Exclusive: Pieter Oliver & Chef Tone Talk Forwarding Toronto’s Musical Style

Toronto’s artistic backbone is finally being recognized by the rest of the world; in that exposure, some sprouts grow more vigorously than others.

Pieter Oliver was so to the point that he caught the attention of renowned record producer Chef Tone. After releasing “Nobody” the duo have dug in at the studio, working on creating a record to capture the essence of Pieter and the Toronto sound he so boldly brings to the table. I got the chance to sit down and speak to him and Chef Tone. I picked their brains about honing in on what defines Toronto’s music and what they’re doing to make Pieter his own artist in that field.

They haven’t locked in any dates yet for the release, and are playing things by ear right now, but it seems they’re confident in their craft. Not without good reason either, as “Nobody” has been received extremely well by the internet and broke on New York’s Hot 97….Impressive!  Their next steps are well planned as they work to build themselves into a force to be reckoned with in the music business.

Check out the single here on SoundCloud, and read through our conversation below.

I listened through “Nobody,” now is that a single or just a loose track?

Pieter: It’s a single.

So there’s an album in the works?

P: Absolutely.

Produced entirely by Chef Tone

P: Yeah.

Okay, so what’s the sound you’re going for on that album? Is it similar to the single?

P: That single is a good representation of what we do. We like to call it R&B and Pop music, so we’re definitely sticking to the roots of the music, but we’re also exploring it’s pop appeal. So of course the single’s a good example but we’re going to continue to make music no matter how it ends up sounding.

So what I’ve found really cool with artists is that usually the music you listen to growing up, whether it’s something your parents would put on, it has a big influence on your sound as an adult. What were those early influences for you?

P: You know the crazy thing is, my dad used to ask us (me and my brothers) what Disney movies we loved the most to see what music we liked. My brothers liked Jungle Book and I liked the movie Hercules. If you recall the movie from the 90s it had gospel music. So when my dad found that out, he would put me on to a lot of old Motown and Michael Jackson. So that’s what I listened to growing up and I think it made a good foundation for the music I listen to right now.

From that, do you think there’s a specific artist you looked to for inspiration?

P: Absolutely. I think Michael Jackson has always been the biggest influence for me musically.

Word. Question for you Chef, when you’re working with an artist like Peter, how do you split the work when it comes to crafting the right sound? Is it 50/50 or?

Chef: I think it’s a little different because I see myself almost like Alfred (from Batman) where I’m customizing a suit, or customizing the weapons for an artist to go out and fight the war that is the music business.

Do you think there’s something different in working with Pieter? Compared to the artists you’ve worked with in the past?

C: Well one of the reasons I started to put so much time into working with him was that he had a lot of the characteristics of another artist I worked with (Justin Bieber). In terms of his drive and understanding of music and what this is; I feel like Pieter has the right mix of magic to realize that level of success.

Okay, and this is sort of for both of ya’ll but do you feel a benefit from having a close knit relationship between artist and producer?

C: What I think it is, is if you picture Drake and his relationship with 40, keeping a very closeknit production team is what makes the sound so OVO. I think when you have one particular producer producing your sound, I’m a heavy believer that it brings a consistency to the sound of the project.

I agree on that it’s important as an artist to have the consistency in my sound as well. I’ve learned so much from Chef. We’ve had such good chemistry together that it’s really created a great atmosphere overall.

It also seems, and I’d like to hear your thought on this, as an artist working so closely with someone doing production, some of those skills rub off.

P: I mean absolutely, Chef’s more than a producer he wears many hats. But I’ve learned so much about production from him. Chef has really helped craft me into a new artist.

What’s your topic matter looking like for this record? Do you think it’s specific to this record or something you want to constantly work in? Is it more of just letting your emotions out on a record. 

P: Absolutely, I don’t want to try and contain my emotions which is why I let them out wherever I go, when the music hits me, I just kind of react to it. This album is really just a series of conversations of experiences and lessons I’ve learned whether it was through relationships, friendships, and well it sounds simple but you know a lot of times some of the most simple conversations can be the most interesting.

And are you working with any features for this record?

P: Yes! We’re definitely working on it. We’re taking our time to make the right decision.

A question for Chef, do you think working with numerous artists affects and influences your personal sound of production?

C: Yes, absolutely because I think it has to be tweaked to their particular persona. A lot depends on what an artist brings to the table. I feel like I design suits and I try to make it specific to them.

Do you think that fabric ever changes? 

C: Yeah, I think sometimes even the fabric has to change, it’s all about the cuts being specific to the artist and asking if it looks best on them.

Talking about Toronto, over the past few years it has become an interesting artistic powerhouse, do you have any ideas as to how that’s started?

P: We drink a different type of water haha, nah but really I’m not entirely sure. For the past few years as Drake and the Weeknd have blown up, but there’s something happening in the city you can feel it on every street. It’s electric. It’s in the underground and it’s bringing out all these producers. I think kids from Canada have realized you can just move to LA and create something. They say Toronto has a sound, but I think we’re figuring out what true motivation and drive can turn into.

Do you think that artistic essence has always been something Toronto has possessed and it’s now getting attention, or is it closer to a renaissance?

P: I think we’ve always had it but we’re passive people, so once we saw it work for Drake we realized we could try it and succeed. I think this has been something that has always been in Toronto. Canadians are such great artists and now they’re finally getting the attention they deserve.

Do you think you could put into words what that Toronto style of music is?

P: I find that the Toronto sound is dominant in its production. It’s a lot of trap based R&B, with atmospheric roots. What I mean by that is tons of open chords and lots of reverb and stuff like that. I think we have certain hi-hats certain bass melts, but the Toronto sound is definitely a slow groove Trap R&B sound that also has some kind of pop appeal.

Do you think you could pinpoint the roots of that R&B and Pop mixture in Toronto?

P: I’m not sure I could nail it on the head, but it comes from so many different places. Toronto has so many different types of people, so many different types of music that it could be a blend of Hip Hop, electronic, there’s so much diversity in the city that it brings in influences from everyone.

What’s your writing process like?

P: I’m what you would call a melody writer. Music, since I was a kid, was a feeling. It wasn’t something I was taught from a book, it was from my heart. So whether I’m playing guitar or listening to a beat on the speakers I just let my mind and m heart push out a melody, and I record it right away. Then I’ll step away and find what words fit the mood.

To you Chef, do you have a relationship with Pieter as he’s writing? I think the way Kanye would give Pusha half of a beat, then add onto it once Pusha recorded his verses. Do you have any involvement in that respect?

C: We have very similar processes, and it’s like passing the ball. I might start a track, he might finish it. Or he might start with a word and I’ll give him a beat to it. It’s songwriting ping pong. I toss him the ball and he tosses it back.

Is the end product ever a surprise?

C: Yeah absolutely, I’m super impressed with this guy so that’s what made it easy for me to slow down writing for other people. His ability to understand the process as a beginner, for me to compare him to some of the higher ups already speaks a lot about his talent and where I think he can go. If I’m going from working with some of the big name artists to devoting my time to Pieter, it obviously speaks to his impressive talent and ability to connect and impress.

What do you think was in your initial impression of Pieter that made you want to work with him so much?

C: I think more so than anything–interacting with him. The music is always the initial thing but it’s the talk after, seeing his understanding and the drive he has, I think those are more impressive to me than the music. The business is filled with a lot of talented people. 90% of these artists on labels are talented people, so then you have to look and see what’s going to push and separate him. For me, I think his articulation and ability to grasp concepts makes the job easy as if I was working with a 10 or 15 year veteran.

 

How did you guys first connect by the way?

P: I can tell this story. I was one of those crazy kids. 7 to 8 months ago I decided I was going to leave everything and drive 4086 kilometers, yes kilometers, to LA. I really wanted to make something for myself and the only place I could think of for that was Los Angeles. So I drove here, and when I got here I ran out of money in like four days. So I made this resume with an idea of what I sounded like, and I pushed it over the internet and eventually somebody called. One thing lead to another and in the beginning of October I ended up in a restaurant with him, and I didn’t even know it was Chef Tone. I was just told it was a label executive. As soon as I saw his face I recognized him, I knew him before hand from being such a great fan of music and working with so many great talents. We got talking, and that conversation just brought us to where we are now. We kind of met by chance.

Well to finish, is there anything both of you want to say when they encounter Pieter and Chef Tone as an artistic duo?

P: Watch out.

C: Haha Yeah I think I’ll go with that too.

Look out for more music coming from the duo and follow Pieter on his Facebook page here.

 

art by your homie, Arthur Banach

check out more on my insta @wildhxir

 

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