You may not have heard Jordon Manswell’s name yet, but like millions of listeners you may have heard the acclaimed producer’s music. The tall, soft-spoken 23-year-old beatsmith from Toronto suburb Whitby can already claim a shared Grammy nod for producing Daniel Caesar’s gospel-fired R&B smash “We Find Love.”
“I always knew my first Grammy nomination would be with that guy,” Manswell says of his longtime friend and collaborator who he met nearly a decade ago through their shared Seventh Day Adventist religion.
“The community is so small we always know who does what. Everyone in the church is into live music so I stood out as the one who does music production,” Manswell says. They exchanged contact info and would send each other music and beats. Later Manswell was the bridge that brought Caesar into Sean Leon’s IXXI collective and his current team.
Manswell was already an accomplished producer at that point, having set-up a bedroom studio back in elementary school to start honing his craft. “In Toronto, you have so many options but there is literally nothing to do here—that’s why we get so locked in. Also, the weather is cold everybody stays in and does their work.”
His musical influences include Toronto’s top beatmakers like Drake’s production partner 40 as well as Boi1da, T-Minus and Grammy-nominated Producer of the Year Nineteen85, who last year enlisted Manswell as the first signing to his publishing company Summerof85. But his inspirations also go beyond hip-hop to the gospel he heard at church and the soft rock his auntie played while driving him to Christian school in the city.
Manswell fought hard to make secular music while always staying true to his roots.“When I was working with artists, if I heard them swear over my beats I’d be like, ‘Would you mind taking that out? I have to show this to my mom,’” he laughs. “I also stay away from the gang stuff, that’s just not my lifestyle. I didn’t grow up like that so it won’t naturally come out in the music.”
Manswell’s big break came in 2014 when he won the Battle of the Beat Makers, a renowned Toronto competition that’s basically a rap battle for hip-hop producers and previously discovered Boi1da, Nineteen85 and WondaGurl. “That’s what started it all for me,” he says.
But he’s also an artist himself, releasing an impressive series of moody, melodic and sample-fuelled instrumental “beat tapes” under his own name, including Big Mouth, Before the End of the Night, Once Every Blue Mood, and Words Don’t Always Paint the Picture.
“That’s all 100 per cent me. I didn’t take input, I didn’t even tell people I was gonna do it. I just felt it was important to get all of my feelings into these bodies of work. I’m surprised how well they did. Those tapes set me up. People hit me up to rap over them but it’s hard to sell them because those beats are a piece of my heart.”
He also took time to get a University of Toronto degree, and still lives and works from home, Though Manswell’s studio finally moved over to his brother’s old bedroom, his production technique remains rooted in impatience—if he doesn’t feel a beat with the first ten or 15 minutes, he scraps it. And though the end results are musically varied, there’s a thematic throughline.
“When I’m making music by myself, it always comes out emotional,” he says. “I reflect a lot. I always live in my head. I read energies and vibes really well. I wouldn’t say I’m sad, but it comes out melancholy. The emotions we have as humans are so powerful, and the fact that I get to express myself and have it tangible is amazing.”
“But I do make every kind of music,” he adds, noting upcoming projects with Jazz Cartier and DVSN. “This is the year people are going to see all angles of me.”