Interview – Janet Devlin Talks Finding Christmas Spirit

Interview – Janet Devlin Talks Finding Christmas Spirit

Sincerity is a quality that is inviting and comforting. Although leaving us open for all to see our flaws, sometimes that is the beauty of it all. For Irish Singer-Songwriter Janet Devlin, this word defines what she is all about, internally and externally. First introduced to mainstream audiences on UK TV series X Factor while still a teenager, Devlin has continued to hone her writing skills through the years, and in early 2015, her album Running with Scissors made its American debut. A record filled with thoughtful, engaging tunes, Devlin still sees room for growth as she moves forward.

Finding inspiration everywhere she turns, Devlin recently released her Christmas themed EP, December Daze, and now looks to dive into her composition book of lyrics to craft new music. Amidst her busy schedule, we caught up with the delightful Devlin to talk December Daze, her plans for future music, what inspires her, and more. – Last we spoke back in February, we were talking about Running with Scissors and its proper release in North America. How do you feel people have received the record here in The States?

Janet Devlin – Really, it surprised me quite a lot. I did not know how it was going to go, but every feedback I have received has been 99.9% positive. I feel really lucky that was received, it was really good with only really positive things to say. Everyone really wanted to know about the music and wanted to know about the songs. It was so refreshing going over to The States, and people actually really wanted to talk about the music side of things. That was really cool. – Well it is really great record, you did a phenomenal job with it. The songs are very personal and they are the type of songs you want to listen to over and over again. You had said Running with Scissors does not necessarily dictate what direction you are going to go with on future releases. You said you are still growing as a songwriter; you want to keep progressing. With that said, how are the new songs coming along for the next full length record, and what can people expect?

Janet Devlin – Wow, the next record, if you thought the last one was honest, this one is very, very honest. The whole idea is, so far it is called, it can change, you never know, Holy Water. It is a concept of soul-cleansing. For me, writing music helps me cleanse my soul, helps me clear my mind, and keeps me sane. Also, this idea that music back in the centuries, especially in Catholicism and different religions, the idea that you cannot be forgiven for your sins until you tell another person and you admit it to yourself. Therefore, to be fully reconciled, that is what you have to do. My thinking for the next record is that if I write really honest songs, maybe some of the bad things in life that I have possibly done ever, if I write, I have admitted them to myself. If I record them, I have admitted them to my producers. Then, when I put it out there in the world, I let other people listen to it. Hopefully, I can then sleep at night (laughs).


OK! Good Records – That is very revealing. It is as if you lay it all on the line for things that you want to confess and you are laying it out for everyone to see.

Janet Devlin- Yes, pretty much. Obviously it will be based in metaphor. Maybe they won’t know exactly what I am talking about, but I will feel better anyway. – That is exciting to hear. Do you perhaps know when the record will be released?

Janet Devlin – I want it to come out maybe Summer of 2016. It is a quite hard one because I did not really plan on making a Christmas EP. It just kind of happened and I went with it cause I wanted to. I had planned for October/November to be in studio mode, writing and recording. Obviously that got a bit taken away by the making of the Christmas EP. Next year is just going to be solid writing and recording. Maybe I will take like a minor twitter hiatus for around two weeks and just really get my head into song world. That should be fun. – That is something to look forward to. You mentioned this Christmas EP, December Daze, it is really a delightful record. What inspired you to do this Christmas themed record?

Janet Devlin – I know everyone is like, “I know you are a Pop singer doing a Christmas EP, what is new?” It is different, just for me personally, because I have never been a Christmas person. I have never really bought into the whole idea of it. On my first trip over here to the New York, if you remember, in February, it was freezing, the Hudson had frozen over, NY was covered in snow, the town pretty much shut down. I was walking in Central Park with my guitar player and my manager, and this is keen we are having a lovely little day off. I just stood there for a second and I was thinking of all the films that had been made there. Like Home Alone 2 : Lost in New York (1992), Elf (2003), and all of those. I felt, “Do you know what, this year I want to get festive, I feel like I’m missing out on what everyone else gets.”

I felt, “What could I do?” I turned around to my guitar player and said, “Dude, when we get back to the hotel in between interviews, can we write Christmas songs?” He was a bit dumbfounded, and he said, “But you hate Christmas.” I told him, “I know, but just go with it.” Then we got back to the hotel, and I was on the 36th floor so I could just see everyone walk around Time Square, they are all wrapped up and all warm, trying to keep themselves from the snow. That is when we wrote “December Daze.” That was where it all started really.


OK! Good Records – Very interesting. What is quite compelling about this release is a lot of people release Christmas related records, but you actually wrote some original tunes to go with this, not that you just covered classic Christmas songs, which is really cool. Was that hard to write within the parameters of this is gonna be a holiday tune, what was that like?

Janet Devlin – I think, with “December Daze,” it was not too bad because it was more as a festive season and not Christmas specifically. It is more of a reflective song. It was a bit different sitting down with a specific brief in mind. It was not too bad, minus the chorus, the verses were written in two seconds. It was just really quick. My guitar player asked what key or what kind of riff? I thought, “Let’s do it in B,” or whatever. The lyrics were written really quick. I got back to the UK, then was toying with the idea of doing more than one Christmas song, but I thought I would just do a cover. It was whenever I was learning the vocals for “River” by Joni Mitchell that I was so frustrated because that is like the hardest song I have ever had to sing in all my life. She is just kind of general free timing, she does whatever she wants, she is very loose. I can barely talk in time. The vocals in that song are so hard as well, I got a little bit frustrated. My ukulele was there, I picked it up, and thought, “How hard can this whole Christmas malarkey be. I’ll write a Christmas song, it will be fine.” I started writing “Happy Holidays,” and then I got to the chorus and thought every single sentiment has been taken. If there is a sentiment, there is a song about it. There is where I just threw it all in and was just like, “Have yourself a merry, jolly, happy Christmas time.” I just thought I would chuck everything in the kitchen sink (laughs). – (laughs) Well it is a nice little collection of songs, five songs in total. Part of what makes the music that you performed so inviting is your voice, you really have a very inviting, soft voice which makes people feel comfortable.

Janet Devlin – Thank you very much. For the iTunes, there is another song which is another original. So there are actually six tracks on the EP, if you buy it on iTunes. There is a song called “Christmas Kiss;” sounds a bit weird, but I wanted to add another track to iTunes because I was doing all the Pledge Music stuff. I felt like I should put something else on. I wrote the song in a night; it is a bit of a joke. It is almost like a love song to Santa. There is a lyric in it which is, “On Christmas this girl is 4 years single,” which sadly is true. Well actually it is 3 years, but I figured by the way things are going, by the time it gets around the Christmas, maybe next year it will be 4. It kind of makes sense (laughs).

Photo credit JD White Woods

Photo credit JD White Woods – Very interesting (laughs). Hopefully that changes. With your songwriting, you are very sincere in your approach. You are very honest, but you also paint very vivid pictures with your lyrics. The songs almost play out like stories. Is that something you aim for as a songwriter?

Janet Devlin – I do love telling a good story. I listened to a lot of Country music growing up. That was my favorite part about Country was that they all tell a story. It is kind of sometimes unintentional, I do not really mean to tell a story, but whenever you are writing you are doing it in sections. I tend to start with a verse, so I’ll do verse 1 and verse 2 and it just kind of makes sense to me to make it flow into each other and try and tell a story at the same time. I think it is because I am a very self-indulgent writer that the things I write about are myself really. I am trying to portray normally something that happened to me. It kind of happens naturally really. – Understood. One song which comes to mind, which really is a striking song off Running with Scissors, is the final song on the record, “Whisky Lullabies.” This track, it seems relatively innocent in its approach and it is sound, again it does not as well. It is almost like it plays on both ends there, is that a good analogy?

Janet Devlin – Yes, because the message is somewhat very dark, but it was talking about childhood as well and growing up. I thought it would be nice to chuck a music box in. This was to make it sound nice and sweet. Also, not to really sing it, but almost whisper it and make it really personal. It is a dark song. The whole concept of when you get older, people do not ask you where it hurts anymore. Sometimes you might even forget to ask yourself. The whisky is the idea of not being able to sleep and having a nightcap. Yes, it is a very personal one. – It certainly is an extremely personal record and a wonderful listen really for any mood.

Janet Devlin – Well the Irish version is coming out as well over here in Ireland. It is called “Suantraí Meisciuil.” It was fun, it was a challenge because I have not spoken Irish since I was a kid. It was really good fun actually. – It sounds like it would be fun and something to catch out. You had mentioned coming back to North America playing shows here. Do you have plans for that in 2016?

Janet Devlin – In 2016, I just want to do as much gigs as possible, I am not even joking. This year, I have been quite quiet with gigs, I have not really done. Next year, I really want to test the waters with the new material, hopefully maybe play the West Coast. I would love to do that, because I have not done that. I did an East Coast tour this year. I just want to get my chops back on life and play songs for the people that want to hear it. It is definitely in my plan to play as many gigs as I can next year.

janet – Great, that is phenomenal to hear. You had said something earlier in this interview about being called a Pop singer. It seems like the word Pop almost has a stigmata attached to it for some people, some people not. It depends on who you speak to. How do you approach that?

Janet Devlin – The thing is, it took me a little while to accept that I wrote Pop. That is really all I had to do was say to myself, “If this is the music you write Janet, then this is the music you write.” It does not matter if someone is going snub their nose at the fact that it is Pop, Folk, or Pop anything. If that is what you make, then you are being true to yourself and you are being authentic because you are staying true to the songs you are creating in your head. If I was to change it just for the sake of changing it, it is not very authentic. Then, I am doing it for other people and I am not doing it for myself. – That is a good answer, it makes perfect sense. You just write what you want to write.

Janet Devlin – Yes, if I wrote an Indie sounding song tomorrow, then it would be an Indie song. It is just where my head was at on the first record, it would be more light-hearted. I supposed the next record would be going on the “Whisky Lullabies” vibe. That does not mean there won’t be upbeat songs on the next record or anything, there will be more than likely. I cannot wait to start getting my head into the writing process again, it is one of my favorite things, to be honest. – Great, it will be very excited to hear the new material. If I recall correctly, you are a fan of Horror movies. Tell us, have you seen any new Horror movies lately that you enjoyed?

Janet Devlin – I am a Netflix gal, I do not always remember the name of films, that is a really bad thing. I think with Halloween, obviously, I did not get to watch as many Horror films as I would have liked because my head has been in Christmas land. Actually, I watched Insidious (2011) on Halloween because Insidious is what you would watch on Halloween. I love that film. – Did you see the two sequels that they made to the Insidious series?

Janet Devlin – Yes, and they are really good as well. I know it is not Horror, it is not gore, it is not anything. To be honest, maybe I am just too used to Horror, but it is really not scary. It was more like, this is good. – Some people have a perception of what Horror is, just like what Pop music is. People have these preconceived notions, but Horror could really be anything that has suspense in it, it does not necessarily need to be cut them up and slash them up.

Janet Devlin – Yes, I know for me, the reason I always have the line between is really the Thriller or is it a Horror? I am really into Psychological Thrillers. Anything with a good plot twist, it is my jam, I love it. I watched Side Effects (2013) and it had Channing Tatum. There was a scene in it, I do not gasp often, but there was a scene that made me. I showed my guitar player and we were both just in shock at how good that film was. I would definitely advise to watch that.

Open Road Films

Open Road Films


Focus Features

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Purchase December Daze:

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