Having released his 9th studio album last year, we catch up with singer-songwriter Kevin Devine as he prepares to bring his full-band over to the UK.
Releasing Instigator in October last year, Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine continues to demonstrate his beautiful song-crafting skill. Masterfully blending the light and the heavy, his breathtaking live shows follow suit.
With Laura Stevenson already with him on the road, and our very own haunting melodist The Lion and the Wolf set to join for the UK dates, Kevin Devine will be going all out, joined by his Goddamn Band. As he tells us when we catch up with him over the phone from a cafe in Berlin, this includes a member of Manchester Orchestra and an auxiliary member of cult superstars Brand New.
Check out the full interview after the video.
How is the European leg of your tour going?
We’re three shows in at the moment. All of them have had a good turnout and a great response. The band feels really good and record has been met really well. So, so far so good. It’s nice to be in this part of the world again. It’s good to be back.
I was just in the UK in October when the record came out. I was only there for a week doing some promo stuff and an in-store at Banquet Records, and two small underplays in London and Brighton.
So this is the first chance you have to play the new material properly.
Yes, absolutely. Particularly as the record is mostly a very band orientated record, so to be able to play it that way benefits the songs. It skews closer to the presentation on the record.
I’ve played half the record acoustically in the UK at those October shows, but it’ll obviously be different with the three-piece and the full rock show.
Do you have a preference?
It obviously depends a lot on the context; what type of show it is, what type of audience it is, what type of room it is. My personal preference moves around all the time, and so what I’ve tried to do is build in five or six solo songs throughout the set. It presents both sides of the thing.
There are times when I go through phases where it’s really fun to be in a rock band, stepping on pedals next to a loud drummer. That’s something you want to do from when you’re ten years old.
Other times I really like the commincation of the solo thing, and think that there’s a certain – for the lack of less eye-rolling term – purity that’s hard to match. The goal for me is to try to make the solo show as dynamic as the band show, and the band show as pure as the solo show.
The touring dynamic must change too.
Sometimes I am literally alone. When it’s like that there’s something about it a like until I don’t. I’m a married person with a small kid so it’s very rare to get time to think and be.
I do feel exceptionally guilty when I do get that time because my wife most definitely does not get that opportunity right now.
I’ve done three-week tours around Europe where I’ve just driven myself around, and there’s something about that that allows you to find a space for yourself, which is a rare thing in the world right now. But at a certain point you get kind of crazy.
You have to talk to a promoter after an eight hour drive and your brain isn’t wired for that yet.
With a band there’s a built in network, which is great. But that privacy is naturally lessened.
With a new family at home, when do you find time to write music?
I haven’t written a record since my daughter was born. I wrote Instigator when I knew she was coming. I’ve only written one song front to back since she’s been here.
But that’s not abnormal. I tend to not write when I’ve just made a record, I shift my focus towards the live thing. I treat writing at home like a day job, in the sense that since I’ve been living with my wife I’ve tried to discipline myself to write while she is at work.
Sometimes you can’t control that. If something shows up at nine o’clock at night you follow it. But there are hours during the day that are free. I also might have to go away for a long weekend to focus on that, but more will be revealed. I’m not there yet.
There’s no rush.
But when things show up they show up, and you can’t always dictate that. It’s my job to make room for it. I do think I have a little time though.
You’ve released a few albums through Kickstarter in recent years. How did you find that process?
It was surprisingly successful and smooth. I don’t have millions of fans, but the ones I have are very passionate. They feel like they have this secret in their pocket that for some reason hasn’t saturated into the mainstream. So financially the campaign was amazing. It hit its goal in eight hours, and more than doubling it. It was staggering.
There were no more glitches than working with normal record labels. We were lucky to have a good team surrounding us. Everyone was instrumental.
That immediate connection with the audience is a really special thing.
Has it changed the way you work?
I think the business has changed the way everyone should approach making records. I’ve always been independently minded and not scared of doing things myself; I kind of grew up in that culture, both in terms of family and culture, and in punk and hardcore.
Now I think that’s how everyone who isn’t Beyonce has to be working. You have to be will do a lot more of that grunt work. I felt particularly suited to that, and this is kind of an industrial extension of that thinking.
You have Laura Stevenson and The Lion and the Wolf with you. How do you feel about the line-up?
I have 100% say, so I feel really good about it. I don’t know The Lion and the Wolf yet, but I know his music and I like it. Laura is a really formidable songwriter, great singer, funny and a great travel partner.
We have Damon Cox playing drums, who is an auxiliary drummer for Brand New and played in a band called An Horse for a long time. And Andy Prince playing bass, who plays in Bad Books with me and is in Manchester Orchestra. Both of those guys have been in my band on and off for years, so it’s a killer band, and both of the support acts are strong.
Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band reach the UK very soon. We’ve got tickets for the London date over on Ticketmaster.co.uk.