After a two-year hiatus, Ghanaian-Canadian songwriter and performer Kae Sun has returned to deliver a fresh batch of perspectives and sounds in the form of his latest release, the highly- venerated Canary EP. The project displays Kae Sun’s remarkable, but consistently well-refined range of musical abilities as a vocalist, lyricist. The skills Kae Sun boldly displays on Canary are the result of weeks spent honing his craft and recording tracks in some of North America’s most inspiring cities, including Montreal, Toronto and New York.
Those who have had the chance to hear the EP will already be familiar with the impressive diversity of the project. The title track, Canary, is a slow but undeniably powerful ballad, while the up-tempo synergy struck between Kae Sun and Montreal-based artist Ariane Moffat makes Fix Up a joy to listen to.
TAP Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Kae Sun about Canary, the imminent release of his next full-length album, and his process as a songwriter.
TAP: What have you been up to over the last two years?
Kae Sun: I have been working on a longer album. The two-year break were a time when I was figuring out the situation around the album, including how it is going to be released, who was going to release etc. since I also had a change in management. At the same time, I also moved from Toronto to Montreal and so there were a lot of changes during this period.
TAP: How do you like Montreal thus far?
Kae Sun: I love it, Montreal is a very interesting city. I feel very comfortable here. Much more than I did in Toronto because I feel like there is a space for artists here that is hard to replicate in other cities.
TAP: What would you say is the difference between Montreal and Toronto in terms of the music industry?
Kae Sun: I can’t speak about the music industry specifically because I think that’s what I avoided the most in Toronto. The competitive nature in the music industry. I think what I’ve found in Montreal is a sense of community, of people exploring their work and not necessarily being competitive but rather, trying to be supportive. In this city, you’re able to work and focus on your craft. The fact that living costs are not as high as it is in Toronto helps as well. Furthermore, there is a bit of a relaxed attitude towards art, a little bit more than it is in Toronto. I prefer Montreal’s more laid back approach, it suits me well.
TAP: How did you pick which songs that would make this EP?
Kae Sun: As far as the songs that would make the EP, the three songs reflect what is coming on the album. I think these three songs tell a similar story and show the sound that one should expect on the album.
TAP: Of the three songs, which one speaks to you the most?
Kae Sun: They all do, at certain periods. I love them all but Canary is more reflective of the kind of song writing that I am trying to explore. That’s why it ended up being the title and the main single.
TAP: What is your creative process when it comes to song writing, recording etc.?
Kae Sun: For this set of songs, I tell stories that are sort of distilled through personal experience. So the experiences inform the content and the mood of the music but it’s not all necessarily autobiographical. It’s just glimpses and homage to my life.
TAP: Are there any artists that you listen to that have helped with your creative process?
Kae Sun: Oh Definitely! I listen to a ton of music, both for my own enjoyment and to explore my own craft. Am drawn especially to artists who write music, who are singer songwriters. So, anyone from the classics like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Marley, and other contemporary artists who do that as well.
TAP: Did you learn something new about yourself or the music you want to make while creating Canary?
Kae Sun: I am learning all the time, especially in terms of song writing and approach. I have learned that it takes me a while to say exactly what I want to say in my music. For my process, I have learnt that it is important not to rush things as certain things may not be on time.
TAP: One of the artists that you’ve collaborated with in Montreal is Ariane Moffat. What was your experience working with her?
Kae Sun: It was an incredible experience and she is very generous with her music, time and expertise. Ariane is an incredibly talented musician! I can’t say this enough! I first came across her music years ago, when I was doing a show in Montreal and a friend of mine later invited me to a show of hers, so that’s how I discovered her music and I followed her for quite a bit. When I moved to Montreal, I had a discussion with my management as to who to collaborate with and I suggested to try and reach out to her and see if she would be interested. And so we did and she loved the music and she was interested. It was a very natural and beautiful experience. She emphasized connecting artist to artist and not to make things so much about business and all that. So, it was a great experience. I learnt a lot in that process.
TAP: Talking about learning, what would you say are the top three things you’ve learnt from this experience?
Kae Sun: Well I have learnt that I am not the only perfectionist and that genuine connections are very important where artist collaboration is concerned. It is really important to work with people that you connect too as artist because its reflected in the work. The final thing would be that it is important to have fun! If it’s not fun, it’s a waste of time.
TAP: Is there anything from Ghana or from your cultural background that has had an influence on your music?
Kae Sun: Oh, absolutely. Ghana’s high life music has a lot of guitar, and I grew up on the high life music listening to artist like Pat Thomas and Daddy Lumba. I also grew up on a bit of the Afrobeat as well but we had different types of dance from what Fela was doing in Nigeria. There is a band called Sidi Sa from the 70s, they weren’t active when I was growing up but their music was played in our household, they were quite popular with my parents and grandparents and they have had an influence on me.
TAP: What’s next for Kae Sun? Full album and touring?
Kae Sun: The album! The album is the big thing that I am working on right now and I am really excited about it! I have been working on some of these songs for a while and I am excited to release them. There is also the performances that come with it. Starting in the summer I will have a few dates around Montreal and Toronto.
TAP: Do you have a specific date for when you will be releasing the album?
Kae Sun: I don’t have a specific date yet but it should be around fall. I will play a few shows in the summer and there will be a few singles released leading up to the album release. I am truly excited for people to hear the Ep and the album.
By Sarah Kalisa for TAP Music