Since he first made waves as a 19-year-old dropping cuts to blogs from his home just outside Toronto, PARTYNEXTDOOR has ascended to the throne as the new King of R&B in 2018 – just don’t expect him to admit it.
The first OVO Sounds signee is recognised as one of the most humble, vulnerable and honest voices of his time. Everything PND does is driven by intimacy and authenticity. Life experience fuels his work (he was first inspired to write songs after suffering heartbreak) and wants his DNA at every stage of the creative process: writing, producing and performing.
We followed PARTYNEXTDOOR – the face of Timberland’s new Flyroam sneaker – for four nights through Glasgow, London, Manchester and Birmingham for a rare behind-the-scenes look at life on tour for one of the most thoughtful and creative artists on the planet right now.
COMPLEX: What is it about playing in the UK that gets you excited?
PARTYNEXTDOOR: There’s so much music coming out of America that in the UK, I feel like we have an understanding – Canadians and Europeans – that we’re finally hitting our peak, finally creating music that’s understood. I enjoy these European crowds, it’s all love. Way different than American festivals. America is very spoiled and they know that, out here it’s very often a new experience for everyone. I know a lot of you guys are now playing your own music out here and that’s a huge influence, too...listening is just as important to recording.
What part of the touring process do you enjoy the most?
Being surprised, that’s what I enjoy. When I’m out here, I don’t know what it’s gonna be like – I skip rehearsal – and I go out there blind like Bambi. It’s all a surprise and that’s the best part, because it make your instincts stand out. I blank out and that’s the fun part. It’s not about any particular person, just the crowd. When that happens I know it’s been fun.
What moment in your life motivated you to create music?
A broken heart. Kill all the cool shit, it was a broken heart – that makes you do the most. I had no choice – I was a writer, I was a journalist, I needed to tell my story.
Who inspires you?
In the beginning it was definitely Drake, Kanye and Lil Wayne – those were my influences. But having worked with all those three individually, I’m now appreciating my own individuality. We all have a lot in common and getting to know them made me realise that. Once you know what you have in common, it’s time to find out what makes you an individual. Working with those three guys made me find my own individuality.
How do you stay true to yourself?
By keeping my friends very close – I’ve made my friends my manager and my assistants. My girlfriend is around me. That keeps me true.
How do you deal with the obstacles that a high-pressure career in the spotlight can bring?
I enjoy obstacles because it makes you a man and I’ve learned how to talk about it without hiding anything. I feel like my story could hopefully inspire others who’ve faced hard times. Integrity is everything to me. My crew, they preach it back to me – integrity is huge.
What part of the creative process do you enjoy most?
I’m so involved in every step of the process. I’m a recording artist, a performing artist and a producing artist. All those things have everything to do with the outcome of my shows. I get myself studying every part of the game and not everyone has the characteristic to do that. In my mind, you need all three to become an artist.
How much do you draw from personal experience in your music?
Sometimes, I record while I’m dressed in only a vest and boxers because it makes me vulnerable, and I know that’s something people will connect with. All my stories are super real, even if it hurts me, even if it’s vulnerable...even if I have to sing about the woman in my songs while she’s waiting backstage.
So vulnerability is an important thing to you as an artist?
It’s a very big thing. It’s okay to be cool – it’s cute – but vulnerability is what separates a man from a kid. Kids are still trying to find themselves, finding what’s cool...I don’t care about that. I’m all about knowing myself as a man.
What does the word style mean to you?
There’s no deep answer to that. Everyone has their own style and no one style is better than the other. Style always changes and evolves, just like music. The two are very similar.
What do you like to wear on stage?
It’s all about comfort. If you’re not comfortable, I don’t know how you can get your message across or be your best self.
You’ve got a mammoth Timberland collection, what’s that all about?
I started wearing Timberlands on my very first tour, and over time they just became a part of the PARTYNEXTDOOR starter kit. Timberland makes amazing shoes and it helps with me being comfortable on stage.
Giving your success so far, what continues to keep you motivated?
I’m just working towards being the best me and at 24-years-old, I don’t know what the ‘best me’ looks like. I’m still developing...I just want to keep chasing success, whatever that may look like.
How do you want you and your music to be remembered?
As too honest. As someone that’s very vulnerable and open. As someone that wasn’t trying to keep up with the times.
PARTYNEXTDOOR was wearing the Timberland Flyroam on his UK tour. For more information, visit timberland.co.uk.