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Canadian Artists Leila Dey and Isaac Zale Unite to Celebrate the Power of Music for Smirnoff’s WE DO WE Campaign

Meeting for the first time, the two emerging musicians came together to collaborate on a four-track EP celebrating social connection and inclusive joy.

Canadian Artists Leila Dey and Isaac Zale Unite to Celebrate the Power of Music for Smirnoff’s WE DO WE Campaign

Isaac Zale (left) and Leila Dey for Smirnoff's WE DO WE

Courtesy Photo

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Before linking up to mashup each other’s tracks, Leila Dey and Isaac Zale had never met.

In fact, Dey, a rising R&B artist in Toronto, has never even been to Vancouver, where Zale makes and produces genre-fluid hip-hop and electronic music. But the two artists joined up as part of Smirnoff’s WE DO WE campaign, which aims to fuel social connection and foster moments of inclusive joy at a time when feelings of loneliness are so pervasive that it’s been termed a ‘joy recession.’

Coming together for WE DO WE, they created a three-dimensional collaboration that surprised them both. When they brought their music together, they made something even better than the sum of their parts. It shows the power music has to unite and inspire people across genres and backgrounds.

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“Our sounds are so different,” says Dey at the Toronto studio where they first hear each other’s tracks. “But we came together to build a mashup that feels so cohesive. It really feels like we built it together.”

To make the tracks, each artist was given an innovative creator kit from Smirnoff Canada that featured audio gear, custom merchandise and Smirnoff products they could use as instruments to create unique sounds. The goal was to create something that reflected who they are, but from a new angle.

“I got to use sounds that I wouldn't usually use and really challenge myself,” says Zale. “For one sound, I blew into a Smirnoff bottle and then mapped that sample onto my keyboard, then played the blowing into the bottle like a piano. I was worried about how it would sound in the final production, but I love the way it turned out.”

Zale is used to challenging himself in unorthodox ways. For eight months straight in 2023, he did a series on social media called No Label, No Budget in which he produced, mixed, mastered, shot and edited a music video on his phone every Friday.

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But where that was often a solitary project, WE DO WE allowed him to explore another theme: “human interconnectivity, and being able to see yourself in someone else.”

On his song, “See You,” smooth sung and rapped vocals lilt over upbeat electronic production. “I see you, I’m one,” he sings.

Leila Dey turned it into a duet, bringing her soulful R&B vibe to the poppy production.

“I wanted to bring it down and strip it back a little bit, bring some of my sound to it,” she says. “I love the mix of styles we were able to create. It’s such a deep groove.”

Thinking about a song that could represent her identity, she gravitated towards a theme of celebrating those who had been with her from the beginning. “Day One” brings a ‘90s R&B touch to a bouncy beat.

Though thematically the song is about the people that got her to where she is, the creative process was all about coming together for cross-genre and cross-cultural collaboration, which Dey loves.

“I think we could do a lot more of that in Toronto, I won’t lie,” she says. “Toronto’s like that salad bowl. It’s so diverse, and there’s so many different people here. We could really create some really cool things if we were just a little bit more immersed.”

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In a celebration of collaboration, each artist embarked on a creative journey exploring their own Canadian backgrounds and their own truths, then figuring out how they interconnect.

Dey was born in Jamaica and moved to Toronto as a young child. She’s been a scene fixture in the city for over a decade, sharing stages with artists from Jessie Reyez to Deadmau5. So for her, the “Canadian sound” is more about the openness to bring your own culture and experience to the music than any specific sonic hallmark.

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“It’s more like a way of hearing things,” she says.

To both her and Zale, it’s perfectly represented by Smirnoff’s WE DO WE project: the chance to bring their own specific identities, experiences, passions and creative processes to the table and create new versions of their music that neither of them could have made on their own.

For Zale’s take on Dey’s “Day One,” he took her groove and added synths, skittering beats and other electronic elements that took it in an almost EDM direction, before also adding a few bars of his own.

In both new versions, their voices come together in a surprisingly natural way.

“It’s a symbol for art as a broader movement, the way it transcends language and culture and brings people together,” says Zale. “I hope people can hear the songs and hear the way it brought Leila and I together, and also I hope listening to it brings other people together.”

All four tracks created by Isaac and Leila are available to listen to on Spotify via the WE DO WE playlist and can be experienced from May 21-27 with a special project at a location yet to be disclosed.

Listen to all four of the Smirnoff WE DO WE tracks from Isaac Zale and Leila Dey below or on Spotify here. Follow @SmirnoffCA to learn about upcoming activities across Canada this spring and summer.

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