After releasing one of 2020’s strongest R&B albums, Dvsn are not resting on their laurels. On their third album A Muse In Her Feelings, the group—comprised of vocalist Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85—not only connected with their OVO brethren (Popcaan, PARTYNEXTDOOR) but also broadened their collaborative circle connecting with Future and Buju Banton, among others. The album also showcased conceptual growth, with the album being divided into different sections charting the emotional arc of a relationship. And now, nine months later, the group has added another chapter to the story.
Amusing Her Feelings is a recontextualization and deluxe version of the aforementioned third album featuring those original tracks, with four new songs including recent releases “Blessings” and “Use Somebody,” a cover of the 2008 Kings of Leon hit. With this track record of success, Dvsn has been putting on a clinic in how to make, produce, and release upper echelon R&B music. Not only has it garnered the praise and attention of veteran icons of the R&B genre like Maxwell and Usher, their standing has positioned them as role models for emerging artists who are coming through Toronto’s ridiculously talented R&B scene. Complex Canada spoke to the duo about Amusing Her Feelings and collected their thoughts on the importance and impact of their growing status and why it is so important for them to give back.
What can you tell us about Amusing Our Feelings?
Nineteen85: So it’s an EP that is basically a continuation of this new series that we’ve started. These are songs that I guess you could say helped us get to the overall theme of the album, because some of the songs are songs that were originally going to be on the album. And just through reevaluating the project, [we thought] it’ll help tell the story a little bit better if we can put this out after we’ve put out the first body of work.
Daniel Daley: You’re still getting the original album, but these are an additional four records that were created in the same process as the album that we just kind of held. The album’s set up as different chapters and sections already: ‘In Her Feelings,’ ‘After Hours,’ ‘Get Over It,’ and ‘Falling In Love …Again.’ This is another section, is how we’re framing it. This is like another four-track section, that just kind of focuses on just a different part of the cycle that we know, that people go through. And this cycle, we just kind of felt like, timing-wise, really fits with right now; more so than it would have fit when the album dropped, you know? And that kind of happened without us planning it. Because just the fate of the world, where things are, it’s kind of this project that speaks to where the world is when it comes to relationships. When it comes to, you know, just the way we’re moving as men and women, right now, you know? One of the records being « Use Somebody, » the Kings of Leon cover—it’s like that. Now that song kind of really speaks to everybody right now, because we’re all separated.
« We’re here to step on new territory. We’re not trying to just play in the same box that existed before us. »
I saw some of the YouTube comments on « Blessings. » There’s a lot of people screaming blasphemy.
Daley: You know, the funny thing about that is anybody that says that, I feel like either hasn’t taken the time to really check the lyrics, or is just kind of jumping to their first thought of how it feels. But if you really listen to the song, there’s really nothing blasphemous about it. And when people are being blasphemous, they’re like, denouncing God and going against God. This is not that. [In the song], this is somebody that acknowledges not only is there a God, but I’m a believer in God. And I’m just hit right now with this temptation, you know, with this person that I’m planning to do the right thing with. We make a point [in the lyrics] of saying « when we get married, » not « if we get married, » you know? This is somebody who has a plan to take it all the way to the finish line; they’re just getting caught up in their current feelings. I think that’s a very real sentiment.
I mean, in Dvsn, we’re always talking about things that are a little bit, I don’t know, taboo, or sometimes it’s just things that people don’t normally want to talk about in that way and we just kind of bring it to the forefront. One of our first songs is « Too Deep,” where the choir is singing about not wanting to pull out. So this is kind of pretty on-brand. But this is this is a song where it’s kind of like, for us, we’re like, no matter what you believe in, no matter how you’ve chosen to maneuver, it’s almost impossible to say that you haven’t been hit with the temptation to do things that might not be the thing that you’re supposed to do. And this is just kind of like having a real conversation about it.
It’s not only in the history of what you guys are doing , but in the history of R&B there has always been a tension between the secular and the spiritual.
Daley: Yeah, there’s always been a line there, a line that people have tiptoed across. And, you know, I just think that with this one, it’s just a little bit more in your face. And it is kind of like, it’s just a little uncomfortable to go there. But that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to step on new territory. We’re not trying to just play in the same box that existed before us.
Nineteen85: Those things are like, if you even go back to like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, like all of the greats that inspired the greats, it was always gospel references, references and influences that they were leaning on. So yeah, we’re just keeping the tradition alive.
I don’t know about these new songs, but on A Muse In Her Feelings you definitely had artists who were emerging that were co-writing on certain songs. How have you looked to give opportunities to others, and have a kind of mentorship kind of relationship going on? I’m thinking of people like RAAHiiM and other people who contributed to the album.
Daley: Yeah, 100 per cent. RAAHiiM is, obviously, you know, family first. But that comes from a mentorship standpoint. RAAHiiM and Shantel May, we were all working together before Dvsn even happened, you know, as far as helping each other and coming up to the Remix Project and stuff like that. So for me, it’s like, let’s give the opportunities right back, as we’re still coming up. And you know, he’s an incredible artist and incredible songwriter. Shantel May—incredible songwriter, incredible artist, incredible voice. You know, other producers like Amorphous, who’s a more young DJ and producer that’s been coming up, and he’s kind of just been really breaking through lately. You know, he had the original idea that turned into what you guys now know as “Between Us ».
So we’re not here to go for the like, the big name, « we already made it » people. If you’ve got talent, and you’ve got the drive, we’re going to try to link and we’re going to try to help and we’re going to try to shine a light.
Nineteen85: I don’t even know if we would look at that as mentorship’ more just connecting with like-minded individuals, because we’re just doing what we naturally do, so when we do have these opportunities to mentor or lead by example, we’re kind of jumping at the chance because that’s so natural for us.
Daley: For us, it’s more about putting on because they’re like peers to us; it’s just we might be a little bit further along the race. But you know, that’s what this is all about.
I should ask: Why did you even want to get involved as artist ambassadors with the First Up with RBCxMusic program?
Daley: When we were told about it, it just seemed like one of those things that we wish were popping when we were coming in the game. There’s not enough artists that have, you know, « made it » or artists that have gotten to a certain level that are making a point of connecting with the next ones coming in like that. And, you know, being involved with a financial institution like RBC, it’s like, yo, we need to know about money, how it’s moving, have some financial literacy, some business behind what we’re doing, because I mean, as artists, as creatives, our mind doesn’t always work like that. We’re here to create art, and we kind of hope that the purity behind that translates into business, but it’s not always the way it is. And I think it’s important that we kind of encourage each other, to learn from each other, talk to each other, and create that kind of community. As we’re still growing, we still want to make a point of helping others grow. We don’t want to wait till it’s like, we were at our pinnacle. And that’s where we’re tired. And that’s when we’re going to start. You know, let’s start now, while we’re still coming up.
« Our relationship with  goes back before Dvsn. He did a lot of checking in and encouraging, even though he was on the road with the biggest artist in the world. »
Daniel, you kind of had a similar role at the Remix Project at one point as an instructor a few years back. Is that one of the reasons why you’re involved in the program?
Daley: It’s the same spirit that went into doing what I was doing at Remix that is going into this, which is just, you know, helping the peers along. Because what Remix is all about—you know, we didn’t go in and get people that were 10 years older than us or veterans in the game. This is peer-on-peer, bringing each other up and lifting each other up, as we’re coming up, you know? Someone might just be a couple steps ahead of you and one thing, but the next person beside you might be a couple steps ahead and a different thing, and, you know, we can all pull each other up.
What was the learning goal? Like, « This is where I want you guys to be at the end of this. »
Daley: It was kind of like asking them, « What do you want to do? Do you want to have a mixtape, you want to have an album, you want to do a demo, you want to launch a record label? » Whatever it is, you know, I stuck to the music side of things. I was a little bit ahead as far as some knowledge and some things, so I would try and give them what I knew. But to be honest with you, at Remix, I feel like I ended up leaving there with a lot more knowledge, even though it was supposed to the other way around. I mean, I did what I could, I did as much as I could for everybody that was there. But I learned so much off of them, I got so much energy off of them, you know? We just kind of traded off secrets and vibes and insight and intuition. And I was kind of just sitting there, soaking it all up and, and still being able to just give as much feedback as I could.
Nineteen, do you have any particular moments of things that stand out in terms of working collaboratively with someone? Like partnering with someone who maybe hadn’t had that opportunity before?
Nineteen85: Yeah, I guess a lot of young, upcoming producers have had great experiences with just collaborating with them, or co-writing or whatever it may be. One that really sticks out is one of the producers that I work with very regularly now, who is Jordon Manswell from Toronto. So we were able to work on a Mariah Carey record [called « GTFO »] for him. And the other day, I went to his studio, and he has a plaque for that record on his wall. I’d never even seen the plaque; it was just kind of cool to know that I was somehow influential in his journey to work with one of the best singers of all time. And there’s so many moments like that. I’ve had records with Ed Sheeran and Justin Timberlake, and those are with a lot of my guys that are, you know, just up-and-coming heavy hitters; just guys who would have been able to get the attention of somebody like me, and it actually works out for them. And I can put them in positions where they can make some plays that they wouldn’t have necessarily been able to make on their own or even to do some things that we didn’t get the chance to do when we were in their position. Because you definitely feel like you’re alone on an island, whether you’re a producer or a songwriter, just any type of artist, that hasn’t « made it, » as Daniel was saying before. So being able to help with that journey at all is pretty fulfilling.
Is there anyone in particular in your lives, in your careers, that have opened doors for you or have helped you?
Nineteen85: We’ll say 40, for sure. He’s probably the one who set the blueprint for us as far as collaboration and pulling people into bigger projects, when I’m sure to the rest of the world, it didn’t make the most sense. You know, we were definitely in rooms and connecting with situations that were probably ahead of what we’d accomplished up to those points, for sure.
And you, Daniel. Were there any singers who helped out?
Daley: I can’t lie. I can’t lie. I would still say 40. He did a lot of because, you know, our relationship with him goes back before Dvsn. He did a lot checking in and encouraging, even though he was on the road with the biggest artist in the world. He was checking in on his young Toronto dudes a lot with us. And those little things that he would do meant the world because he’s one of the few people that could actually, like, school us on some R&B stuff. I mean, me and Paul, we know a lot. We’re big music heads. There’s not very many people that are gonna sit down and like, school us like that. But 40, he’s just got a wealth of knowledge. So he did a lot. In that case, I never really had any singers really reach back in the early stages. But what I will say, actually—one of the singers since we came out that has kind of been like that for us is Maxwell. Maxwell definitely checks in and has always been encouraging us at like our album release events and a lot of stuff that people wouldn’t know of, that didn’t really get any publicity, but he’s just as a fan. And as a vet in the game, he’s done a lot of reaching out and reaching back.
Nineteen85: We should also mention Usher. Usher has also been super supportive and vocal for us.
Do you think art is even more important now in this time of pandemic and why?
Nineteen85: Art feels like one of the few places where people can have an outlet—or an escape, I guess you can say—because for a lot of people, especially right now, mental health is such a big thing. A lot of people have no other resources as far as just thier safety zone or what they can turn to when they’re, you know, broke or depressed or sad, or whatever it is. And art is probably one of the most consistent ways that people can forget those issues with the world falling apart right now.
Daley: He said exactly what I was thinking. We all need that distraction. We all need something to keep us sane. We need things to speak for us when we can’t, we need things to help us. You know, release energies, attentions, anxieties, and art and music and film are really some of the only things that I think are able to do that, regardless of the state of the world right now. Even though it’s being it’s being a little bit devalued in the sense that it is so readily accessible. So much of it is coming out so often that I’m sure things don’t get the time and attention that they deserve. I feel like they should definitely find a way of, you know, making art worth more and feel worth more to people right now, because it’s doing a lot for just the human species, I think right now.
In your opinion, what is the most overlooked aspect of being an artist? Talent is an obvious ingredient, but what is the most underrated trait or quality?
Daley: The main thing I will try to tell someone to have is: « What is it that you’re doing that is making it so that people have to listen to it from you? » There’s a million people that can sing, a million people that can rap. A million people that can produce, whatever, you know. « What is it about you that is filling a void? » Because right now, they’re throwing a new album, a new project, new artists at us, like, every Friday. It’s so hard to keep up with what’s going on. People’s attention spans are low. People have other things to think about; there’s only a certain amount of time that’s given to music versus movies or TV. It’s a tough time. It’s easier to get out, but it’s harder to get noticed and [get] people to really, you know, stick to you. So I would always just challenge somebody to find out what was the void they are filling.
Nineteen85: I was gonna say work ethic. Yeah, because there’s a lot of talented people, but there’s not a lot of very hard-working people. And talent only goes so far, especially now when everything is so accessible, that almost anybody can figure out a way to upload a song. So whether the song is great or not, chances are there’s going to be somebody else that’s uploading two songs, or three songs, or seven songs. So especially the way things are going, I feel like your work ethic is really going to determine how consistently you’ll be able to be or how much you’ll be able to change with the times.