Photo: Laura Lynn Petrick
Toronto has seen a multitude of rising R&B artists in 2017. Wouldn’t it be incredible for all of them to collaborate on one epic album? Ben Stevenson provides us with a taste of how amazing that would be with his newest album, Cara Cara. The album is a product of collaborations with the likes of Daniel Caesar, BADBADNOTGOOD’s Matty Tavares, Project Pablo, and many more heroes—both large and small—of the Toronto music scene. While many of these artists have the commonality in R&B, the soul-influenced Cara Cara has more a folk, acoustic twist to it. Nevertheless, each of his collaborators have managed to inject their own flavors into the record while staying in line with the overarching sound.
The mellow track “Yellow Bird,” which Stevenson previously released as a single, has been paving the way for the album. Stevenson created an accompanying music video for the track, premiering exclusively here at Ones to Watch. The music video showcases a variety of scenes, from leaves to snakes, traffic to sunsets, Stevenson and his friends. Taped on film, the graininess and the collage-esque cuts evoke a vintage feel, providing a slice of Stevenson’s memories packaged in nostalgia. The memories are strewn together to create a narrative of Stevenson’s journey, and the personal flashbacks fit incredibly well with the soothing song. Stevenson revealed about the music video,
“This video is a collection of images and scenes from travels, life, friends, etc. that loosely tells the story of the last couple years, basically the time during which the album was made. It’s a collage meant to evoke feelings of freedom, movement and peace, the thought behind the song as well. The 8mm film lends an instant feeling of nostalgia to it, and the lack of chronology feels like a wash of memories. From the great wall of China to the Mojave Desert to the Canadian prairies, it’s basically a love letter to the world and an expression of gratitude for the experiences I’ve had and the opportunities to see the world through music. Hope you enjoy!”
With roots as a punk singer, Stevenson released his first record at just 15 years old. But after traveling around Canada through his early twenties, he began to develop a different sound after moving to Toronto, releasing a debut EP in 2014. Following the release of this EP, Dirty Laundry, Stevenson took a break from making music, allowing himself some space to reflect on life experiences and his creative life. The time he took to re-evaluate and better his craft is evident on Cara Cara.
The varying sounds and feelings on the album are not only a result of the influences of his collaborators, but also of the distance—both physical and emotional—he traveled towards this album over the course of his career. The album is thus a total product of his musical journey. Stevenson stated,
“There’s a blend of ideas that I’ve picked up in different contexts in the way this record was made, taking the lessons from the people I’ve worked with and applying them to making a record in the way I initially learned how to do it. That’s kind of what I mean about finding my way. I had spent a long time making these decisions to be myopic, to limit my own creativity. And so with this I was trying to find my way out of that and to go to all the places I’d like to go with my material. I don’t know if I’ve done that with this record if I’m being honest, or if it’s even possible to get there, but I like to remind myself that it’s a path, and there is no destination.”
Check out the music video for “Yellow Bird” above and stream the rest of Cara Cara below: