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L Devine

She’s been championed by Charli XCX, Dua Lipa and Lewis Capaldi, supported by Radio 1 and Beats 1, and won GAY TIMES’ Elevate Emerging Star in Music award (supported by Apple Music). A snapshot of L Devine’s CV shows that the young artist is heading towards future iconic status. What’s more, she’s doing it her way – offering her unique take on life experiences through a prism of pioneering pop.

After ‘Boring People’ earned both a Radio 1 playlist and Annie Mac’s Hottest Record earlier this year, L Devine builds upon her burgeoning reputation with the new single ‘DON’T SAY IT’. The song continues to blend L Devine’s assertive and eclectic brand of alt-pop with a powerful vocal delivery. The song’s message – imploring a romantic interest to make their intentions clear – is one that will connect with her like-minded following as the song questions, “Are you here to love me or are you really here to hurt me?”

“‘Don’t Say It’ is about when someone tells you they love you but they don’t mean it, they’re just telling you what you want to hear,” she says. “It’s about how beautiful the lie is and how much you try to believe it, but the truth always reveals itself and hurts you. I love the way these feelings are depicted in the music too. There’s such an interesting use of space in the song and the contrasts between tranquillity and chaos in the music really reflect the lyrics.”

Yet while the sonic scale of her melody-heavy strain of perceptive pop is huge, the songs are born from intimate personal experiences.

L Devine’s two EPs to date explored the transition into adulthood through her own tales. The ‘Growing Pains’ debut “is very much about me being in Newcastle and the things I experienced as a teenager.” And the ‘Peer Pressure’ EP addressed, “leaving my home town, leaving my comfort zone and trying to find my space as an adult.”  Breakout single ‘Naked Alone’ continued that autobiographical slant with a tell-it-as-it-is look at sexuality.

“The songs I write are very honest and raw,” she considers, “and people seem to connect when I’m at my most vulnerable.”

Those songs reach out to an audience who are going through the same things. It’s particularly powerful in her song ‘Daughter’, which explores the emotions that come with a mother’s negative reaction to a same-sex relationship. “Say your worst, trust me your ignorance don’t faze me,” L Devine sings. “She’s my baby girl.”

“That song helps a lot of people who are struggling with their sexuality, or who have done in the past,” she explains with pride. “A lot of people have said, ‘I needed this song so much when I was coming out.’ There are so many people in that situation, and there’s a community waiting to accept them and to welcome them with open arms. When I was 15, I’d have craved a song like that, just to make me feel like I wasn’t alone.” 

Still just 22-years-old, L Devine explores experiences that will connect with her generation. That’s true of recent track ‘Peachy Keen’, which sets the synth line from Kim Carnes’ 1981 smash ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ to a big trap beat. “‘Peachy Keen’ is about two people who have so many of their own problems and no real way of coping with them but find comfort in the fact that at least they’re both messed up together.”

L Devine has always operated in her own lane, against the grain of expectations. Raised in the sleepy seaside town of Whitley Bay, her individualistic streak first emerged at the age of seven when she formed The Safety Pinz, a rudimentary punk band inspired by The Sex Pistols. But the lure of pop was overwhelming, especially as she started to write songs in her teens. And when she posted a mash-up of one of her earliest songs with Beyoncé’s ‘Mine’, the path to her longer-term future was set.

After forging initial connections with producers and songwriters (including SIBA, who remains a trusted collaborator to this very day), L Devine went all in. She sold her car, moved to London and pursued a career as a songwriter.

“I was super lonely,” she admits, that vulnerability never far away. “But I was so excited and pumped. I wanted to write the best songs I’ve ever written and prove myself.” She had Charli XCX’s ‘Number 1 Angel’ mixtape on repeat throughout this time, which made her later patronage of L Devine to be “the motherfucking future!” all the more special.

Industry attention soon followed, albeit with a twist-in-the-tale. Why not be the artist as well as the songwriter? It was a suggestion that captured her imagination, but it needed to be on her own terms. “It’s important that all of the songs are written by me and tell my story.”

 That resulted in sessions with a who’s who of modernist pop producers: Hudson Mohawke, John Hill, Rogét Chahayed, Burns, Al Shux and Ian Kirkpatrick. But as a self-taught guitarist, bassist, pianist, drummer and aspiring producer, L Devine wasn’t overawed. “I learnt that if you’re going to sit in the corner and be quiet, then you’re wasting your time. You should go in, be confident and get the song done.”

That talent has extended to L Devine co-writing for other artists too, with Rudimental’s ‘Mean That Much’ (featuring her regular collaborator Preditah) and Icona Pop’s ‘Next Mistake’. It also led to an invitation from MNEK to join a writing camp in celebration of Pride alongside the likes of Olly Alexander, Rina Sawayama and Sakima.

“When I released ‘Daughter’ there was a lack of that message in music. But now there are many LGBTQ+ artists cropping up and it’s amazing. I hope there are more of those writing camps. We all started telling our stories and it felt so free. And we got a great song out of it, probably because there was so much love in the room.”

The summer of 2019 also saw L Devine stepping out of the studio and onto the stage. Her debut show at her local venue, Newcastle’s Think Tank, elevated her from the dancefloor to the headliner while her third gig was at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. She also sold-out her first two London shows, and will play her biggest headline show at Heaven in November as part of a full UK tour.

Her live shows are also an opportunity to make an IRL connection with the fans she interacts with on social media. Tellingly she tends to refer to them as friends rather than fans and is always eager to give them something extra back. In Germany, for example, she guestlisted some hardcore fans at her show with Lewis Capaldi. It’s more of a two-way relationship rather than a traditional fandom.

“It’s important for me to do stuff like that so they know that we love each other,” she smiles. “They inspire me. I write for them and I love meeting them.”

That outlook was further underlined when L Devine announced her ground-breaking virtual URL Tour of social media channels after her shows with FLETCHER were postponed. As she explained to Radio 1’s Newsbeat: “I thought: ‘How can I put a smile on people’s faces when we’re all a bit out of the loop and keep everyone safe?’ We’ll try and think about ways around not touring while we can and while we don’t know how long this is going to last. We just need to stay smart and safe.”

What makes L Devine special is that she makes global-facing pop from her own singular perspective. “Pop is the best kind of music,” she concludes. “That’s always been what I’ve wanted to do, is make pop music that’s cool and interesting. Not following trends.”

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