Retro pop crooner David Myles has been enjoying an especially high profile recently, thanks to an unlikely source. Earlier this year the Halifax musician collaborated with East Coast rapper Classified on the single “Inner Ninja”, which became the best-selling rap single in Canadian history. The song also earned the pair a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year.
It’s been an honour says the singer, but it’s still an anomaly. Myles is better known for jazzy pop songs that drip with vocal harmonies and plenty of oohs and aahs. His latest album, In The Nighttime, contains plenty of nods to his hip-hop moonlighting, but Myles acknowledges that he’s a guy who learned music by playing in the school band rather than by making beats.
“It’s something I never predicted that would happen,” he says, clearly still overwhelmed by his Juno win. “I’m into so many different kinds of music, but this was really unexpected. Working with Classified has been really influential on my work. The single was really big and it had a really positive effect in getting more people interested in what I do.
“It’s incredibly rewarding for me to play in that world — it’s been a really great side road in my life. I never really knew much about that form of production, because I come from a live music perspective.”
In The Nighttimefalls more into the realm of R&B than rap. Influenced by vocalists like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, Myles takes smooth, well-heeled folk-guitar elements and puts a classy ‘50s spin on them. Imagine a jazz-infused martini bar dance party and you’d be close.
“A lot of the record was done live off the floor,” he says. “I wanted to have an experience where I was playing with some of the best session musicians I know, so I put together a dream band and we just got everyone into the same room and played for a few days. And what I find with these musicians is that they’ve been playing for thirty or forty years and they don’t think about influences. It’s all very subtle in the way that they play.”
There are plenty of contemporary flourishes on the album as well. The In The Nighttime package contains a second disc that features more collaborations with Classified, and helps push Myles’ increasingly dichotomous sound.
“I didn’t want to make a vintage record,” he says. “I think the songwriting influences were really direct, and I didn’t want to come out too dominant in the production. I set out to make a double record because I wanted to capture everything I’ve been doing with my life. I didn’t want to think about moving my career in one direction or the other — instead, it was more of a reflection on the last year and a half, and now I can feel like I can go in either direction. And I’ll probably find a new direction after that. I’m really into country music right now, so who knows?”
Myles says that fans can expect more hip-hop in the near future.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to make a new record with Classified as well. I think we’ll always work together.”