A Canadian R&B recording sensation of Barbadian and Jamaican parentage is the toast of three nations – and his mother’s St James family – for his first-ever Grammy Award on Sunday night.
Daniel Caesar, 23, son of Hollace Burnett, formerly of Lower Carlton, has been making waves across Canada, the United States and Britain since 2015 with his debut extended play (E.P.) record, Praise Break.
While Caesar, real name Ashton Simmonds, may not be a household name in Barbados, his relatives from in and around the west coast community, are ecstatic about Sunday’s achievement.
“The family as you would expect is very ecstatic about it. In fact, I hardly slept last night,” Caesar’s uncle Trevor Burnett said of his nephew’s Grammy for Best R&B Performance with his track Best Part, a collaboration with American singer-songwriter H.E.R.
While Burnett said he always believed Caesar was destined for greatness, the journey was not seamless. He was nominated for Best R&B Album at last year’s 60th Grammy Awards for his debut album Freudian and Best R&B Performance for his single “Get You” but went home empty-handed.
“Last year, he was nominated for about three and he didn’t get any. Bruno Mars got the bulk, but this year he came back with a bang and it has just been amazing. The interesting thing is that life is such a paradox. Last year he had the bulk of nominations and we were very hopeful and nervous. This year he just had one nomination and we were not that intense and look at how he brought it home this year,” Burnett said with a chuckle.
Caesar’s feat is all the more significant for an independent recording artist without the backing of a major record label.
His uncle maintains that the young R&B star’s ties to Barbados remain strong.
Burnett said: “His mum, my sister, Hollace Burnett left for Canada when she was very, very young and then she came back to Barbados and had her secondary schooling here, at St. James Secondary (now Frederick Smith Secondary), and then she went back to Canada when she was around like 18, 19, and she’s been there ever since and she’s also a very good singer.”
Caesar’s artistic lineage extends to his father Norwell Simmonds, a Jamaican-born gospel singer who has produced two albums, and the Burnett clan in Barbados.
Burnett added: “His whole family is artsy and I am talking about the whole Burnett clan is artsy. I am an artist; my dad, Oliver Burnett, who passed away in 2010 is perhaps Barbados’ leading landscape painter. So he has a very strong lineage of art and a culture of art.
“Ashton [Caesar] and I are very close. Ashton actually came to Barbados two to three years ago to hang with me. He was at the crossroads and he wanted to connect with the other prominent artists in the family, because the life of an artist is quite different. An artist has a different set of rules governing him or her so there’s a high degree of sensitivity. So Ashton and I are indeed quite close.”
Caesar has visited Barbados on only three occasions, but has dreams of performing here, Burnett said.
He added: “He really is passionate about performing in Barbados and about owning a home here. So this award is really Barbados’ other Grammy award. That is his view, because he loves his mother’s country and he loves his experiences with it.”