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The Retro Modernist

“In Charlottesville it was really hard for me to start writing, though I was listening to pretty decent music – kind of ‘rah rah we are women hear us roar’ stuff,” she recalls. “My early songs wore their influences pretty much on their sleeves,” she adds, stating, “I like the idea of women establishing what to me feels like our very obvious presence in the world as amazing contributors to everyday life and creativity and literature and art and then moving past that into just being an artist and not just a woman artist. Having an early phase of fist-raised feminism was great and made total sense for me.”

Devon’s first three albums were put out with help from her friend and mentor Jess Balkam who, through a connection with the Dave Matthews band, secured support slots with them. Her work impressed the bass player Stefan Lessard enough to produce it. But it was still hard graft.

“You have to craft a song, then you have to make it sound like it wasn’t crafted. I get sick of a song after an hour and I have to put it down and come back the next day. For me, it’s two weeks minimum, writing a song, and I’ll be thinking of it all the time and I’ll be working it over. My husband will just bang out a song in an afternoon and if it’s not good he throws it away and if it’s good, it’s done.”

“But one thing I found works really well, once I have a guitar thing that I’m excited about and I have the progression and I have some words, is using the guitar to remind me of notes that my voice is kind of forgetting. It’s ‘let’s listen to all the notes that are around a chord and see if I’ve forgotten any interesting melody choices’. It makes it more interesting to sing, so recording and performing and everything is more fun. It makes me feel I’m not boring people.”


fRom fRoots 289, July 2007

 

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