A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with one of Toronto’s most under the radar artists, Denosh Bennett. Singing backup vocals for a packed house at sold out Demi Lovato’s NeonLights tour, the singer was in a cheerful mood warming up for the big night. I got a chance to sit down with Denosh to discuss her career and what she has in the works for 2014.
SD: I know you got started on Making The Band 3, but I heard you actually started singing in church. Could you tell us a bit about how you developed your passion for music?
Denosh Bennett: I started in church choirs. I wasn’t a lead singer out in front doing solos like some of these kids out there, but I think that’s how I developed my ear and learned how to blend. From an early age, I always wanted to be a singer, dancer or something in the arts and I don’t know – through some way God led me here. I never trained until I was 13, I went to a Performing Arts High School but even when I went to New York and started getting paid (as a dancer) I was always singing. When I moved to New York it was put on hold, but that was a dream of mine – to dance in New York – and work the music videos. The vision and passion was always there, I was just relentless and even when my mom wouldn’t pay for lessons, I’d watch TV/VHS. I always had this appetite but at some point I needed a go that this was happening. So I jumped on the ground and went to NYC and I’ve been fighting for it even since.
SD: Was there one moment when you realized you could really do this for the rest of your life?
Denosh Bennett: When I booked my first job, it was dancing on tour with Mariah Carey. Just going through that process of being completely unknown and it was a massive tryout. I was in a giant room with a million girls there, I thought Mariah would typecast and just want a certain type, such as white or fair skin girls that look like her. So to go through that whole process and I guess whatever I had was what they wanted and I was chosen to be on her tour for the Butterfly album. Then I realized I can do this on that scale and I went through a bunch of different changes. About 6 years ago, I made another decision – if I’m going to do this for the rest of my life I’m going to have to change my approach.
SD: Your first EP had a very soulful, classic R&B sound reminiscent of the 90s. How would you describe your signature sound?
Denosh Bennett: Definitely soulful growing up in Toronto, I have so many influences, it’s just so diverse. Growing up in my home it was gospel, R&B & reggae – those are my roots. I grew up with Aaliyah, Monica before the Beyonces & Rihannas. That’s where I wanted to be but dance was a big part of what I do. When you decide this is what you want to do for the rest of your life, you gotta love every part about it and what’s close to my heart is the same thing I grew up on (reggae & R&B,) so I wanna get a bit closer to my roots.
SD: Makes sense. So you dance, you sing, how do you make time for everything? How do you balance it all?
Denosh Bennett: Literally this is my life, I don’t do anything else. I don’t have hobbies – I don’t ski, I don’t knit, I do read but usually I’m reading lyrics. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like a chore. Everyday feels like a grind but it doesn’t feel like this big mountain. I’ve never done anything else, it’s just my nature. When I get days off on tour, I try to have some shopping days, spa days, and stuff like that. When I’m at home I’m super domestic, but I always have one hand in something creative.
Denosh Bennett: Drake was a favourite because I was a fan. It was the first time that I’ve really got to work with all Canadians. That was big for me because I’m always the nerd – you’re the Canadian (and subsequently the outcast,) not that there aren’t other talented Canadians in the states, but when [you’re with other Canadians, you just get each other]. Like we have all our little Toronto talks and isms and they get it. It’s like being on tour with brothers. I actually went to high school with the guitarist, and that was our first time working together which was definitely special. [That experience is right] up there with Justin Timberlake, which was one of the first major tours I did.
SD: Tell us a bit about your app, Vocalize U. I heard its an app that really helps singers develop and not just on a face value. Could you tell us a bit more about that and why it’s different?
Denosh Bennett: Vocalize U is an app created by my friend and mentor, Dave Stroud. He’s been instrumental in developing this vocal technique, speak level singing (SLS) and what he’s done is created an accessible way for anyone to learn. Its actually becoming a part of educational systems and is about to go on tour in Asia. I’ve been working with it and I’m actually a student of it. I’ve been studying the technique with various instructors and I’m studying to teach it now as well. Now I’m developing a spin-off for back-up singers, which teaches the important tendons and what we do. A lot of people ask me how do you do this and that, and it’s going to have a lot of answers to the dos and don’ts. I’ve had a vocal injury and its actually saved me and got me back on the road. You can get it on your iPhone too, so it’s super accessible.
SD: Cool. Is there a date we can expect it?
Denosh Bennett: Ooh, I don’t know. It’s developed, but we’re just working on technical things. I’m hoping [it will be available] this year, if not 2015.
SD: Very exciting. So you sing, you dance, you’re an app developer, I read that you taught yourself piano, are there any new skills or avenues your pursuing?
Denosh Bennett: I’ve recently started blogging. I actually studied journalism in school and I love writing – I’m a songwriter as well. I am starting a blog and hopefully I can do some cool things like you’re doing (laughs). I’m also co-authoring a book with my friend that wrote Singer’s Edge. We’re working on part 2, Singer’s Instinct, which is going to be the performance side of the first book. For the blog, I’m looking to curate everything I love. I tour so much, so I’m looking to capture all those experiences and capture everything I love and the things that make my own personal style.
SD: So you brought up style. Are there any Canadian designer or designers in general you’re really into now and how would you describe your personal style?
Denosh Bennett: You know what I actually stopped doing? Being so designer conscious. I still follow the trends and see who’s doing what. I’m doing this for a couple reasons – it’s super expensive chasing brands, as well as I’ve decided to own my own style and things I love. I’m a tomboy and very sporty, so I love that sporty is now the trend. I’ll probably own every kind of sneaker until I die, so the fact that designers like Alexander Wang and Derek Lam are bringing it front of mind is great. I like classics, so I’m just trying to go back to classics and basics, so the people seeing me know she’s always going to have some kind of sneaker and basic on. I love leggings, because it’s hard to find denim that fits my body, but yeah, I’m just trying to stay away from labels. I’m sporty, rock n’roll and a bit of hip-hop – so I’m just trying to push that in what I wear.
Learn more about Denosh Bennett here