Trevor Daniel photographed on Dec. 17, 2019 at Blackheart Studio in Los Angeles. Styling by Juliann McCandless Klaos + Conquer button down shirt. 
Trevor Daniel photographed on Dec. 17, 2019 at Blackheart Studio in Los Angeles. Styling by Juliann McCandless Klaos + Conquer button down shirt. 
Taylor Rainbolt

Chartbreaker: Trevor Daniel Thinks TikTok-Fueled 'Falling' Won't Be 'The Biggest Song of My Career'

Chartbreaker is Billboard's monthly series highlighting an artist's first-ever Billboard chart appearance. This month, our Chartbreaker is Trevor Daniel, who is currently making waves on the Billboard Hot 100 with his debut entry, “Falling,” which sets a new peak on the tally this week at No. 31.

Inspired by Blink-182’s Travis Barker and Steve Gadd (who has collaborated with the likes of Steely Dan, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton), Houston native Trevor Daniel started playing drums in second grade. By the time he was in high school in 2010, he was making his own music, using a computer software program called Mixcraft 5 and watching YouTube tutorials made by production collective Internet Money for assistance. One day, he accidentally brought a stick mic home from school; he and his friends quickly assembled a bare-bones home studio and got to work.

“I wrapped a sock around the microphone and duct taped it to this hanger pole,” Daniel, now 25, says with a laugh. “We didn’t even know how to have [the beat] go through headphones, so you could hear it in the background. We hung up like, 20 different colors of blankets — it was so bad.”

Daniel spent the next few years honing his craft — and leveling up his recording equipment — before beginning to upload his music to SoundCloud in 2015. He notes that “Fool,” his second release on the streaming platform, is when he started to see signs of notable progress in his skill set. But it was his 2017 track “Pretend” that took off after getting reposted on a YouTube channel called SyrebralVibes — it now has over 10 million views. 

Several months later, Daniel received a direct message from Internet Money founder Taz Taylor offering to fly him out to Los Angeles. “Taz is the last person on the planet I thought would DM me,” says Daniel. “I was pacing my room.” Within weeks of meeting Taylor, Daniel signed a recording contract to Internet Money/Alamo/Interscope in July 2018 (though he’d later amicably disaffiliate from Internet Money in 2019).

During Daniel’s first studio session with Taylor, the track now known as “Falling” came together in a matter of hours. “That night was just a crazy energy,” Daniel says. They’d later attempt to add a second verse to the song, but would ultimately leave the rough cut as the finished product. “The energy just wasn’t the same,” Daniel remembers. “I learned to not overthink things [in the studio] because the energy matters way more than a slight voice crack or a slurring of a word.”

When the trap-infused heartbreak track arrived in October 2018, it did so to little acclaim; a Blackbear remix later that year didn’t yield a significant boost, either. Daniel now says that part of that quiet reception was due to personal lack of promotion — he preferred to let word-of-mouth carry the song to more listeners.

Last fall, “Falling” finally found its larger audience, once a TikTok challenge gave the single a second chance at success, boosting streams and buoying the crooner to several first appearances on various Billboard charts. In addition to hitting No. 7 and No. 11 peaks on Rap Streaming Songs and Hot Rap Songs, respectively, he snagged his first top 40 appearance on the Hot 100, setting a new peak at No. 31 on charts dated Jan. 11.

Despite the track’s slow burn, Daniel cherishes the fact that he had the opportunity to watch its listenership grow in real time, both online and during his 2019 nationwide tour. “I’m glad it took so long, because a year was perfect timing for me to get mentally prepared,” Daniel says. “It couldn’t have happened better if I tried.”

For many, “Falling” is an introduction to Daniel, but the synth-reliant, pop-leaning R&B artist's discography is already robust. He released the EPs Homesick and Restless in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and says he’s currently sitting on 300 unreleased tracks, roughly 80 of which he thinks are ready to go. He’s not particularly concerned with rushing to release a follow-up hit, instead opting to place his focus on an upcoming debut album, which is slated to arrive later this year. He teases that he’s been in the studio with childhood hero Barker, and in touch with Bebe Rexha

“I don’t see ‘Falling’ as being the biggest song of my career,” Daniel assures. “Which song is going to be the next hit? I don’t know. But I do know that we’ve got it. It’s in there somewhere.”

A version of this article will appear in the Jan. 11 issue of Billboard.

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