In keeping with the spirit of L Devine’s massively anticipated debut album, ‘Digital Heartifacts’, a collection of tracks made up of the mistakes the singer/songwriter's heart has made, F Word explores the undesirable and unintentional nature of the mistakes that show through the cracks of everyday life. The current, pressure-filled state of uneasiness and unknowns in the UK and wider Western world has creative young people burning the candle at both ends, questioning their identity, and struggling to keep up with their own thoughts, ideas, and burgeoning careers. Rather than shy away from the harsh truths of this present moment, we’re using them as a vehicle to further enhance the lyrical honesty running through L Devine’s upcoming music. Our messy homes may not reflect our external confidence and togetherness that, let’s face it, is more often than not, a front, but they still nurture our creativity and ambition.
Following years of successful EP releases, L Devine’s upcoming album encompasses her most raw and relatable songs so far. Taking a confident step as a fully formed artist in control of her own destiny, L Devine talks to F Word about the birth and release of 'Digital Heartifacts', her life in Newcastle, and the importance of her queerness.
Emilie Louizides: Hey Liv! What’s been new lately?
L Devine: So, I just came back off tour, we did a week of shows in London, Bristol, Manchester, and Newcastle, which was really fun. Other than that, I’ve just been back in Newcastle chilling out a little bit and getting ready to go back in the studio. It’s been a fun few weeks!
EL: Exciting! I was at your London show.
LD: Oh really! How was that, did you enjoy it?
EL: It was incredible. Such a fun night, I loved it.
LD: Yeah, it was lush, that one. It’s always a weird one, starting with London – you usually build up to it and that’ll be the last one you do when you’re in the swing of it a bit more. There was a lot of nervous energy for the first half but by the end of it, it was sick. I also feel like with London crowds, sometimes they stand there like you’ve got something to prove, a bit, like they’re expecting something of you.
EL: I thought the fans delivered!
LD: Yeah, they were great, they were so great!
EL: It was a fun crowd to be a part of, I loved the energy of it. Okay, for anyone who’s just getting into your music, where should they start and what should they keep in mind?
LD: I would say, start with ‘Push It Down’ [one of] the most recent single[s] I’ve put out. I think I really love – I’m really proud of – the EP I put out in, I think it was 2018? ‘Peer Pressure’. I feel like that was when I kind of first really locked into who I was and what kind of music I wanted to make and the things I wanted to talk about. And visually as well, at the time, I felt the most creatively involved in that project. So, I would definitely go back and revisit that stuff. And what should they keep in mind…I think probably keep in mind that the new stuff is not so much a departure but a progression. Maybe a bit different. I think I’ve been saying a lot that I kind of went through a phase after ‘Peer Pressure’ – after that got a bit of hype – I kind of panicked a bit, I was shooting for these universally succinct messages that everyone could relate to in songs and my head was a bit scrambled on what kind of music I should be making rather than the kind of music I wanted to be making. Now I’m finally at that place where I don’t really care about that stuff, I just want to make the music that best defines me and tells people who I am.
EL: As we enter this new album era, I was going to ask if fans should expect a departure from anything and if there is this brand new, totally different L Devine coming. It’s interesting to hear you say it’s a progression rather than a departure. Can you speak a little bit more about that progression?
LD: Yeah, for sure! That’s why I brought up the ‘Peer Pressure’ EP, it kind of feels like a little nod to that, in a way. That was when it was the most personal, kind of like, stories from your bedroom type thing. I think I got in the groove of trying to shoot for these really empowering songs and messages and stuff when a lot of the time, I didn’t feel like that was really honest. I didn’t always feel empowered. I think I’ve found a way to still keep that kind of L Devine tongue-in-cheek way of writing and using humour to deflect a lot of heavy stuff. That’s why it’s a progression because I still have that kind of personality that I’ve had through all of the songs, maybe it’s just talking about things that are a bit more personal to me now.
EL: That’s great. I want to talk about the new album musically. There’s this distinct shift from your more recent work in ‘Near Life Experience Part One’ and ‘Two’ and what you’re coming out with now. Can you talk a bit about the differences between the most recent project and the one that’s coming and what artists you might have been listening to during the time of writing each of those projects?
LD: I think the biggest difference would probably be that I’ve only worked with one person on this record. I think you can hear that. The songs definitely tie together a bit more even though that with songs like ‘Push It Down’, which I guess, on its own, it sounds kind of like a heavy, grungy guitar pop song, but then I think once you have the context of the whole album, it makes way more sense all together.
In the past, the ‘Near Life Experience’ EPs, they were made with a lot of different producers and it was around the time where I was doing speed dating kind of song writing sessions and I had some amazing times and wrote with some incredible people and I have some songs that I’m really really proud of. It was a really good way to kind of, I guess, cut my teeth in the song writing world and learn my craft with that. I think this was really an opportunity to hone in on the sound, and production-wise, I’ve never had enough of a relationship with a producer where I felt comfortable to put my ideas forward. Like I said before, you meet someone, and you write a song with them that day. With Julien, who I made this record with, we were about to develop a proper friendship and relationship and I think that meant we could go to some weirder places that I haven’t been able to before and also show him some of my production ideas as well and I think, in turn, it made probably the most cohesive thing I’ve done, and, I personally think, the most interesting production-wise as well.
And then, people I was listening to…I think it was just song by song really. I don’t know if it actually sounds like the album or if you can tell but I was listening to a lot of Tirzah. You can probably tell that melodically, and maybe not always going for that huge pop, belting singing kind of chorus. So vocally maybe you can tell a bit there? And then I was listening to a lot of Vegyn as well – a lot less song writing stuff and more sonic things. I didn’t really want to be inspired by any songwriters, I just wanted to make something that was really unique to me. I’m trying to think who else…I was listening to a lot of ‘The Velvet Rope’, Janet Jackson, that album, ‘Perfume Genius’ as well.
EL: To the way you’re progressing, do you feel like this all really differs from the kind of music you were consuming in the last project?
LD: Yeah, I think so! That was years ago now, that other stuff. I think it was always that I didn’t know what it was that I wanted to make when I was going into those sessions so I think day by day I would just go in having a reference and I would be like, ah, I haven’t tried this kind of song. It was just like throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. It was less about what was the music I really enjoyed listening to as opposed to, what kind of song do I need in this project? I didn’t do that then. This time, it was just a really organic way of making songs, with my genuine influences that I loved listening to.
EL: I love that idea of approaching a session with ‘what do I need?’ That’s so much [more] authentic and visceral.
LD: Yeah, for sure.
EL: Continuing with the behind the scenes talk, I would love to hear if there was anything that surprised you about the writing and recording process with the new album?
LD: When we made it, we made a lot of the songs – probably half of the album was – in the first week. We did one session, me and Julien – and we had written together for another artist before when we first met and then we did one for my project – and that was the first song on the album, ‘Eaten Alive’ and I think I was in the mood of, I just want to go and eat everything I’ve ever done and make a really really fucking weird song today, and then I really enjoyed that and I invited him up to Newcastle and it was literally like it just formed from the sky, it was really fun.
I’m trying to think of something that surprised me. I guess you just never know what you’re actually making. I think I only really realized the kind of record I wanted to make after it was finished. Once you’re curating all of the songs…because we wrote so much stuff. It’s kind of like digging away at a fossil. You don’t know what album it is until you kind of take away all the songs that don’t give it the right context and tell the story the best way. And then once I knew what kind of album it was, once I knew what the themes were and once I knew that the sound was, then it became so easy to write this album. Now I’m kind of in a place where I want to move on to the second one because it’s done, and I can’t because I know so well how to write songs for this album. I know who the character is and what the sound is and what the vibe is. That’s gonna be a new challenge, stepping out of this world.
EL: Really cool, and that’s going to be so exciting. I love that you mentioned Newcastle because I want to talk about home a bit. You’re originally from Newcastle and still based in Newcastle. I’ve heard you speak about home really fondly, so I want to hear a bit about what home means to you as an artist and as a member of a wider community?
LD: For me, home means family and friends and being around people that you can really be yourself around. I don’t ever have my guard up around here. Especially in the music industry, a lot of my time in London was spent going to some sort of events or in studios or just working so much and it doesn’t really feel like work here because I’m just sat in my studio downstairs and inviting people up and kind of getting to show them my life and then I can go round to my dad’s for tea and see my sister and her kids and stuff. I think I’ve just realised that's how I want to live my life now. I don’t really want to spend my time with anyone but those people and I think just the sense of community up here is really nice, it just comes so naturally to people to help each other out. I just love that if you need an odd job done in your house or something, you’ll go down the pub and like, “oh yeah, my mate Billy will sort it for ya!” and they give you his number rather than going on like, Taskrabbit or something. I just like stuff like that, and all your neighbours know each other. Community is fully still alive here. It obviously is in so many other places but I just love it, I love the people around here.
EL: I love that. Side note, but did you read ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith?
LD: I haven’t! I have actually never read it but I know it’s supposed to be absolutely amazing.
EL: I really recommend it, it was definitely my favourite book I read last year but it’s set in New York city where she finds herself and finds her art but I think because they have no internet, no social media, they’re so before that time, there's this sense of community in how you can put your art into it or you can just put yourself on a really off day into it and no matter what, there’s always going to be this really soft place to land whereas there’s so much grit and hustle culture in cities like London and New York now – some people love it, some people hate it. I think I have a real love/hate relationship with it – and I really really see the appeal of what you’re talking about.
LD: Yeah it’s amazing because I think I’ve got the best of both worlds. I get to come and work in London and I lived in London for like, five years a bit back during just before covid. When I was a teenager I was desperate to get out of this place but once you’ve experienced both things you realise the value of a place like here, and just the people. I think you can tell on the album as well that I was home when I made it and that I’ve spent a few years at home because I’ve got no one in my ear telling me who I am apart from people that know me. These people I’ve surrounded myself with the past few years truly truly know me, and you can tell I’ve felt more comfortable being myself.
EL: That’s really cool, I’m excited to listen out for that. Along with you being your most authentic self, you’ve created this place in your own musical world to discover, foster and celebrate your queerness. I want to know why this has been important to you.
LD: It’s important to me because I needed that when I was younger. It still kind of trips me out sometimes that – especially doing the tour and seeing lots of fans, queer fans especially that have become friends because of my music, or bring their partners to shows and are cuddling and kissing in the crowd and everyone comes to shows together, and also a lot of people that have been coming to my gigs for years who actually found it hard to come to shows and be in spaces around a lot of people and now they all have groups together - it just feels, like you were saying earlier, the crowds are amazing, it’s a special crowd and a really safe space and really encouraging. They’ve got my back and they’ve got everyone else’s back and yeah, I love that. That’s definitely something I would have liked to have been a part of when I was fifteen and I felt super lonely as a queer teenager. It’s a really lonely experience, I think, for most people. Music and film and TV is so important to queer kids, it’s kind of the only place they can feel represented and not feel as lonely and find solace in characters and musicians, so, I think it’s really important.
EL: I totally agree, and I felt it being in your crowd specifically. You really do provide a beautiful place for people to be a part of and I love that you do that just by showing up and being your authentic self and that this whole other community can grow from that, it’s really special to see, because not every gig is like that. And speaking of your live shows, they’re so energetic and vibrant and complete with screaming fans. Do you feel like you’ve brought a sense of your Northern pride to your live shows that’s having an effect on your fans, energetically?
LD: Maybe! I’ve definitely got a potty mouth *laughs*. Possibly there’s a Northern vibe to it. I do find they get wilder the more up North you go so it’s a shame we had to stop at Newcastle and didn’t go to Scotland but yeah, I hope the fans are honorary Geordies now.
EL: How does it feel for you to let go of a project? Something that’s only been yours for so long and close the chapter of creating it?
LD: It’s a really unique feeling. I’d say it’s kind of the most underwhelming and overwhelming feeling at the same time. I don’t mean that in an ungrateful way at all, it’s so amazing putting out music, the buzz you get from people finally hearing it, and letting the songs be everyone else’s and not just yours, it’s a really cool feeling. So…onto the next I guess! Things just keep going. But it’s so nice to see how people interpret songs, when people needed that song in their life, it’s interesting. But you live in the project for so long as well, and it’s hard for me to let go of the version of me or the character that I’ve written as, and that era of writing this album. I guess, in my head, I kind of think I’ve got to grow or I’ve got to progress into something else – that’s the weirdest part of it. If the album was a house, how do I move out of this house and find somewhere new?
EL: Yeah or just like leaving – not necessarily a chapter of a book but you know how sometimes you’ll have those books where there are three major stories within it? You come to the close of one and you’re sometimes excited to get to the next one, sometimes you’re mourning the end of it. I guess in a way it does feel like one door closed, another open?
LD: Yeah but then you’re like, when’s the new door gonna open?
EL: Yeah, you’re standing in this hallway between these two doors!
LD: Yeah, I think it’s always daunting when you think of these three kinds of stories, like you said. Where’s the inspiration going to come from next? I don’t think you realise why it’s happening. You look and you’re like, god, what I’ve written about for the past few years is this and I’m kind of over that now, I’ve dealt with that, and you’re just waiting for something to happen to you.
EL: I think it just means you have to get out there and live more life.
LD: Yeah, exactly.
EL: Are you a goal setter or are you more of a go with the flow person?
LD: I think I’m more of a go with the flow person. I usually set my expectations quite low? But I don’t even know if I do that on purpose, I’m just grateful for the fact that I get to do this, and I’ve been doing it for a while, I’ve been on a journey that’s been ups and downs. I’m really grateful that I don’t put that much pressure on myself as much as I used to when I was first starting out. Making this album kind of reassured me of what was important to me and kind of letting go of those sweetie validations that aren’t great for you in the long run. What really makes me feel good is making music that I’m proud of and playing it to people. As long as I can do that, I don’t really have many goals.
EL: Is there anything – being in that flow state – that you’re open to experiencing next?
LD: I think it’s just how can I keep creating? And making this album independently and being involved in music videos – I’ve written most of the treatments for these music videos, and the whole album cover idea, and whole world for this album made me realise that I really love doing that as well. I don’t know where else I could do that, maybe just collaborate with other artists on a creative front and just dip my finger into loads of different pies. I think it just made me realise that I love all aspects of being an artist and I think I can do that beyond my project. And I would love to go incognito and drop another EP under a different name and do something totally different because I love a lot of music. And I think, sometimes L Devine probably confines me, which is good because that’s the point, I’m an artist. I should have a style and a “thing” but I would like to jump out of that sometimes.
EL: Yeah, definitely. When the album promo wraps and the album is released and everything is all said and done with putting this project out, are you planning to take a break before starting the next project?
LD: I’m starting it now, I’ve kind of started writing for it already. I’m not saying I’m writing the album and these are the songs that are going on, I’m just blowing the dust off a bit and getting the ball rolling. It takes a while. I’ll probably start writing it now and not actually know what it is I’m writing until next year.
EL: Cool! And finally Liv, what is your favourite F Word?