interview | l devine

Loneliness isn’t usually something to shout about from the rooftops, but for 21-year-old singer-songwriter L Devine being lonely is just another excuse to party. While previous releases tackle issues like relationship troubles and unaccepted love, her latest, “Naked Alone” is light-hearted; a self-described “loner’s anthem.” “It’s just, I’m lonely. I want to cuddle with someone,” she laughs.

Devine is based in London, moving from Newcastle to pursue music in her late teens and it was precisely the stress of that move played a role in the creation of “Naked Alone.” “I moved to London, and I didn’t know anyone at all, didn’t have many friends,” she reveals. “There was no one I could hit up and midnight and be like, Come over! It was all a bit much.” She found refuge in the studio, where she put in the hours to produce the majority of her critically beloved Peer Pressure EP.

Still, pangs of loneliness lingered, bleeding into her creative output. “I kind of was sick of writing these super sad and depressing songs about it,” she explains. “I just wanted to turn it into something tongue in cheek that I could dance to, and bring light to the situation.” Electro-pop duo INDIIA, who had been planning to work with Devine, happened to play a beat they had been saving for a rapper. At that moment, she knew they struck gold, building an anthemic, loneliness-themed chorus between self-assured verses on top of the funk-inspired track. “And there it was – “Naked Alone” kind of flipped it on its head. I was super happy. I have this fun, loner’s anthem that I could dance around in my room to any time I felt lonely… It’s sick, man. It’s too cool.”

Devine’s versatility is instrumental to her writing process. “I like to experiment with different sounds, different kinds of vibes.” By numbers, her most popular song to date is “Panic”, the closing track off of her 2017 EP Growing Pains. After several full-blown pop jams, “Panic” is a departure, showcasing not only Devine’s melody writing ability but the emotional depths she’s willing to go for her music. Her voice treads lightly over simple piano chords, a production style she insisted on. “We had a totally produced song. It was written on piano originally, [but] the producer kind of took it away and was like, let me do my thing.” The result was adequate but distant and impersonal. “I was like, people just need to hear the song. People aren’t going to connect to it like this. It’s all getting lost in there, and I know this is a song people will really connect and relate to. We stripped it completely back and really just left it how the demo was. I mean, that song is pretty much the demo… I’m glad I did that.”

Genre consistency has never meant much to Devine. “I’m not really making conscious decisions of what genre I am or what genre of music I’m making. I’m just kind of making the music I want to make – the cohesive part of it is always my writing and my stories.” Devine’s stories seem to be connecting; last year’s Peer Pressure EP produced singles like “Can’t Be You”, “Nervous” and of course the EP’s title track, “Peer Pressure”. “There was a strong message in that song. People were sending me all sorts of things about how much that song meant to them, how much they relate to that song… I definitely felt like there was a pressure to keep writing songs with messages like that, that people could connect to.”

Daughter,” the opening track from Peer Pressure, elicited a similar reaction. “Daughter” is a heartfelt ode to same-sex love from a queer perspective, taking the viewpoint of someone explaining their feelings to their partner’s disapproving mother. “I was kind of nervous to put that out because I’ve always been really open about my sexuality, but… I don’t know if this sounds cynical, but I never wanted to feel like I was cashing in on it.” Appreciative comments on Devine’s Instagram and YouTube videos show just how unwarranted that fear was. “As soon as I put it out, it was the most incredible feeling. So many people were relating to that song and coming to me with their stories and their experiences in terms of their sexuality.”

Fans of Devine may have come to know her through her short films, which helped place her as one of YouTube Music’s “Ones to Watch” for 2019. Both films incorporate her music into a personal narrative, inspired by visually-focused musicians like Tierra Whack and Christine and the Queens. “I just wanted to create a whole world around the music. It’s more than just five songs on an EP. There’s so much more to it. These little short films really help to do that.”

Director Emil Nava helped build the narrative for each film. “The first one was really cool – it felt really young, it was in my hometown. The second one kind of got weirder – [they] shoved me in this boiling hot astronaut suit and made me run around the desert for a bit… It was, like, 38 degrees. It was crazy. But it was great. I love it. I’m excited to do more of it.”

Her other inspirations? “I love Koffee. She’s so sick. I’m also obsessed with Swae Lee – I feel like every melody he does is absolute perfection.” When asked about a dream collaboration, she laughs. “All of them, just on a big track – me, Swae Lee, Koffee, Christine and the Queens, Lorde… it would be like the best song of all time. Cool people only.”

At the moment, Devine is refining her stage show. On June 12, she’ll be playing her second ever headlining gig in London – an event she’s preparing for with smaller performances. “I went to Newcastle and did my first ever show last week. I was honestly expecting just a few of my dad’s mates, like spread out through the crowd, but there were all of these actual fans there,” she describes. But her goal in performing is similar to the goals of “Naked Alone” – celebration, even for just a moment. “It feels like we’re having a party to all of my songs. I just want the crowd to feel like they’re in on that. I want it to be super free, and everyone can totally be themselves – me as well.”

L Devine’s headlining show will be taking place at Courtyard Theatre on June 12. Stream “Naked Alone” now.

photography. Jack Alexander
talent. L Devine
words. Braden Bjella


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