Interview: Janet Devlin
Given the deluge of Christmas albums that begin flooding the stores this time of the year, one could be forgiven if they rolled their eyes when they learnt about Janet Devlin’s new record, December Daze. But this festive E.P. is unlike other records of its type. For a start, Devlin is a self-confessed grinch. One never gets the sense that she churned out the album to make herself a quick buck; indeed, the whole project smacks of authenticity and life.
But what else would one expect from Devlin? Authenticity has been the mainstay of her career, the defining character trait that has won her a legion of fans and sold her records. Nothing about the artist seems fake or forced, and as much as anything else our interview with Devlin taught us that she as honest and raw in an interview as she is when performing.
We spoke to Devlin about December Daze, her musical inspirations, and her secret collection of a certain kind of toy…
Joseph Earp: How are you and where in the world does our interview find you today?
Janet Devlin: I’m currently at my house rehearsing for an online Halloween show that I have tonight!
JE: Tell us about your ‘festive E.P.’, December Daze. How did it come into being? What prompted you to start recording the E.P.?
JD: It all started on my first trip to New York way back in February. The city was covered in a blanket of snow and even the Hudson had frozen over. Whilst walking in central park it got me thinking of how many Christmas movies had been filmed there. I’ve never been the most festive of people in the world and actually to be quite honest I’ve always been a bit of a grinch. Something changed though, I decided that I wanted to go back to my hotel room and start to write a Christmas song and thus the track December Daze was born. From there it quite literally snowballed into writing more festive songs and inevitably deciding that I was going to make a Holiday themed EP.
JE: What are the Christmas songs you listened to as a child? I know you’ve said you’re not the most ‘festive of people’…Do you have any strong Christmas memories that stand out?
JD: I listened to all the classics really, so Wizard, Mariah Carey, Wham etc. My all-time favourite though has got to be Fairytale of New York. To this day when either my brother Aaron or I hear it on the radio, we have to call the other and say because to us that is when it’s officially Christmas.
I think one of the memories that stick out for me was one year Santa had brought me an ornate dollhouse. What was special about it was that I’d seen it in the shop window every Saturday when I was out shopping with my mum. Every time we’d pass the shop I’d always be glued to the window looking at it and all of its amazing furniture. So you can just imagine how excited and surprised I was when Santa brought it for me on Christmas day!
JE: Your cover of Joni Mitchell’s River is stunning. What is your connection to the song? When did you first hear it?
JD: I’m a big fan of Joni’s, especially the album Blue. I know that River isn’t actually a Christmas song, but I couldn’t help but overlook that in an excuse to cover the song. I heard it way back when I was 15; my guitar player had introduced me to the album and I fell in love with it.
JE: Do you have any plans to play some shows in order to support December Daze?
JD: Yes! I’ll be debuting some of the tracks at my show in London however this is sold out. So I’ll be doing an online show via Stageit in December to play the tracks to people who were unable to attend the gig. [You can access the show at the following link: https://www.stageit.com/janetdevlin]
JE: Will you ever listen to your old E.P.s or albums back? How do you feel about the work when its finished and out there in the world?
JD: In some ways it’s a sigh of relief because you know at that point there is nothing more you can do. However you do realise that people are going to be judging it and listening to it for the first time. In a way it’s like shipping out your baby into the world for the very first time as you’ve spent months trying to prepare it. I try to take some space from the tracks when I finished recording them. I listen back to them the day that the fans get to hear them as I feel then I can listen to the songs with fresh ears. I’m sure I’m going to be hearing a lot of this EP though at home as I’m sure my parents will be playing it when I get home for the Holidays!
JE: What is the song you have written that you are most proud of?
JD: I think it has to be Whisky Lullabies as I love the honesty of it. I do prefer the Irish version of it though as there’s amazing low whistle playing from Davy Spillane. The track is about growing up and how we have to ask ourselves how we’re feeling because sometimes no one else will.
JE: You have plans to go back to the studio to record your new album Holy Water. What can you tell us about that album?
JD: I intend to get into the studio as soon as I feel I’ve got a strong body of work that I feel proud of. I’m always in and out of studio writing and recording demos at the minute, but I feel I want to write as much as humanly possible so I have an abundance of choice when it comes to the songs. Holy Water is about the idea of soul cleansing. That you can’t be forgiven for your sins until you admit them to yourself and tell another person. So this album is going to be a very honest one, where I confess my sins to the listeners. It won’t be all dark though!
JE: You have such a loyal and devoted fanbase. What is the best interaction you have ever had with a fan?
JD: They’re absolutely amazing! I’m such a lucky person to have such amazing people following my career. People that will even fly from America or Europe to the UK for shows. It’s just mind blowing. Well one time I seen on twitter that a bunch of “Devlinators” were having a fan meet up in a coffee shop in Sheffield. I was in town that week recording and I seen the tweets. So I turned up and surprised them!
JE: What is your favorite thing about being on tour? What is your least favourite thing?
JD: I don’t have any downsides to be honest. I love to travel and because I’ve been single for years I don’t have anyone to leave behind on the road. I have really bad insomnia but for some reason I always sleep really well on the road.
JE: Tell us something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
JD: I have all of the teletubby teddy bears.