Sean Oliver started singing in the church choir during his formative years in his native Toronto before going on to play in various funk bands while growing up. He spent the '80s spinning records as a DJ in Toronto's warehouse scene, all the time honing his skills in his primary passions: songwriting, producing, and performing. Inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder and George Clinton, Oliver emerged out of the Toronto R&B scene 1997 with the release of his debut album, Solitaire. The album is a combination of jazz, soul, R&B, and hip-hop, and Oliver's singing voice has been likened to a male Erykah Badu. He followed Solitaire with a successful 1998 tour of the U.K.