Devan has stepped into this moment by confronting the complications of her past while wholeheartedly embracing the sounds that feel authentic to her. Returning with music written and recorded during the pandemic, she is revealing more of herself than she’s done on any other project. Nuanced yet compelling, her evocative vocals remain a constant throughout her work, yet that’s merely one part of her musical vision. As an emerging producer, her intriguing electronic textures elevate the emotions in her songwriting – and that ever-changing sonic landscape is central to her overall artistry. That’s especially clear in her brand new music, with much more to come.
“For me, the last year has been a big reflective time and an opportunity to look inward, and to deal with some emotions in a way I hadn’t been doing,” she says. “These songs came out of me digging up a lot of experiences from years ago, and I think writing these songs has been very healing and self-actualizing.”
In an effort to stay on track and to keep a schedule during the pandemic, Devan picked up a book titled The Artist’s Way and devoted herself to its 12-week program, which helps readers to overcome barriers to creativity. At first it felt uncomfortable, even torturous, but it led to her write songs about some heavy subject matter she hadn’t taken the time to process.
By writing these songs, Devan has discovered she’s living in the present, no longer dwelling on how things used to be. That’s especially true on “Without You,” as she dismisses an ex-boyfriend who’s trying to reinsert himself into her life, now that her career has taken off. “Feel Better” examines the view of her parents as an adult, understanding that we all have battles to face. She wrote both songs with Jack Emblem and Jesse Gold. “NASCAR,” written alone in a freestyle exercise, describes an intimate relationship that nonetheless feels distant, set against the backdrop of New York City.
Devan and Jack Emblem serve as executive producers of the Liquid Sunshine EP, which is slated for release on October 15. Based in Toronto, Emblem has worked with Daniel Caesar, Diddy, and Johnny Orlando. Emblem also mixed the EP, with mastering by Chris Gehringer (Justin Bieber, Andra Day, Selena Gomez, Niall Horan, Sia).
“Listening now, I’m really proud of these songs because they’re very honest and true to me,” Devan says. “They really feel like me. I felt so much more confident in the process of picking sounds and choosing lyrics and editing lyrics to make them sound like how I would actually say them. I could refine them in a way that I wasn’t able to before, because I didn’t have the perspective or clarity of myself. They feel very authentic to me right now, which was a hard place to arrive at, so I’m proud of that.”
Born in Toronto, Devan and her family moved to London when she was three-years-old. Surrounded by a variety of music and performing arts, the cultural scene in England shaped her aesthetic at a young age. She began to play guitar and harboured dreams to become a recording artist. But when her family returned to Toronto for her high school years, she lost some of her confidence. Although she enjoyed being on stage for assemblies and talent shows, she remained uncertain about her ability to set her poetry to music.
However, at university, she dedicated more time to practice guitar and started playing at coffeehouses and other small venues. With encouragement, she started to see a music career as a viable option and began to further develop her voice as a singer, songwriter and producer.
As a member of the band Wild Rivers, Devan had grown used to life on the road, where she found it easy to brush things aside. Being at home in Toronto gave her the chance to contemplate; she started to spend the first 20 minutes of each day journaling. The reflection brought out a new dimension to her writing, as well as her sound. Although there are elements of acoustic music and indie pop in her style, she has so far eluded a defining term, allowing her to explore the sonic spectrum.
For that inspiration, she looks to modern stars like Billie Eilish, Frank Ocean, and Dominic Fike, as well as influential performers such as Fleetwood Mac, Coldplay, and John Mayer. Despite their different musical styles, she considers all of them to be “songwriters at their core, who are able to dress up their songs in lots of different ways and still have them feel authentic.”
She adds, “Genres can be limiting because it’s easy to get hung up on ‘What does this sound like?’ or ‘Where does this fit in?’ I’ve been trying not to think in that framework. I try to use what hits me emotionally and feels authentic as my compass to determine which songs I write are right for my project. It’s nice that genres are blending a lot more these days, because it feels liberating.”
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