The Soul Series is feeding Toronto’s hankering for live R&B and soul music


Toronto is host to a thriving and diverse musical landscape; from hip hop to dancehall and EDM to indie rock, there is something for everyone. So it should come as no surprise that Toronto has become a hub for emerging R&B and soul talent. 

Enter the Soul Series. Launched in Toronto in 2022 by Adriel Smiley and Brigette Piazza, the Soul Series is a captivating, ongoing series of live concerts, showcasing R&B and soul singers of colour. Since its inception, the Soul Series has gained in popularity due to its commitment to an intimate and engaging atmosphere with a curated lineup of artists and bands bringing their unique styles to the stage. 

Through the Soul Series, Adriel and Brigette hope to foster a sense of community where fans of R&B and soul – whether on the stage or in the audience – can connect and immerse themselves in the music made for lovers. And while the Soul Series is only two years old, it is already leaving an indelible mark on Toronto’s music scene. 

Jade Newton: Please, tell me the story behind the Soul Series; what inspired this project? 

Adriel Smiley: I wanna give the credit to Brigette [Piazza] because we had been friends for a few years, and she had the idea that we should go into business together. And, we hadn’t said what we were gonna do, business-wise, but she said we should go into business together. We always had a love for R&B mutually, so organically, we thought “Let’s do something like this”. I have a background in the music industry and she has a background in corporate project management, so we thought it would be a good match. Once we decided on the name [Soul Series], from there, it was just grabbing artists who I felt fit the vibe we were going for and artists that I could trust, who I knew would set the tone for the first Soul Series. 

JN: The purpose of the Soul Series is to highlight R&B and soul artists who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or persons of colour. What else goes into the artist selection process

AS: We try to find artists who we know are great [live] performers – people I’ve seen myself or people that have been vetted by people I trust in the industry. I personally think that’s the way that you can grow your fanbase; if you see someone kill it live, you’re never gonna forget that. And that’s probably top of the list. 

JN: I appreciate that you take time to carefully choose and aren’t just putting performers on the bill for the sake of having them on the bill. Are most of these artists independent or are they signed to labels?

AS: I’ll say most are independent, but it is a bit of a mix. It’s a mix of some independent artists and new artists. And then some artists were established and kind of been doing this for a little bit.

JN: Producing events, such as the Soul Series, is not a miniscule undertaking; what were some of the challenges you faced getting this off the ground? 

AS: In terms of getting it off the ground, I would say it was finding the first venue and then kind of deciding how we wanted to promote it. This is one of those shows that’s word-of-mouth and in a way that’s unique – because we are known for R&B and soul. For the first [show] we didn’t know who was going to show up, what size venue to go with, or what kind of crowd we were going to attract…the unknown. And, how do we prepare for this? 

JN: And what are some of the challenges you encounter presently?  

AS: That’s a good question. I would say the challenges that we face are just dealing with artists in general. And this is not a shot to anyone in particular, but anyone who’s been in the music industry long enough knows what it’s like dealing with artists. Whether it’s them changing their mind, or showing up late, or being really intense. I think with every booking and dealing with artists…it’s almost like you need a contingency for the contingency. 

JN: You said that one of the things that makes you all unique is that all of the promotion and advertising is word of mouth. What other things about the Soul Series, in your opinion, make it unique, what about it makes people say, “I gotta be there”?

AS: I think one thing that we’ve done a great job of is getting to the theme of being fully R&B; that was part of why we started this series. We would go to R&B events and R&B parties, and you might get forty-five minutes of dancehall. 

JN: I love dancehall, but I kid you not, I have been to R&B-themed events and there is minimal R&B being played. 

AS: Exactly. And, that was something where we went, “There’s a market for this that’s missing”. Where, if you really want to have a night where you don’t want to hear hip hop, you want to hear Sade, the Isley Brothers…and I think that is where we set ourselves apart. It’s not just the new R&B or the nineties R&B, you’re gonna hear some classics as well, and I almost guarantee you will be put onto a new song. We have mixed crowds [in terms of age], so I think it’s [the Soul Series]  really unique, especially in Toronto where dancehall reigns supreme. 

JN: What have been some of your favorite Soul Series moments? 

AS: One of my favorite moments was when Geneva Lei & TRYZTN had just released a song, “Forbidden Fruit,” together and performed it on-stage together; and, I just love that song. So, that was a cool moment because I think they released it that night. 

JN: That’s dope. 

AS: And then, we had an actual full series the week of Valentine’s Day one year and we had a lot of engaged people in the crowd. We had brought the lovers out that night. 

JN: What is the most important thing that you want the artists and the audience to take away from attending a Soul Series session?

AS: I think, for me, what Soul Series is about is self-love. And obviously, a lot of R&B music is about romantic love. But I think that a lot of soul music, music to me, is about self-love and inherent individuality. You know, there is an energy that you leave certain nightlife events with; I would want the energy of the Soul Series to make you feel like you’re at a higher vibration. You feel better about yourself as a person – you feel more confident and you love yourself a little bit more. So that’s the energy I want us to have in the room and what I want to leave with the artists,  the staff, the guests…because to me, it really is about self-love. 

JN: What does the future of the Soul Series look like? What is on the roadmap? 

AS: We do want to expand and we’ve talked about this being something we could take on the road and making it bigger than it [currently] is. Growing the following that we already have and dabble in doing some other events like Soul Series karaoke or a Soul Series festival. I think the main reason why this actually happened in Toronto for us is because Toronto has so many great R&B artists and we would love to highlight these phenomenal artists elsewhere.

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The next event is May 25, 2024, 10 PM EST at The Drake Underground
Get tickets to Soul Series VIII: Meagan De Lima on EventBrite.

All images courtesy of Soul Series.

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