DECEMBER DAZE: A Conversation with Janet Devlin

There is a common misconception among young artists in the digital age that seemingly anyone can become an overnight sensation by simply uploading their music to the internet. While cases of such success have been recorded, they are far from the norm. Most artists still have to build their audiences one fan at a time, and if they try to reach too many too fast they often end up disappointing more people than they win over. The smart play is, as it always has been, to start in your immediate area and build out. Win over your town, then the county you live, then the state you call home, and then set your sights on venues and fans further out. There is no rush to the top, and those who skyrocket to the heights of success often disappear just as fast as they arrived. You don’t want that kind of career. You want longevity, and longevity requires patience.

Janet Devlin, a singer/songwriter from the UK, has spent the last two years promoting one release in two countries. Her journey began in the UK, where her debut album was quickly embraced by fans and critics alike. As her star continued to rise, Devlin found a label owner from the states interested in bringing her music to the US. Devlin had just completed her second UK release, an EP titled Duvet Daze, but she hopped on a plane and made her way to America to start the promotional cycle for her debt album all over again. That was early 2015, and now Devlin is back in headlines with the release of her wonderful holiday EP, December Daze.

Unlike Devlin’s previous releases, December Daze was released on the same day, November 27, worldwide. We thought change of release plans marked the perfect opportunity to speak with Devlin about her career up to this point, the effort required to write an original holiday song, and her plans for her long-awaited second album. Her responses were fun and honest, with just enough teases regarding future releases to make any fan excited for the new year. You can read highlights from our conversation below.

After you read our interview with Janet Devlin, please head over to iTunes and support her career by picking up one or all of her releases. The song “Lifeboat” is a personal favorite of ours, but you honestly cannot go wrong with any of her material. You should also follow Janet on Twitter, which is where she will likely turn to share any news regarding future tour and album plans.

H: Hello, Janet. How are you today?

J: I’m well. Currently in New York for shows and promotion around my upcoming release.

H: That sounds like a great place to start. You have a new Christmas EP due out this holiday season, as well as another EP. The second has come out in the UK already though, correct?

J: Yes. The Christmas EP is a new release. I have a second EP, Duvet Daze, which was released in the UK last year. It’s a covers EP and it never came out here in the states, so I thought I would release them both around the same time.

H: That is what happened with your debt record as well, correct? You released in the UK first, followed by a US release several months later?

J: Yes, that is correct. I’m hoping we can get both sides of the Atlantic on the same page after these releases. [laughs]

H: Let’s back up a bit. Your debut album was released in the UK in 2014 and it saw a lot of success. When does the conversation about bringing that record to the US begin, and how does that process happen?

J: I was checking out international deals as they came in, choosing between international licensing agreements and signing with different labels in each country, and I was contacted by OK! Good Records. They were really passionate about the album and getting it out, so I met with them and things just kind of came together. The release was planned for February of this year, and that was the first time I traveled to the US. Kind of crazy to think back on it now, even though it was just earlier this year.

H: What was it like for you to record, promote, and release a record, only to turn around and repeat the last two steps all over again in a new country?

J: It was a bit different. Before I came over I had to make time to listen to the album again and revisit the material. I had been working on new music up until that point, so I needed some time to sink back into that role. The press side was a bit easier though, as most of the questions people asked over here were ones I had heard on the previous promotional cycle. The stateside writers tend to pick apart the record a bit more, which I appreciate.

H: I would assume most people here in the states have never heard of you outside of your states. You are a bit more recognizable in the UK, so it must be nice to encounter someone who only wants to discuss the music.

J: Yea, exactly. It was just amazing to encounter people who just genuinely wanted to know about the album and me as a musician.

H: How long after the UK release of Duvet Daze did the US release of your debut happen?

J: I released Duvet Daze around Christmas of last year. I had a big promotional push for the record, which took us into January, but right after that I had to come to the states for the other album release. That was weird because I couldn’t talk about the EP, which I had been promoting up until I left, but now it’s coming out here and I can talk about it.

H: Just to be clear, the Christmas EP will be released globally at the same time?

J: Yes, that is the plan. Same day release for everyone.

H: Do you feel, because this is a global release, that this is a sign of the next phase of your career?

J: I haven’t really thought of it like that just yet. This EP wasn’t overly thought out or planned, it just sort of happened. I was back in the UK, playing with material, and just thought to lay down some holiday themed songs. I didn’t think about making it the first global release, or whether or not it would be something people everywhere would enjoy. Some people have asked why I chose to make Christmas EP at this point, and I’ve told them, “Because I wanted to.”

I normally despise Christmas, but after visiting New York during winter earlier this year I made a decision to try and not be a Grinch this year. I knew I loved music, so I thought if I worked on some holiday music I might be a bit more in the spirit.

H: Let’s talk about the Christmas original on the record. The covers are great, but artists attempting to write a new holiday song is a bit of a rarity. What’s the story behind that track?

J: I was walking around Central Park in the freezing cold and I had the thought to try and love Christmas this year. I turned to my guitar player, who was there at the time, and asked if we could sneak away between press obligations to write a Christmas song. He looked at me in disbelief, and then we headed back to the hotel to write “December Daze.” It was quick and simple, really, and within a few weeks the EP began to take shape.

H: Your cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” is my favorite track on your Christmas EP. It’s always been a great song, but you bring something special to the mix. I also appreciate your song choice, as I often fear many young music fans may never learn to appreciate Joni’s work.

J: Yea, it’s not really a Christmas song,

H: No, but we can pretend.

J: They do mention Christmas, so that’s something. [laughs]

H: Let’s look to the future. These two EPs come out, the year ends, and then 2016 arrives. What do you have planned for the new year? I have a feeling your second album may be on the way.

J: Yea, I’ve been working on that one for a while. There is a good chunk ready for the studio. I want to have way more songs written, but it has been a bit crazy with the EP and everything happening around it. I had originally planned to shut down this time of year and focus on the record, but this EP has forced me to change things around a bit. Next year, early on, I might take a couple weeks off from the internet and whatnot to really focus on creating the best record possible.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll meet someone. There is a line on the Christmas EP about being single for four years. I never have time for anything outside of music, but maybe next year will be different.

H: I like that idea of stepping away from social media and the internet. Addiction to that stuff is real, and I’m very much a junkie. The best work I do happens when I’m able to put that stuff down and focus hard on the task at hand. That is far easier said than done.

J: Yes! You might not even feel any desire to use those sites, but then before you know you are impulsively reaching for your phone. It’s not so much that I want to take a massive hiatus, but I do want to focus solely on my craft. I want to be an artist, and I want to work on my art.

H: What do you hope people take away from these new EPs?

J: The album is a diary of a teenage girl, the covers EP is full of songs I’ve always wanted to sing, and the Christmas EP is me trying to not take myself too seriously. I think the next one will be super personal, but again it’s still taking shape.

H: I think personal is the way to go. I prefer when albums feel like talking to an old friend about everything that has happened to them since their last release.

J: There is a bit of that to this material. There is one song I keep playing for people back home, and everyone who has heard it has loved it, but every time I hear it I still get a little emotional. It’s all still so fresh for me, and refreshing. I like being vulnerable, but as a closed off person it doesn’t happen very often. Music makes it possible for me to be open.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.