knew who she was. Most of my writing career consisted of pitching songs which is like finding a needle in a haystack or being put in with brand new artists who don’t know who they are or what they want. And so, it becomes my responsibility to find that out and guide them. This was not the case here. Most importantly it had me thinking ‘wow, I want to be the one saying that to someone else’. Eventually she left as she had to finish early and I said to Tee.. ‘bro, I wanna be able to say what she said. I wanna write my own stories and sing them’, to which Tee simply responded ‘Lets do it’. At this time I was in a brand new relationship so it only felt natural to write about that. Atom, a songwriter/artist and long time collaborator of TEE was on his way over too, and so, was the birth of my song Already Won. After that, I knew I wouldn’t ever change my mind again, this was the path I needed to go down. Already won is my upcoming second single. 

RDFO: Who are some of your favorite artists in the UK?

DJ: This is a hard one because I have become disconnected from the UK scene quite a bit since I went to LA and Toronto so Im not too sure the extent of what is about. But I HAVE to shout out my boy Samm Henshaw. I really feel like he’s creating a whole new genre of his own, Gospel/Soul? I don’t know but it’s incredible, mixed with that voice.. its nuts. Other than that, I love the Afrobeats scene that is constantly and consistently growing and becoming worldwide. 

RDFO: How has the move to Toronto helped/hindered your writing?

DJ: There has been absolutely no hindrance at all. Life has a way of leading you to places without telling you why but allowing you to find out. I was definitely meant to be here and with that I have only excelled. Without coming to Toronto, my own music may never have been born. It only felt right to move here where I created it. 

RDFO: What can you tell us about the upcoming EP?

DJ: Whenever I tell people the name of my EP ‘Nonnative’, they either don’t know what it means or ask if it’s Non-Native. So to clarify, I put the words Non-Native together to create my own word, Nonnative. It means that Whenever I am away from my native home, I feel like a native. I feel the most creative when I’m away, far more pressured to succeed when I’m overseas, but most importantly, at home. 

Other than that, the only thing I can tell you about the EP is go and listen to Change My Ways, and if you really feel it, then my EP will blow you away. My second single Already Won comes out September 13th and then after that you only have to wait a short month for my EP, ‘Nonnative, Vol. 1’ to drop October 20th 

RDFO: Who would be a dream collaboration for you?

DJ: I don’t want to be that guy and single out someone who is seeing huge success right now and say thats my dream collaboration, because they would be everybody’s dream collaboration. My dream collaborations are with the people I have already made something special with, it’s my dream to do it again and make something even more incredible. Recently I worked with an Artist called Olive B, who’s slowly blowing up in Toronto, we have a song together produced by my homie Bobby Love which you will eventually hear.. maybe on Nonnative, Vol. 2? Who knows 


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