Three months after releasing his debut album, Daniel Caesar scored not one but two Grammy nominations. The record itself, Freudian, got recognized in the best R&B album category, and his gold-certified 2016 hit with Kali Uchis, “Get You,” earned a nod for best R&B performance.
“It does feel like it’s been fast,” Caesar, 22, says of his success in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “It’s only been five years, but it’s been a steady five years of steady growth. I feel more secure in whatever level of success that we have because I feel like it’s not an accident.”
Now with two EPs, a full-length record and a sold-out North American tour under his belt, the Canada native is preparing to take his act overseas in 2018.
“Way back in the day, I’d walk around in Toronto and get spotted, but it was different,” he says of his newfound fame. “It was just people in the area that know my s— and respect it. [Now] before shows when I’m trying to run around and do errands and stuff, people are usually there at the venue waiting. That’s crazy. They get there at 11:00 [a.m.], and the show’s not ‘til like 10 p.m. That’s very interesting, but I’m trying to get used to it.”
Here’s what else you need to know about Caesar before he competes at the 2018 Grammys next month.
1. He’s an independent artist.
Caesar started building a following through social media and put out two EPs on his own between 2014-15. “When we brought it to a place where labels were reaching out, the plan was to take it to a label and let them take it from there,” he says of Freudian. “And when the time came, we just realized how much we were already doing without them; how much we enjoyed what we were doing. It was exciting to see all these things that were happening only because of us and no one else. I don’t remember exactly when, but there was a specific point when we decided, ‘Nah, we’re gonna just keep doing this.'”
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2. Caesar doesn’t categorize himself or his music.
“It’s R&B-soul I guess,” he says. “Those genres are just a means of labeling music so you can sell it properly. But I can’t see myself just being the R&B-soul guy for the rest of my life. I don’t want that. I’d like to be able to make whatever type of music I feel like making at the time, because I have a lot of different styles of music that I enjoy listening to.”
So how does he explain his work? “I don’t, to be honest,” Caesar admits. “I try to say as few words as possible and let the music do as much talking as possible.”
3. The inspiration for his hit song “Japanese Denim” came from a conversation with a friend.
“I was chilling at the house with the homies,” he says of the track’s genesis. “We were just talking about girls, and my friend Liam made this joke about how his jeans would probably last longer than his relationships. I don’t think he realized exactly how impacted I was, but I heard that — and I was with a girl at the time — and then just hearing that, I had an ‘Oh s—’ moment, and I wrote that song.”
4. Caesar considers himself a “hermit.”
The singer-songwriter still calls Canada home. “I don’t live in L.A.,” he admits. “I can be socially awkward at times so I keep to myself. Truth be told, I don’t do much besides make music. I enjoy being laid up at home with my guitar.”
5. Frank Ocean and Kanye West are among his biggest influences.
When asked who has shaped his career the most, Caesar names Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Kanye West and Frank Ocean. “I’d want to write a song with Stevie Wonder for sure — and Pharrell,” Caesar says. “I don’t know who’s number one: Beyoncé! And Solange.”
- Reporting by MADISON ROSSI
For more about the rising star, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.