Meet Yuri Koller — a singer/songwriter/producer from Toronto. The R&B crooner (formerly known as Lokz) has two released two mixtapes independently — Point of No Return and Open Doors. Koller may be new to the R&B scene. However, he has some exciting accomplishments under his belt. He has worked with popular rappers like Love & Hip-Hop’s Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9”, Joell Ortiz and Saigon, among others. He also had the opportunity to open for Drake’s 1st annual OVOFest in Toronto.
We recently interviewed Yuri Koller to learn more about his music, his influences, his monumental moments, his experience being a Canadian R&B artist, among other things.
Check out our interview with Yuri Koller below.
How did you get started with music?
Well I was born into a family of entertainers. My mother being a singer and an actress and my father being a bass player and producer. The day I used my father’s Korg Triton keyboard for the first time — at the age of 13 — was the day I became inspired to make music. Back then I didn’t really have a clue how to make anything that anyone would call enjoyable to listen to but you got to start somewhere. When I was four, I was classically trained in piano for about five years but at that time I didn’t really appreciate the things I was learning. I also had a good idea that I could sing when I was five but I didn’t take singing seriously until around the end of my high school years because I felt like it wasn’t cool to be a male singer for some reason. All of my friends were rappers and so that’s what I had focused on more when I was a teenager.
How would you describe your sound?
I’m still trying to find my sound but I have a good idea of what direction I want to take. I’ve always loved the vibe a live band brings and so I’ve been trying to somehow incorporate that in my sound, even if the production isn’t necessarily made by a band but more-so electronically played. My heart will always be in R&B but sometimes I like to blend other genres together as well. If you check my iPod (and probably most people of my generation), you’d see that I don’t just listen to one style of music. One thing I do know is that through my music, I love to invoke some sort of emotion, whether it be love, anger, or motivation.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Most singers say this but it’s true: Michael Jackson is one of my biggest influences. My favorite songs of his have to be “Remember the time,” “Butterflies,” “Lady in my life,” and “I Can’t Help It.” Other artists who have influenced me growing up would be Prince, Musiq Soulchild, Marsha Ambrosius, Day26, Robin Thicke, Ne-yo, and Usher. Production wise, it would have to be Just Blaze, Justice League, Timbaland, and The Neptunes.
It’s a struggle for all of us coming from Canada. So once we do make it out, best believe we’ll be some of the hardest workers the world’s ever seen. If you respect them or not, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Melanie Fiona have proven to really grind for what they want, and I want to be able to show that I do as well. We’re very multi-talented in this country, and it might be because of the fact that you can’t really be that dependent on other people here because they’re all crabs in a bucket. I really do love my country and the people in it though and do wish for all of us to reach our goals and dreams. Once I started putting out my music in the public I did get a lot of love from my fellow artists and through that, I’ve done of collaborations within and out of the country, so that’s a blessing.
What has been one of your proudest moments as a rising R&B artist?
It would have to be winning the competition to open for Drake at his first OVOFest, which had over 3,000 contestants applying for that spot. The thing is I wasn’t even the one who put myself in the contest. My engineer, Pro Logic, was the one who signed me up and everything and it’s not until I was in 5th place that I knew I was in the contest — so I think that’s pretty crazy. Also having Saigon put me on a very important song of his (“Fatherhood”), which was about his newborn daughter. It was really dope to me because in a sense that makes me a part of something that’s very meaningful to him, and once she grows up, I’ll be that guy who made a song about her with her father.
You have a song called “Cheated” featuring Joe Budden. How did that collaboration come about?
Well I was putting my first album together (The Point Of No Return) and when it was about 80 percent done, my engineer and I started deciding on what features we wanted on the project. On that album I wanted to have artists that weren’t completely mainstream but also not completely underground. At the time, I had been listening to a lot of Joe Budden’s mixtapes because it kind of was an emotional time for me, and he’s known for making mood music. So one day when Joe Budden had a show in Toronto, my engineer took it upon himself to talk to him about doing a feature and brought him over to his studio.
On the way there my engineer asked him, “I have this artist that wanted you on a verse for one of his songs. If you don’t like his music, you don’t have to do it but if you do then I’d really appreciate it.” So on the way there, he played Joe Budden a few songs and then at the end of it [Budden] decided that he liked my music and ended up doing the feature. I wasn’t there for the studio session but I did meet him when we shot the video, and when we did meet he took it upon himself to tell me he was a fan of mine, so that’s really dope to me, and I appreciate that to the fullest.
What do you hope to accomplish this year? Any upcoming projects?
I’m going to be working on a new project. Hopefully do a lot of videos this time around and also bring the fans into my world a lot more. I’m also branching out a bit into other things to help my brand grow even more, but only in things that will increase the value of and focus on my music. I’m going to independently put together some shows for myself with live band so I can get more intimate with my fans.