Daniel Wesley amps up the rock

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      When Daniel Wesley rolls up at Commercial and Broadway on his new mint-green bike, beads of sweat are forming on his forehead, so it’s evident that he’s power-pedalled from his home at Fraser and 17th and may be in serious need of a chilled beverage. The last couple of times we’ve chatted—in conjunction with the releases of his Sing & Dance album in 2007 and its self-titled followup two years later—it was brewskis at Moxie’s (now Rockford), just down the block from the Straight office in Kits. I’m wondering if he wants to continue that barley-soaked tradition, but he suggests a specialty coffee this time around. Ten a.m. will do that to you sometimes.

      After Wesley locks his stylin’ wheels in front of the Skytrain station, we stroll a few blocks down the Drive and wind up at Café Calabria, which he claims serves the best joe in Van. He arms himself with an Americano and I score a latte—with a fist-size macaroon on the side. It might not be the most nutritious breakfast in town, but it’s surely the tastiest.

      We take our caffeinated booty out to a sidewalk table for the interview, because seeking out sunshine just seems like the thing to do in the company of an artist whose good-time music was made for soaking up rays. The 29-year-old tunesmith is best known for breezy, reggae-pop ditties like “Ooo Ohh”, which became CFOX’s most requested song of 2007. On his upcoming album, Easy Livin’—not to be confused with the rollicking Uriah Heep hit of 1972—one of the tracks that best exemplifies that easygoing vibe is “Pirate Man”, which was inspired by a trip he made to sun-drenched Costa Rica three years ago.

      “We had to take this little power boat across the channel to another channel,” he recalls, “and it was amazing. It was me and two of my buddies drinkin’ beer, and one local guy. The driver was really funny and funny-looking, and I was looking at this guy and my surroundings and it just kinda felt like we were on this pirate ship with this really funny guy driving the boat. I just came up with this melody in my head and then I started singing: ”˜Me and the pirate man, we’re gonna sail away in the afternoon.’ ”

      Despite its tropical origins, “Pirate Man” doesn’t boast as much of a reggae flavour as some of Wesley’s previous material. He’s been toning down the Jamaican angle of late and branching out in other musical directions, as can be heard on Easy Livin’s lead-off track and first single, “Head Outta Water”. It’s a catchy, straightforward rock tune that might be the most commercial-sounding thing he’s ever recorded. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      “Whenever I write a song, I never think about that [the commercial aspects], but when you’re in the studio, figuring it out, you’re trying to make it the best you can, right? I was working with Greig Nori [Sum 41, Hedley] at the time, and Greig Nori is Mr. Commercial—he’s got a knack for how to make a song sound better. And then Dave ”˜Rave’ Ogilvie was mixing it, so he had a huge hand in it too. I knew that was the direction that I wanted to go in, to have more songs like that, that are a bit more upbeat or rocking. Some people might see it as a departure, but, I mean, it is what it is. It’s just a big rock song, so why not make it sound like a big rock song?”

      Something else that’s a switch for Wesley on the new disc is the complete absence of any songs referencing booze and reefer, like “Ooo Ohh”—with its line “gonna catch a wave and smoke a little ganja”—and the more recent “Drunk + Stoned”.

      “I actually got tired of that whole thing,” he relates. “I don’t even really smoke pot that much anymore. You know, earlier in the days it was a fun thing and it just kinda popped up in the way I write songs. I didn’t make a conscious choice on this CD to steer away from that, but I don’t want it to be like, when you hear the name Daniel Wesley, the next thing you think of is beer and pot. I feel like I have a lot more to offer than that.”

      Daniel Wesley performs Friday (July 8) at Stanley Park’s Brockton Point, as part of Summer Live.

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