The hotly tipped British pop artist talks to the music agency about her journey so far, Lewis Capaldi, Love Island and how a TV ad sync inspired a fresh new track.
Raised in Whitley Bay, 22 year old L Devine (shortened from Olivia Devine) became immersed in music as a teenager, composing songs in her bedroom, uploading them online and performing in every venue she could. She sold most of her belongings and moved to London three years ago to pursue a career in songwriting, which quickly led to collaborations with a plethora of pop’s most exciting producers.
Loaded with attitude, firmly rooted in reality but always with an edge, L Devine’s songs are inspired by her life and what she sees around her. Hailed as a vital new talent by Charli XCX and fresh from landing Scott Mills’ Radio 1 Tune of the Week for her current single ‘, L Devine’s growing status as the UK’s new pop icon is gathering pace. She recently hit the 20 million streams landmark for tracks such as ‘, ‘and ‘
L Devine recently played an exclusive gig at London’s White City House for some of Big Sync’s ad industry clients and partners. She and her band impressed the audience and Big Sync chief executive Dominic Caisley later caught up with her for a chat about everything from songwriting to her favourite ever TV ad music.
DC: How are you feeling today – where in the world are you?
LD: I’m great thank you! I’m actually in the airport about to go on a very impromptu holiday to Spain. So life is good!!
DC: ‘’ was recently BBC Radio 1 Scot Mills’ Tune of the Week and is on BBC Introducing’s . You’re on YouTube Music’s list for 2019. How has the response been from your fans this year and how are you feeling about breaking through to these wider audiences? How is 2019 feeling for you right now?
LD: I couldn’t be more happy with the response to ‘Naked Alone’. I hadn’t put music out in a while so the longer we were waiting to put it out the more nervous I was getting about the track, especially because it was so different to anything I’d done before. I wasn’t sure if my fans wanted a sexy funk jam from me…but turns out they did! And they love it, so I’m very excited about it. It also feels like this song is reaching a wider audience and it’s now on the Radio 1 playlist! A lot of the songs I’ve released previously have been about very specific moments in my life and a lot of those moments come from the perspective of a teenager, so I feel like they naturally connected to a lot of young people. But ‘Naked Alone’ feels like it’s a song for everyone, that everyone can relate to.
DC: Charli XCX called you the ‘mother f***ing future’ of pop music – how was it working with Charli and how did that come about?
LD: That was crazy! I’m such a huge fan of hers. When I first came into the music industry I really tried to school myself on good pop music and she had just brought out her Number 1 Angel mixtape. I remember thinking it was one of the most exciting and different pop projects I’d heard in such a long time. I totally rinsed it and she’s definitely one of the pop stars that I’d always reference back to as the bar of creativity and freshness. So fast forward a few years and I write a song called ‘Peer Pressure’ with Justin Raisen. He works with Charli a lot, so they had a studio session a few days after we wrote the song. He basically played it to her and she loved it and then cut the record and had her own version. I was so hyped about it and couldn’t believe she liked something I’d written. It was such a huge compliment. I ended up keeping the song for my EP but I loved her version so much that we decided to keep some of her backing vocals in the last chorus!
DC: What did you think when you read that Perez Hilton loves your sound and championed ‘Like You Like That’ to his followers?
LD: Yeah that was pretty mad. His website was so iconic when I was growing up, I always used to see what the latest was with my favourite singers and actors back in the day on that site. So it’s pretty surreal that he likes my song! Would have been even cooler if he’d scribbled on me in pink pen and wrote something mean though haha.
DC: You’re supporting Lewis Capaldi in August in Hamburg. Are you a fan? Tell us a bit about how that came about.
LD: I’m a huge fan of Lewis! His trajectory this year has been absolutely mental and so lovely to watch. He’s immensely talented and seems like a really down to earth guy. I love how much support he gives to up and coming artists. It’s so rare to see really successful artists using their platform like that so that’s amazing. I’m pretty sure that’s how the support slot came about too – Lewis basically followed me and put a video of my VEVO performance of Naked Alone on his Instagram story saying it was really good and then a few weeks later I got asked to support him in Hamburg. I’m totally buzzing about it!
DC: Which other artists are inspiring you this summer?
LD: I’ve been listening to a lot of new music lately. Right now, I’m listening a lot to Deb Never, Sam Fender and Kllo.
DC: You set out initially to write for others rather than to be a performer yourself – what happened to change that?
LD: I think I had this preconceived idea of what a pop star was. In my head it was the Britney/Christina-esque pop star who does dance routines and can belt the craziest vocal runs. That just wasn’t me, so I just didn’t think I had it in me, I didn’t really have the confidence. But I was completely in love with songwriting and obsessed with the people that wrote these huge hits for pop stars like them. That all changed when Warner offered me a record deal. I kind of just thought, why not, I don’t have anything to lose. And then I was so in it and loving every aspect of being an artist. I love creating visuals and artwork, thinking about styling, talking about my music, performing and how the stage looks when I perform and obviously, I absolutely love that I can connect with fans. I really couldn’t imagine not doing all those things now. Although, songwriting is my first love.
DC: You wrote the lyrics for Rudimental’s new track ‘Mean That Much’ with Preditah featuring Morgan. How did that happen?
LD: I’ve been working a lot with Preditah this year. We’ve done some really sick tracks so he basically got me into the session with him and Rudimental which was so cool of him! It was a really fun day. I like the way they work. The song basically started as a jam – everyone had an instrument and I had the mic – and we just vibed it out for a few hours and wrote the song in the room like that. Then a few months later, they were like ‘we love this for the next single!’ So that was really exciting. And it’s cool to be able to write something that I probably wouldn’t write for my own project. I love garage so it was really fun to be able to explore that world with that song.
DC: What do you like the most about writing for other artists?
LD: I like that I get to step outside of my own mind for a bit and try on a different persona. When I’m writing for my own project, I like to make sure everything is super raw and honest and personal. But I have so much freedom when I write for others. I can be anyone I want!
DC: How do you feel about working with songwriters on your own projects? Have you ever felt pressure to dilute your lyrics at all?
LD: I love collaborating with other songwriters it can make you try out things you’d never usually try but honestly, I do try to keep it to a minimum. I think it’s important that my project comes from me and that the lyrics are just like pages from my diary. You just don’t get the same honesty when you write with someone else in my opinion. And when I look at some of my favourite records, the artist has always been the main songwriter on the tracks, so I try to remember that.
DC: Two of your songs (‘Like You Like That’ and ‘Panic’) were recently synced on ITV’s Love Island, soundtracking some of the romantic action in the villa. Did you ‘get a text’ from your mates?
LD: I’m so obsessed with Love Island, like the rest of the country, so that was unreal. My phone was blowing up so much when that happened it was crazy. It’s such an amazing sync to have, Love Island really does have so much power when it comes to music. That sync made Like You Like That chart on the Shazam charts which is crazy.
DC: TV and online adverts use music to help narrate a story, to make you laugh or to make you cry. In your opinion, how important is a song or a soundtrack to an advert?
LD: Music can completely flip the tone of an advert and it tells you exactly how to feel about what you’re seeing so you have to get it bang on right. And there’s obviously so many examples of songs completely blowing up from adverts, often kickstarting musicians’ careers.
DC: What’s your favourite ever TV ad – or the one that most sticks out in your memory – and what was the track used?
LD: I loved the Clairol Nice ‘N Easy advert when I was younger – in it a woman gets a dirty look from a snooty shop assistant through the shop window so she goes and dyes her hair red and comes back and walks into the shop all confident. The song playing was Bette Davis Eyes. I love it so much that I have even sampled it in one of my upcoming songs!
DC: Have you ever discovered any other new artists or tracks yourself from an ad you’ve seen?
LD: The song ‘Down’ by Marian Hill from an Apple advert really caught my attention, I thought it was so fresh. That song went viral after that sync. I had never heard it before the advert so that’s definitely one of my favourites.
DC: How would you feel about one of your songs being used in an advert?
LD: I would be ecstatic. Like I said, syncs on adverts have kickstarted so many careers in music. It’s almost like getting another visual for your track, the right sync can really make a song come to life.
DC: Would it matter what the advert was for?
LD: I’d obviously want to make sure the advert didn’t conflict with any of my views or opinions.
DC: Would you consider partnering with a brand (beyond just a straight sync) and if so what would be important to you?
LD: I definitely would! It would be important to me to make sure the brand fits my personality and what I’m about.
DC: Can you tell me about your most memorable gig so far in your career?
LD: I just played Madrid Pride which was definitely up there as it was in front of 40,000 people, which was pretty terrifying. But at the same time, I genuinely felt comfort in the fact that I’d be performing to so many people from the LGBT community, it felt like there was a lot of love in the crowd and I felt a real sense of belonging on stage.
DC: What are you excited for and what can fans expect from L Devine next?
LD: I’m excited to go on tour! I announced dates across the UK for November and I’m playing some of my favourite ever venues, like Riverside in Newcastle and Heaven in London. I can’t wait for those. I’ve pretty much just started playing shows so I’m getting really stuck into all of that at the minute and I’m excited to keep building and progressing my set. I’m also buzzing to release new music! I’ve been writing a lot and have so many good tunes on the way!
L Devine’s debut UK tour dates are as follows:
3rd – Manchester, Deaf Institute
4th – Newcastle, Riverside
6th – Birmingham, O2 Institute 3
7th – London, Heaven
9th – Bristol, Thekla
10th – Brighton, The Haunt
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