If you’re unfamiliar with the singing, dancing, songwriting Torontonian powerhouse known as D!XON, allow me to start off by saying he is a talented Canadian artist who delivers melodic rhythms, stimulating visuals and intoxicating lyrics time and time and time again! Identifying as male but “non-conforming to gender norms or expression,” D!XON’s newest single, “Arms Around Me,” brings an even more mature sound to his already grown, sexy and sometimes heartbreakingly raw catalogue of music. Today, he drops his first music video of 2020.
Having penned his very first song at the young age of thirteen, D!XON was born in Toronto, Ontario, of Trinidadian and Guyanese descent, and he doesn’t shy away from openly talking about his struggles with bullying, religion, sexuality, gender expression and self-confidence on his sleek website.
Sheldon Dixon, the man behind the music, pursued an education at the Etobicoke School of the Arts and the Randolph Academy for Performing Arts where he majored in Musical Theatre, but it wasn’t until D!XON met his now long-time music producer, Verse-Atile, that he came into his own talents, even appearing on CBC Radio in an interview entitled “How I Became A Singer After Music Was Taken From Me” where he talks about his experiences.
Through his music, however, D!XON says he “advocates for the causes of anti-bullying and anti-oppression by amplifying the values of self-acceptance as well as the acceptance of others,” and once he himself found his voice (literally) in music, D!XON went on to work with industry heavyweights like Hollywood Jade, Estelle, Jully Black, Deborah Cox, Danny Fernandes and En Vogue, to name a few. He’s also performed at World Pride, The Harbourfront Centre Flaunt Festival, The Harbourfront Centre Beats, Breaks, and Cultures Festival, The Opera House for Universal Music Canada, Youth Day, and the Taste of the Danforth in Toronto, and last year, D!XON was a featured performer in Ciara’s headlining show at Montreal Pride.
Having had the pleasure of knowing Sheldon for years now, I’ve grown fond of not only the person he is but the artist he’s flourished into. I have great memories of songs like 2014’s “Do Whatchu Wanna” and 2015’s “Don’t Wanna Wait” and I still find myself adding them to playlists all the time! In fact, D!XON performed at MoJo Toronto’s weekly FML Mondays Industry Party in the Church & Wellesley LGBTQ+ Village in the past! The thing about D!XON’s music is that it genuinely makes you feel confident and sexy, but it’s also very layered and emotional, so how has D!XON grown since his last album “Sweet Illusion” in 2016 or his last single “Dance In The Rain” from 2019?
“I have grown in so many dimensions since 2016,” D!XON begins, “I still have the same fire, passion, sass and all of the different moments attached to my artistic image and brand that is funnelled through my gender non-conforming identity. What has changed is that I have matured, and focused on connecting with the 2SLGBTQ+ community. I have made it a mission to inspire, mentor young artists, and create with the members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
D!XON continues, “With this record and the others that I have created, I have focused on the unique textures and using the colours of my range in vocal production. I’ve also have been playing with the power of subtly and stillness in the way that I perform as well as pushing myself as a dancer and live performer. The story that I am telling is so authentic and reflects my unapologetic gay experience while allowing anyone from any walk of life to be able to relate to the song.”
The sound of “D!XON’s newest single “Arms Around Me” is sensual and his lyrics compliment that sound beautifully; I asked D!XON what this new song’s main message was and how he thought others will relate to it.
“I wrote this song while I was falling in love with this particular boy, I was hopelessly memorized by him and haven’t felt that way about someone in a very long time. The way that he looked into my eyes had me intoxicated with desire and filled me with so much warmth. I found it important to capture the essence and feeling of suspense with the pulsing synth in the song which gives you that tug of war feeling when you meet someone new and you’re anxiously waiting for that text. I also added the saxophone because the sound of it is very sensual, and if there is any instrument that’s a ‘gay’ instrument, it would be the saxophone,” D!XON says laughing, “it was a must to have it!”
“When it comes to the lyrics, melody and vocals, I wrote it and performed it in a way that emulates delicacy, mystery, sensuality and romance. I focused on layers of textures and harmonies to artistically frame the dynamic melodic choices in my vocal performance.”
Impressed with his ability to relay that inspiration into the very sound of “Arms Around Me,” I was excited to learn what his messaging behind the song meant to him.
“When it comes to the message of the song, it’s really about expressing and confessing my feelings,” D!XON says. “Sometimes I feel like, in the dating world, people hold back their feelings and put up a wall for the fear of rejection or not being able to fully trust someone because of baggage that’s being carried from a whole other experience with a different person. Life is too short to hold back, especially during this time. If there is someone you have strong feelings towards, let them know. If you don’t tell your loved ones that you love them, now is the time to let them know. This is the time to love on people, there is so much going on in the world and we can’t take the time we have here and the relationships we have for granted. LET THEM KNOW SIS!”
One would think a fabulous new song and video would be an exciting time for an artist, but 2020 has other plans for everyone. With a global pandemic affecting how we go about our daily lives, the entertainment industry has had no exceptions in regards to the onslaught of regulations, setbacks and hurdles we as a society are facing.
As of right now, live performances are suspended indefinitely with no foreseeable events (as we know them) in the near future; how has D!XON been navigating this new climate for artists?
“This year has been tough with COVID-19 and there were so many moments that were planned for this year in terms of live shows. I’m really sad that I cannot perform the way that I originally expected. COVID-19 has forced everyone to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to work and engagement.”
D!XON continues, “This year I did a lot of Instagram Live performances, I performed for City Hall Live during Pride which was a WHOLE moment and so much fun. In Phase 2, when dance studios opened up, I jumped at the opportunity to get back to work and stage a 30-minute show by rehearsing songs from my repertoire and workshopping my new songs like ‘Arms Around Me.’ I trained and created with new dancers, my Creative Director/Choreographer Hollywood Jade and Choreographer Devon Findlay. I decided to document the process of putting a 30-minute show together by producing a Mini-Documentary called The Demo which is now released and can be found on my social media.”
The entertainment business has had no choice but to very quickly adapt to a post-COVID world, but independent artists have had the hardest time of all; how has D!XON’s state of mind helped or hindered him while releasing “Arms Around Me?”
“My mentality is you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready! Especially during these unprecedented times, we don’t know when we’ll be able to get back to work, but we need to be ready. While filming the Mini Documentary I found out my Creative Director and friend Hollywood is the resident choreographer on Canada’s Drag Race, I am SO proud of him and excited for his future. There was so much focus in rehearsals and determination from everyone in the room because this was such a big win for Drag Queens and the creatives in our community. This amplified our focus and the success of Drag Race inspiring us! The commitment to the work was so strong, and being able to have that creative outlet with people that we trust in a creative space was so humbling and amazing after being stuck inside the house.”
“In the summer I performed a bunch of times for my friend Sofonda Cox at her Curbside Drag Show which was amazing! I felt so much love and support from Sofonda and the community…as a guest and as a recording artist. I also dressed up in Drag for the first time and performed for @BollyheelsTO in a video with the students from my Drag Masterclass program!’
D!XON hasn’t allowed 2020 to slow him down, and along with everything else he’s accomplished, he’s also helped mentor and develop five talented youth recording artists over the summer in a virtual artist development competition put on by the City of Toronto called The One. Not to mention, he’s also the creative director!
“Navigating this new climate has been interesting and will be interesting. I’ve recently been appointed as a Director on the Board of Directors for Pride Toronto, as well. It is a huge responsibility and I’m so humbled and appreciative of this moment especially as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community with Afro-Caribbean, South Asian roots and being able to also represent [the artists] in the local community, especially the recording artists.”
The year is not over, but D!XON continues to grab the metaphorical bull by the horns and making it a point to inspire the world with his music, pushing his artistic expression through visual media and live performances, and supporting the next generation of artists
“All I can do is control my control-ables. What I can continue to do is continue to record, release music, release videos, create videos and do a virtual performance as long as I am in line with the COVID-19 guidelines. She’s booked and busy, and ready to share my music with the world, continue to inspire, and amplify the voices in our community.”