You might not recognize the name River Tiber, but after the year he’s had, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the Toronto artist’s distinct voice and instrumentals somewhere. Although the 25-year-old has recently added Drake, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Ghostface Killah to his resume of collaborators, he wants it to be known that he’s simultaneously paving his own path as both a solo artist and producer.
Today, Tiber (a.k.a. Tommy Paxton-Beesley) premieres “Waves” from his forthcoming solo EP, When the Time Is Right, which drops Sept. 16. Co-produced by Kwikfiks, “Waves” is a sultry alt-R&B ballad that highlights the golden staples of Tiber's work: deep, soul-infused beats and a capable falsetto that falls somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Justin Timberlake. The follow-up to his 2013 debut EP, The Star Falls, Tiber’s sophomore effort is just a taste before his nearly completed debut full-length drops within the year.
With around 10 projects in the works right now, Tiber found the time to chat with Complex Music about his wild past year, the rise of the Six, and juggling life as a producer and artist.
After you graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2011, you started rolling with Justin Nozuka, BADBADNOTGOOD, and producer Frank Dukes, who works with Drake. Then your vocals ended up on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
Dukes and I hit it off when we met, and we started booking sessions to put together samples and just vibe in the studio. I was sending him all of the solo stuff I was working on, so I sent him my (then) unreleased song “No Talk,” which he ended up sampling on “No Tellin’.”
How did you find out about it?
I had heard things here and there, but I didn’t even know that it was real until I downloaded the mixtape. If I’m being honest, I only listened to “No Tellin’” for, like, two weeks straight. [Laughs.] It is crazy, but I’ve definitely tried not to, you know, use it. That’s Drake’s record. I just got sampled on it. I respect the fuck out of those guys and think that what they’ve done for this city is insane. They probably don’t even realize what that little part has even done for me. OVO is just lifting everybody up, and they don’t even realize the half of it.
Toronto’s hip-hop scene is more on the radar than ever. Do you think you’ll stay here?
For a producer, the idea of having to move anywhere is kind of strange. My line of work is very solitary—I have my own space, I spend most of my time in my studio, working by myself or with whoever I’m collaborating with at that time. And right now, Toronto is the place to be.
You’re juggling a lot of work as a rising producer, while also releasing your own solo music. How do you balance both roles?
The artist and producer roles go hand in hand for me. I love facilitating other people’s visions and supporting their sound with mine. But, my solo career is the real passion project right now. This past year’s collaborations have furthered my name as a producer, but hopefully the EP will grow my name as an artist.
Tell me about the new EP, When The Time Is Right.
The EP is a clear expression of my own vision right now. You can’t place it into one genre—it’s really eclectic. I made what I would want to hear, instrumentally and vocally. I guess I’m trying to make my own favorite music. Trying to be my own favorite artist.
You play cello, trombone, drums, guitar, and piano, but on the new EP, it’s your voice that’s at the forefront and stronger than ever. How have you been developing that?
Before I was making music, I was developing my voice. My earliest memories are watching Michael Jackson at the Super Bowl and then singing the Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden” in choir. Then it was trying to emulate Jeff Buckley and a bunch of other records alone in my car. I had to really find my own voice before I could confidently collaborate with others and play live. So, my voice today has sort of been a long time in the making.
Who are your influences now? What are you listening to?
I’m going back and educating myself on the hip-hop albums that had the biggest impact. I’ve always listened to a lot of hip-hop, but now I don’t want to shuffle through and listen sloppily. I’m listening carefully.