If there’s one thing Mississauga R&B artist anders is passionate about, it’s being a father. His love for his son, Seven, is one of the many things that are influencing his ever-evolving magnetic R&B sound. He shares: “he’s young, so I kind of feel like a protector. But he’s also like a friend.”
As an Asian singer who is carving out a lane for himself, he wants to not only show his son—and his second child who is on the way—what he’s capable of, but also other minority R&B artists and Toronto musicians. For him, it’s about what is possible: “I love it if I can influence someone—I know it’s cliche—but to chase their dreams and kind of take that chance. I want to do the best I can to show someone else,” he says. In many ways, he’s at the forefront of Canadian R&B singers who are changing the face of the genre and pushing for inclusivity.
Identity aside, making music that speaks for itself is at the core of anders’ sonic blueprint. With a pandemic, fatherhood and leaving his early enigmatic persona behind, the last couple of years have propelled him through a rapid period of change. Time has allowed him to harness what’s important to him as he’s left partying in the past in favour of creating music that’s classic.
“You know, I’m not trying to follow any trends or what’s hot,” he says. “I just like what I like.”
“There’s songs out there that you can listen to now or if it was released five or 10 years ago, that just still feel like today’s music. And that’s kind of the goal.”
Ahead of the release of his new single “Come With Me,” Complex Canada sat down with the PUMA-sponsored artist to see what’s next for him as a musician and a dad. The interview, edited for clarity, below.
Let’s [talk about] “Choosy” for a sec. So I remember “Choosy” was one of your bigger tracks.
It was the first one I put out.
Yeah. And I remember at that time—I remember even reading this as well—like, people [didn’t] really know who you were or what you looked like.
You had this, like, mysterious approach during this time, right? Why did you decide to take that approach and why did you not want to be known?
It’s like I said, as much as I was passionate about music, I’m also a really calculated person. So I knew I wanted to make music. Let’s face the facts. One, I’m Asian—that doesn’t happen very often. I know there’s a lot more now, but at the time it wasn’t… the only Asian artist that I could think of was MC Jin, a freestyle rapper from New York. At the time when I was younger, other than that I couldn’t name a single one. So, I didn’t want that to kind of be a hurdle. So I thought if I just make great music and I put it out and I don’t show anybody who I am, then there’s no prejudice. There’s just, here’s a song, do you like it or not? And that was the reason why.
I didn’t really see my face when I put out the first project even. It wasn’t until it was out that I actually showed my face and, you know, I wasn’t so much trying to like give off this mystery. It was just more so [to] let me put myself in a position where people can love or hate me because they love or hate my music and not kind of who I am or what I look like. And that was the main reason.
Talk to me about Asian representation in music now. How do you feel about it now and do you feel like it’s changed in a better way?
Yes, I think there’s a lot more Asian [representation]. I mean, there’s a whole world of musicians in Asia that are huge in their own regard that we don’t know about or aren’t as popular there as they are here. But in terms of you know, Asian-American representation in music, there’s a lot. I see a lot more artists now, which is good [and] it’s amazing because it would have really helped us to have that and see that when I was starting out. And it’s just inspiring to see someone like… if I could be a 14 [or] 15-year-old younger version of myself and have, you know, a current-day me to kind of look at and say, hey, this guy made music and he took his chance and he went out there and like kind of—although I’m not the biggest artist in the world—managed to accomplish some things. That would push that many more people to actually turn that thought into something real rather than just, you know, a ‘what if.’
So I think there’s a lot more now. I think there’s still a long way to go. And I don’t think there’s an artist that’s an Asian American that’s not a K-Pop band that’s, you know, just like a massive Billboard top ten, No. 1 artist that’s just like world-known. So I think it’s still… there’s still a ways to go.
“I never came into it thinking too much about more so being Asian. I just wanted to be a good artist, a musician.”
It’s interesting because I remember when I read your article on Complex, you talk about, you know, getting into the music game, not really aspiring to be the Asian face of music or anything, but it just so happened that it came with your career. Can you talk to me about that? And now, you know, young Asian kids that may look up to you, because like you said, you didn’t really have someone to look up to in the pop culture music scene. How do you feel about now being the influence for this new generation?
I mean, I love it if I can influence someone—I know it’s cliche—but to chase their dreams and kind of take that chance. I want to do the best I can to show someone else. And I have kids now, so to show my son [that], you know, although we grow up in North America and like the reason why I wasn’t… You know, I’m trying to be an Asian artist and I grew up here. I’m more Canadian. Like, if you dropped me in the middle of Asia, I’d be just as lost as someone who’s not Asian, you know what I mean? It’s not like it’s my skin. It’s how I look. It’s where my mom’s from, my features.
But I’m Canadian, you know what I mean? So that’s why I never came into it thinking too much about more so being Asian. I just wanted to be a good artist, a musician. And then, you know, obviously because there is so little representation, other minorities or Asians just started looking at me in the city and saying, “Hey, what this guy’s doing is dope.” And you get that support.
It’s crazy to think about what you just said when you were coming out, you felt like, I don’t even want people to see my face. I want them to hear my music, because you knew that there were stereotypes that came with being Asian. Can you speak to the fact that some of these young kids now might feel pride to come out as an Asian artist because of you and because of artists like you?
Yeah, like, I don’t want anyone to think that because I was hiding—not hiding but not showing my identity in the beginning. It wasn’t to hide the fact that I was Asian. It was just to put out music and let the music speak for itself. And if anybody didn’t like me, it’s because they didn’t like my music and not any other reason. Like, I’d be lying if I told you as a kid on the Internet [while searching] YouTube or something, I wouldn’t click [on] an Asian guy that’s in the thumbnail. It wouldn’t interest me.
So I was just more so thinking from [myself] and that’s like I said, because the lack of representation and lack of kind of what in my opinion [are] dope people, whether it’s like R&B or hip-hop, that was kind of what I was into the most. So there wasn’t a good example of that, right? So I didn’t want to fall under that. And I wanted to just [have] great audio, great sonics, good songwriting—I wanted that to speak for me.
We’re also talking about PUMA themes, right? So some PUMA-central themes for this are classic and for all time. So [you’re] trying to weave this into your music, and I know for you, it’s also important to make music that’s going to be long-lasting, right? Can you talk to me about this idea of classic and for all time when you create music?
Yeah, I try to just create what feels good. You know, I’m not trying to follow any trends or what’s hot. I just like what I like. So whatever makes me feel good and makes my head bop and or makes me feel something. That’s what I try to communicate in my music. And like you said, being a classic or being for all time, that’s where all those intricate little details [come in] and just really taking the time to formulate music that can be listened to, whether now or [in] a year and not feel like you’re kind of trapped in time, if that makes sense.
You know, we all know timeless music. There’s songs out there that you can listen to now or if it was released five or ten years ago, that just still feel like today’s music. And that’s kind of the goal.
“I don’t really party no more. I don’t stay up really that late just because if I do, I know I’ll have to be up at 7 a.m. to spend time with my son before I get my day started.”
Let’s talk about your newest chapter and obviously, we want to weave music into it. But you’re a father now. How has it been these last couple of years since your son was born? And how do you feel about being a dad?
I mean, the short answer is, it’s amazing. Like, there’s just something about kids that every parent will probably tell you. But it’s just something that you don’t really, truly, truly know until you have them. And they really, really change your life in just every single way possible. And your life doesn’t become just about yourself anymore.
I had my son right at the beginning of the pandemic and literally, I remember, as he was being born… I wasn’t home when he was born. I was in the Bahamas, actually. So he was born in the Bahamas. But I just remember calling family and flying my mom and sister in, and just talking to friends and [hearing] them go, “Oh, you know, there’s something going around here.” Like, it wasn’t even called COVID at the time.
People [were] getting sick [due to] some sort of new virus or something like that. And I remember flying my mom and sister in and they were going to come straight from the airport. I’m like, “Nah, I heard some shit’s going on like back home. Like, you guys go to the house and shower and clean off first. Make sure you get everything off you before you come here, because I don’t want any of that.” And [my son] was premature, so [he was] much more at risk. So, that was a crazy time. But he’s healthy and he’s definitely changed my life. I couldn’t see why I didn’t have kids sooner. Like, it’s amazing.
We had some really great footage of you playing with Seven and obviously your wife as well. But talk to me about how would you describe your relationship with Seven?
I think right now he’s young, so I kind of feel like a protector. But he’s also like a friend. And I spend more time with him than [anyone]. He’s the person I spend the most time in the day with if I’m not alone. So, our relationship is great. He’s obviously only two. So there’s a lot of things that we haven’t done yet in terms of just because he’s not old enough. Like we’re just starting to kind of have conversations and half the things he says don’t really make sense.
But he’s amazing, man. I just try to make sure he’s good and happy and try to teach him in every way I can without being too kind of overbearing on him. It’s a good relationship. I’ll wait till he gets a little older and starts talking shit to me. But he kind of already does. But I know it’ll get worse.
Let’s talk about being a dad and making music now. I mean, being a father, it must impact the way that you approach music now.
Yeah. I mean, but it influences it in a way where I’m a little more mindful. Like I try not to let it be to the point where I can’t be myself, but I’m a little more mindful of just kind of what I’m saying. And you know, where before I had Seven and before I… had my own family, I didn’t really have any limitations in what I wanted to say or just things that would live in the music. So having a child, you know, I’m a little more mindful.
Like, I don’t want to talk about certain things or be disrespectful to my partner, Seven’s mom. And not only that, but being a father changed my lifestyle. Before, with being single and not being a father, my lifestyle was very, very different. So a lot of the change in music or writing has to do with that too, right? Not only am I kind of filtering and censoring certain things more, but just my life is different. And my music is a product of my lifestyle. In the beginning I was partying and I was meeting lots of different people all the time. And now the lifestyle is different.
How do you balance fatherhood and your career now?
So balancing fatherhood and music, my son is still young. So, in the first year, all he did was eat, shit. and sleep. So that wasn’t too hard other than the lack of sleep you got, I’d say. But now he’s a little older. He’s in school or pre-K and [my partner] Georgia doesn’t work so she’s pretty dedicated to focusing on Seven as much as I am. So that helps a lot. And it just becomes cutting certain lifestyle choices out of your life.
Like, I don’t really party no more. I don’t stay up really that late just because if I do, I know I’ll have to be up at 7 a.m. to spend time with my son before I get my day started. And if you get it, you get a lot more mindful of your time because you only have 24 hours and [you’re] juggling it between work and having to spend time with your family. You don’t want to compromise either too much. So balancing that, it just becomes a matter of making sure that when I’m rested and in a good mood and happy and I’m able to do both things at 100 percent.
What do you think about when you think of your kids listening to your music in like 15, 20 years?
That’s hard to say. I mean, I do try to plan that far ahead, but it’s hard to say. Like, I already get some trouble with past music from Georgia just because [of] the things I’m saying in it. So we’ll see how they are. But I think it’ll be cool. I think they’ll probably think I’m super lame or something like that. But I don’t know. I’m excited to see kind of who they are in ten, 15 years and then probably tell him I used to make music or something like that and it’s just like, OK, I’ll be that dad maybe. But I’m excited to find out. I’ll let you know in 15 years.
I want to end with your new music. You have new single coming out, right? Talk to me about that song.
It’s called “Come With Me” [and] it’s with my main collaborator, Luca, who I feel like I create a lot of my music and my best music with. And it’s a kind of song that feels good. I think I’ve matured sonically and with my writing, and he’s also evolved much as a producer. So I think it’s a good sort of next chapter for me.