Interview – Janet Devlin

JD-Small-Scissors If music is food for the soul, then the words associated with the songs are the hydration for all other senses. At the young age of sixteen years old, Northern Ireland’s Janet Devlin took a risk and appeared on the British talent television series The X Factor back in 2011. Finishing fifth overall during that series, it was only the beginning for the budding singer-songwriter. Now at the age of twenty, Devlin is writing songs on a regular basis and expanding her musical repertoire. Placing strong emphasis on the emotion associated with each of her songs, Devlin’s maturity speaks volumes on her latest album Running with Scissors. Reaching number one on the UK Indie Breakers chart, Devlin’s record sees the light of day in North America in 2015 and is sure to make a lasting impression across the sea. Recently we sat down with the highly talented Devlin for a personal look at her inspiration, approach to songwriting, plans for the future, and much more. – You have been involved in music for most of your life and, in 2011, you were featured on the television series The X Factor. What brought upon your interest in auditioning for the series, and do you feel it helped you grow as an artist?

Janet Devlin – The reason I went on the show is quite strange. I had a YouTube channel that had 15,000 subscribers. My mom said, “You should send in a video to X Factor.” I never really watched the show to be honest, but she said, “What do you have to lose, so send in the video.” I  sent in one of my videos, I got through, and it happened from there. It helped me grow because I was a very shy child. YouTube is easy because no one is there to see you sing, you just post a video. X Factor was different because it taught me how to perform in front of a live audience, that is definitely something you need if you want to be in this job.  – You were also very young at the time you did that. That had to be a very nervous experience.

Janet Devlin – Oh yes, I was terrified! I was only sixteen, so I was still learning. I was obviously terrified.

JD-Woods-Black-Coat-small – At any age, the first experience of performing live can be terrifying. Being a young artist in today’s music industry can be extremely difficult. While the internet can be a blessing in helping one get their music out to the public, it can also be negative because it is easy to get lost in the shuffle with so much going on. How have you managed to keep yourself in the right headspace while trying to make your way?

Janet Devlin – I just separate them honestly. I know the internet has negatively affected the music industry, but I do things such as live online gigs. Those are cool because that means people from around the world can tune in to a gig that they would not see because I would not be touring in their part of the world. When I am writing, my phone is not connected to the internet. The writing world for me is separate from the internet. – That is a great example of a positive thing about the internet. You would not be able to reach such a broad audience with a live gig like that if it was not for the internet.

Janet Devlin – Definitely not. They are good for me because I get to connect with people I would not get to connect with. Twitter, Facebook; people can message you directly. Back in the day, you would have to write a fan letter. For that reason, the internet is good. – Your debut album Running With Scissors was recently released in June of 2014 in the UK and in North America on February 10th. The record ranked 1 on the UK Indie charts. What was the writing and recording process like for you on this album?

Janet Devlin – It was weird because I made an album and I did not like it, so I binned it. I made Running With Scissors in six weeks. It was very intense, but so worth it. Obviously I lived with these songs for so long, I took some of the old songs from the old record. The six weeks was intense focus and it brought the whole album back to life for me. There is one story I remember from the studio was with the song called “Things Lost in the Fire.” It is one of those emotional breakup songs I had written about my ex. It made me imagine my ex-boyfriend was actually there in the recording booth and I had to sing this song to him. A lot of what is in that song are things I actually never even told him. I learned that singing whenever you are about to cry is actually really difficult.

PledgeMusic – That is a very interesting story. The songs certainly have a very personal touch to them. Being that you are only twenty years old, the songs also certainly have a level of maturity beyond your years. With that said, how do you approach your songwriting?

Janet Devlin – I carry around these leather-bound journals; they look like something out of Harry Potter to be honest (laughs). I write my life in them. I write my life in poetry form a lot of the time. I will just come to a songwriting session with these books, which are completely filled with poems. I will get someone to play me a couple of riffs, if something makes me feel something, I will say, “That reminds me of poem I have in my book.” That means the lyrics and the music will already marry together. I sit there and work on good melody, good structure, and boom a song is born. – So you are always constantly writing your ideas down in poetry form?

Janet Devlin – Yes, definitely. Even when I visited New York for a couple of days, I got a half book full in that time. – That is great, it certainly is a good practice to keep your creative juices flowing.

Janet Devlin – Yes, it is actually very good. Sometimes you can turn up at a writing session and not feel very creative. You cannot be creative every single day. It is sometimes good to have backup in these books, even on days you are feeling creative. You already have a lot of what people struggle with, especially with lyrics. You already have that emotion bit in there, so you can just look into that, and normally it helps you get into a good mindset for writing. – Absolutely. Now, this latest record certainly has a great mix of Pop, Rock, and Folk elements. Do you think the tracks are a clear representation of the direction you want to go in the future?

Janet Devlin – This album, each song has a chance to say its message and build the sonic instrumentation around them. The next album or EP, I have no idea what direction I want to go yet.  I am just going to keep on writing, sit down, and think about what the next sound I want to use; it could change. – Right, as an artist you want to keep progressing.

Janet Devlin – Yes, I do not feel like I should be restricted to one certain genre. I do not feel like I am because I am an Indie artists, so if I want to change genres, it is not like it is the biggest deal in the world.

OK!Good Records – Yes, sometimes people like to box things in to understand them. It is great you are keeping an open mind about what direction you want to go. You recently performed some dates in your homeland in 2014. Are there any plans for touring in North America in the future?

Janet Devlin – Yes, I am working on getting my working visa to come over to the USA and possibly do some tours. It would be an absolute dream come true. – That will be exciting once you have that settled and you can play some shows in the USA. It seems you have a broad musical tastes. What are some of your musical influences?

Janet Devlin – What I listen to a lot does not really come across in my music. When I grew up, I had really cool baby sisters; they would listen to Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and stuff like that. I was listening to that between three and seven years old. Then I started doing horseback riding and my dad is very much into Country, so is my mother actually. I do like Country because it always tells a story. The songs are normally quite basic and very simple, but the song lyrics are very telling and paint a word picture that take you somewhere else. I find myself in the middle somewhere, that I appreciate instrumentation but I always appreciate telling a story that helps and gets to people as well. Pinning down influences is very hard. – That is understandable. Influences are not necessarily what your music sounds like. They are just aspects in music that inspire you to write music. A lot of times, influences bleed through in a musician’s music one way or another.

Janet Devlin – Definitely, I think around the time I was writing this album, I re-discovered City and Colour. I really love his work. I actually had a chance to meet him. It was terrifying because everyone tells you never to meet your heroes, but he was so nice. I really do like acoustic, soulful music, he checks all those boxes for me. There is an artist I discovered recently called Keaton Henson. I think he will be a musical influence for my next bit of work. I learned his lyrics hurt you to listen to. There are no filler lines in his music. I think every time when I am writing a song people may get annoyed with me because I will say, “I know that line is alright, but it is not good enough and it feels like a filler line.” I have become really connected with that, hopefully that will be a good thing for this next record.

Cooking Vinyl – That is wonderful that you are so dedicated to the lyrics. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films.  If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Janet Devlin – I love Horror. I am just one of those people that put on NetFlix and says, “Oh, that looks gory, let us put that on.” (laughs) I do seem to like Psychological Thrillers, I think they are fantastic. You get so into those films, if you know the genre, you keep wondering where is the twist. Movies such as The Others (2001), that has that aspect of Horror that is scarier because there is hardly any gore. I find I can watch Horror films very easy, because I know it is all fake and the blood is not real. I find myself more inclined to Horror films that do not have blood and guts, then it is even scarier, because it is more than likely playing with your mind. – Yes, the less you see the better it is sometimes. It gives your time to wander and think about things.

Janet Devlin – Yes, I think pretty much any book adapted from a Stephen King book will be amazing. Secret Window (2004) with Johnny Depp, I play for everyone who comes to my house to hang out. I tell everyone they have to watch the film, it will mess with their head. Pet Sematary (1989) stuck with me for two years. People would say something and it would bring me back to that film. I think I watched that film when I was very young. I think I snuck out of bed and put that film on. There is a reason you go to bed early as a child (laughs). My parents, when I was growing up, did not really believe in censorship, so I watched a lot of gory films when I was younger. I was around four when I watched Piranha (1978). I really did not want to take a bath for about a week, I was so afraid these piranhas were going to come and eat me while I was taking a bath (laughs).  I think I watched these films way too young.

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