God-given talents: Darryl Gervais makes his mark in soca

In anticipation of the Carnival 2020 season, BUZZ is highlighting the young movers, shakers and leaders in Caribbean culture with its new Carnival Game Changers Series. From music, to mas and everything in between, these are the BUZZworthy players to watch as they bring new experiences to the Carnival culture!

For our first interview, we sat down with Darryl Gervais, international songwriter who has worked with the likes of Patrice Roberts, 5 Star Akil and Kes The Band to provide soca music lovers across the world with some of the most memorable hits of recent carnival seasons.

“I decided that music is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” – Darryl Gervais

Darryl Gervais is well-aware of his God-given talents, and he’s not afraid to openly admit it.

“I’ve got skills from long time,” the Trinbagonian creative laughs. He traces the first signs of his natural abilities to the tender age of seven, when he would be casually singing Michael Jackson and Boyz II Men classics around his home.

“I’d sing all around cousins and older family members, and I’d get the ‘but Darryl could actually sing?!’ reaction.”

“Music made me happy, and it was like a father that I never had.”

— Gervais

Soon after, talent shows and competitions became his new normal, and one of his first performance opportunities came at the age 13 where he took to the stage in front of his entire school to croon a tribute to one of his teachers who was retiring.

“In that moment, I think I really realised that I had ‘something’ and that music was something that I wanted to do. Music made me happy, and it was like a father that I never had. I always had a relationship with this thing, this intangible entity,” he said.

International songwriter Darryl Gervais fell in love with music when he was just a child.

Daily outlet for expression

Eventually, Gervais channelled his passion for music into the pen, and songwriting became his daily outlet for expression.

As Gervais got more familiar with the ebbs and flow of the music industry, he understood that his talent would be his bread and butter.

“At the end of it all, I decided that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Everything else was a stepping-stone to get to that,” Gervais said.

He understood the power of networking from early and sought opportunities in the most unlikely of areas.

“I’d submit proposals and do so much pitching to various artistes,” he said.

Lead vocalist of Kes The Band, Kees Dieffenthaller, (left) and international songwriter Darryl Gervais collaborate during a studio session.

Big break

His first big break came when one of his records got into the hands of Grammy award-winning writer and producer Cory Rooney.

“He called me one day and asked to meet me while I was in New York. That encounter changed my life,” Gervais recalls clearly.

Rooney became his mentor and taught him the industry game and that opportunity also broadened the young songwriter’s abilities across various genres. It was that range that caught the attention of the management team for soca sensation Kes The Band back in Trinidad.

From left: Darryl Gervais, Jimmy October, Kees Dieffenthaller, 1st Klase and Tano are all smiles backstage at an event.

Genuine relationships

Gervais explained that the key to his carnival success for more than a decade is learning his clients.

“From very early on, Kees always said that it’s amazing how I was able to capture a song exactly the way he would do it. He’s like a brother to me, and the entire KTB family is my family,” he said.

“Capturing the vibe of the artiste is key.”

— Gervais

Believing in the power of genuine relationships has afforded this husband and father of two with opportunities that help him to provide for his own family. He is, therefore, adamant about setting a professional example for his peers by doing the groundwork.

“Capturing the vibe of the artiste is key, and you have to do a bit of research. You don’t just write a song and force it on a performer, and a lot of songwriters try to apply that approach. It all stems from showing respect to the art form,” he clarifies.

From left: Darryl Gervais, Kees Dieffenthaller of Kes The Band and producer Neel Dwala head to the studio.

Great year for soca music

Gervais, whose songwriting credits now includes massive carnival hits such as Patrice Roberts’ Touch Me, Personal by 5 Star Akil and Kes’ Radar, hints that he has a lot in store for the carnival 2020 season.

“I think it’s going to be a great year for soca music all around. The talent and camaraderie are stronger than ever before, and in the end, the Caribbean becomes the biggest winner from the work that we put in as an industry. And that should always be the ultimate goal,” Gervais said.

Tenille Clarke is an avid wanderlust, Carnivalist and cultural enthusiast who pens about her ongoing love affair with travel, culture and entertainment through a Caribbean lens. She is the Principal Publicist of Chambers Media Solutions and Managing Director of Industry 360. (@tenilleclarke1 on Instagram/Twitter)