Interview: Devin Marie
Written by Kiersten Gerard
Devin Marie is a singer-songwriter that acts as a beacon of hope for anyone affected by stage fright. She has grown from someone terrified of the spotlight to an artist that has toured and performed in front audiences all over the country. We recently sat down with her to chat about her musical upbringing, the topics she likes to cover lyrically, and her advice for anyone looking to break out of their shell.
What has your relationship with music been like throughout your life?
I grew up with a very musical family. My dad moved from Alabama to New York to pursue his music career, which is also how he met my mom. They met at one of his gigs. My first time seeing my dad perform live was when I was 8 days old and from then on I was always going to his performances. My brother and I went to every rehearsal we could. On family car rides my dad would say “4 part harmony! Ready, set, go!” and we’d all sing together. It was never forced on us, it was something that we all just naturally fell in love with.
When did you start writing your own songs?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was 7 and my brother was 5 we performed our first original song together live in a Barnes and Noble. It was called “The Night at Dusk” and lyrically it made no sense. Still, we were so proud of it! We wrote the lyrics, the chords, that was the first song we wrote together that we actually performed somewhere. After that I kept writing and I still have the notebook of all the songs I wrote growing up. One of the songs on my upcoming EP was actually inspired by an idea that I wrote when I was younger.
When you're writing, are there any themes that carry through your songs?
I like to write about real stuff. So whether it be about my relationships, other people’s relationships, real life situations, grief, anxiety, pain, but also the joys of life and celebration. My song “Stronger” who lost her battle to Acute Myeloid Leukemia, “Can You Hear Me?” was to encourage people to vote, and “I Can’t Breathe” is about George Floyd. I’m constantly inspired by the things that are happening around me. One thing I miss in today’s music is the story telling and raw emotion it used to have. Music is such a powerful tool if we can use it.
Any future release plans?
I’ve got a song coming out in May titled “Falling Back in Love.” I’ve got another little project that I’m going to be dropping soon, if not in May then in June. The EP will probably be out closer to the fall. A lot of stuff is happening this year so I’m very excited to see where the road goes and who I’m able to connect with.
Out of the songs you’ve written, which one is your favorite?
My favorite song that I’ve written actually isn’t out yet, it’s going to be on the EP. Of the ones that are out, there are two. I had no idea the impact that “I Can’t Breathe” would have. I wrote it for myself because I was having a hard time sitting across from my brother with all that was happening in the world. For it to have had the impact that it has is still just beyond me. The second would be “Stronger.” I wrote that song for my friend Rachel, and I’m proud of knowing that it’s helped so many people become more aware of what Acute Myeloid Leukemia is. It also helped Rachel’s mom Amy raise $15,000 for a fundraiser last year. Stuff like that makes that song extra special for me.
What is your favorite original song to sing?
Probably “Wood Chips and Tricycles,” which isn’t out yet, but I love that song. It’s just really sweet and nostalgic.
What is your favorite song to cover?
“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley or “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music.
You have a history of struggling with stage fright- how have you overcome that fear?
When I joined Pursuing JC 5 years ago I had no interest in being onstage. It was always a dream of mine to be doing what I’m doing but with my stage fright I had no interest in being that scared. Then our manager David just put me on stage and said “Hey, you’re going to be singing with us now” and he didn’t take no for an answer. So basically I got over it by facing it head on. Still, there were so many performances where I cried both before and after. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I started getting better with it. We went on tour so I really didn’t have a choice. I tried finding different ways to cope so now my thing is that I dance before I go on stage. I put on a few songs, I dance, and I don’t have time to even think about getting nervous. It’s more of a joy for me now, now it’s all I want to do.
How has Tik Tok impacted your music career?
It’s definitely had a huge impact. When I started writing songs for people on Tik Tok I only had 25,000 followers. When I started that project my numbers started growing like crazy. From finding me there people started asking if I had music out on spotify and other platforms. Now I’m at almost 300,000 followers on Tik Tok. I’m starting to slow down on there a little bit because I do need the time to get more of my music out. I spend most of my free time writing songs for Tik Tok and people keep asking when I’m going to release new music but I can’t do both at the same time. So now I’m taking a break so I can really start cranking out more music before the summer gets started.
What artists do you take inspiration from?
Vocally I’m definitely influenced by Tori Kelly and Jonah Nilsson. Artist wise, I absolutely adore Tori Kelly. I think she's an incredible artist, vocally and instrumentally. Also Jacob Collier. He’s on another planet. He practically lives outside of the box. There’s nothing he does that you can predict. I am so fascinated by him. I’m also definitely subconsciously influenced by all of the music my parents would play while I was growing up.
What songs have you had on loop lately?
I’ve been listening to Mac Ayres’ Magic 8Ball album recently. So good. Also a lot of Tori Kelly’s newer stuff, Lake Street Dive, and “Next To You” by Dirty Loops.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I've received was from our manager David. He said to me once “If at the end of your life you were placed in front of two screens and the screen on your left was what your life was, and the screen on the right was what your life could've been if you didn't let your fear hold you back, how different would the two screens be and what would you do right now to make them look more similar?” I think that definitely helped me with my stage fright because there is so much that it has held me back from doing. For me the screens would look entirely different because I’ve spent so much time hiding due to fear.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Trust your gut, believe in yourself, and have patience. You have to trust the process. You get better by failing and practicing so get as much constructive criticism as you can.
Anything to plug?
My new song “Falling Back in Love” is coming out soon, I’m starting to sell stickers so if you want one of those the link is in all of my bios, and a lot of fun surprises are on their way. Definitely keep an eye out.
Follow Devin on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @devinmariemusic!