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Marques Toliver: Land of CanAan

A classically trained violinist's path to a soulful R&B release

by David Graver
on 01 July 2013

A debut album set in motion by busking from New York to Belgium, many factors play into the soulful joy of Marques Toliver's Land of CanAan. Chance, talent, a voice and a violin have mingled, coalescing into a new sub-genre of rhythm and blues and an album that celebrates its roots and their flexibility. Toliver has gracefully introduced Motown-inflected contemporary R&B to classical violin and, after years of work, this rising star's album now wows worldwide.


The road to CanAan began with a violin. By chance, it was the instrument available to Toliver in the fifth grade. Man and the musical machine connected and have been inseparable since. Upon his move to New York City from Florida, Toliver began busking on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The attention that he garnered there, first by TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, would lead to session work and tours with established acts like Holly Miranda and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. Toliver would soon gain the appreciation of Adele, leading to a blog post that cascaded into a publishing deal. Forever understanding the value of an audience, Toliver continued to busk. It was on the streets of London's Brick Lane that one passerby would offer him a contract with record label Bella Union and ultimately release Land of CanAan.

Toliver's album was recorded over the course of two and a half years. One year of collaboration and ideation, with famed producer Frances Anthony "Eg" White, shaped a portion of the album. A year later, over the course of a week, the rest of the album's production was completed. According to Toliver, the time in-between allowed him "to play the songs live, manipulate them and feed off audience response." It worked, as the album envelops and engages. From playing off Bach's "Three Sonatas and Three Partitas" on the track "Stay" to flexing his vast vocal range across every track, the album's catch is quick, hook-laden and infectious. The pop-driven lead single "Control" entered the world on the back of a celebratory, nuanced official music video.

marques-toliver-2.jpg marquespeterross.jpg

Toliver is no stranger to hard work and patience. Both his voice and violin require upkeep and care. Chance may have broken him into the industry, but the details of his lush work will keep his career propelling forward. The world remains his stomping ground, and when Toliver isn't touring with the likes of Beach House—or more currently, Paloma Faith—the dynamic young musician now calls Antwerp home.

Land of CanAan can be streamed via Soundcloud or purchased on iTunes.

Photos courtesy of Athos Burez. Last photo courtesy of Peter Ross.

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