Up and coming singer-songwriter Devon is the breath of fresh air that R&B and Soul have been looking for. He has showcased his talent on VH1’s Signed and has garnered a loyal following from his soulful covers, and his 2016 EP ‘Tug Of War.’ RnB Junkie recently caught up with the Philly native to discuss his start in the music industry, VH1’s Signed, his current and future dream collaborations, some of his favorite R&B albums, his upcoming debut album, plus more. Check out our interview with Devon below!
Colette: Can you tell us a little about how you got your start?
Devon: I’ve been singing since like I was 3 years old, but I started recording officially when I was 13. I got into my first record label situation with Hot City Records. Then, I was taken to Atlantic Records ever since then I’ve been grinding like a mug, from 13 to the age I am now just trying to find my way in. So, it started at thirteen and ever since then I’ve been rocking out trying to get into the right situation.
Colette: You're from Philly, and Philly is the home of many legends and great artists such as Patti LaBelle, Boyz II Men, Teddy Pendergrass, The Roots, Jill Scott, and Musiq Soulchild. Do you feel pressure to carry on the “Philly” legacy?
Devon: I wouldn’t say pressure because growing up in Philly it’s kind of instilled in you because of those legends that you pretty much adjust to that growing up. Being a young person growing up listening to those legends amongst many others, but because you’re in the city, you just develop it. If you really love music, you just start catching that vibe and working hard. Getting used to working with bands like The Roots and things like that. I wouldn’t say it’s pressure, but more so exciting to me. Coming from a city like [Philly], a city that has so many legends it’s exciting. It teaches you to live up to a certain standard, as far as being a performer and a vocalist. So, I think it’s not pressure but more like excitement pushing me to my limit and beyond. That’s what I feel like that is.
Colette: You were on Vh1’s “Signed,” what was it like doing reality TV and would you do it again?
Devon: It was definitely something different. I never thought that I would do reality television, but it was actually one of the best experience I had because of being in that situation. Being able to sit in front of Rick Ross, The Dream, and Lenny Santiago taught me discipline first of all. Second of all, it gave me an opportunity to meet a whole new set of artist that I never thought I’d meet who were my age. Doing a reality show, it taught me more so that it’s not necessarily easy as people think it is. Plus, given the industry nowadays it seems like reality television is kind of like the way to get in the door because a lot of people is doing it. If I would do it again…I probably would. I wasn’t too comfortable with it when they first asked me. When they first reached out to me, I told them no, just like a lot of the other artists who were part of the show. I told them no because at first, I thought it was fake, and second I was like I ain’t really trying to get into the whole reality show thing because most reality shows are kind of negative and shine a light on negativity. That’s not what I want the core of my career to be. For the most part, the show did give me an opportunity to showcase my talent, and it put me in front of some amazing people. I’d definitely do it again.
Colette: How has it been working with Troy Taylor and could you speak a little about the TTU process?
Devon: Working with Troy, actually it’s funny me, and him was talking the other day. I told him he actually changed my life as far as my career. The things I’ve learned when I was working with him, I never learned from anybody else. It was actually my first time learning how to record myself; he taught me how to do that. He taught me how to do arrangements. He taught me the essence of what R&B is today and how to mesh Old School R&B and New School R&B. A lot of people don’t take the patience to do that; so working with him was definitely life changing as far as my career. It changed me forever. Working with him was one of the best experiences I've had for sure.
The TTU process was kind of hard. Unless you go in there with an open mind, being able to take constructive criticism because Troy is the type that’s definitely not going to sugarcoat nothing. He keeps it one hunnid, he keeps it a band, and that’s what I do appreciate about him. You know, if you're doing something wrong he be like yeah, you pretty much need to do that over. What he did was, he set me in a room with a studio. He showed me what buttons to push to record myself and he told me to go ahead write and do whatever you need to do. He left the room for like five hours and didn’t come back in. Now me, I was dumbfounded. I’m like I don’t even know what I’m doing, but after awhile I got into the rotation of it, and then he came in and said, “I like it, let’s record it now.” I’m like lets really record it. He set down. I set next to him with the microphone in front of me. He set at the computer, and we knocked out about five songs. The TTU process is a process that I think every artist should go through because it’s artist development. A lot of artists don’t go through artist development; nowadays, they just jump out there based off social media and computers and things like that. There’s no development, and they don’t know what they’re doing as far as after they make a hit song and they don’t know how to go make another one. They don’t know how to record their self; they’re not self-sufficient. So, the TTU process has taught me pretty much how to be self-sufficient, a self-sufficient artist. I appreciate that because he didn't have to reach back and do that, he’s definitely a legend in the game, and he showed me how to do that, so it’s definitely dope!
Colette: If you could only listen to 5 R&B albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Devon: Wow, five?! Let me see, definitely Michael Jackson’s Bad. That was one of the best albums. Usher’s Confessions for sure. Whitney Houston’s first album for third. Prince, he has entirely too many albums I’d probably pick from. I think Purple Rain is definitely one of my favorite albums. The fifth would be D’Angelo, probably the Voodoo album.
Colette: What’s your favorite era of R&B?
Devon: I’d probably have to say the 90’s, the 90’s and early 2000’s. That’s probably for me, in my opinion, that was the best time for entertainment period. The movies was the best; the music was the best, the games was just, man those video games were coming out every day. The 90’s was probably the best era for R&B and the early 2000’s because nobody sounded alike. It was tons of good talent at the time. Singing groups, that’s another thing you don’t see too often nowadays is real male R&B groups or real female R&B groups. Everybody was doing their own thing, and everybody had the opportunity to shine. Nowadays, it seems like they only shine a light on Urban AC artists. They don’t get a chance to crossover and be Pop. At the time [the 90’s], R&B was Pop; it was popular. R&B singers performed at the Grammys, the American Music Awards, and things like that. Nowadays, you don’t really get to see a lot of R&B artists do their things unless you’re at the BET Awards or some shit like that. So, I think the 90’s proved itself to be the best era because it was just amazing music. Everybody had their own lane. Everybody was cool to listen to Ginuwine; it was cool to listen to Tyrese at the same time. It was cool to listen to Usher. It was cool to listen to Jagged Edge or Silk, or whoever that was out at that time and nobody was really in competition. They were just making music and doing what they were doing. It was definitely the 90’s and early 2000’s.
Colette: You’ve worked with industry vets like Bryan-Michael Cox, Jaylien Wesley, Rico Love, and recently The Colleagues. Who are some artists and producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Devon: I definitely would love to work with Babyface. I think he’s one of the best writers and one of the best hitmakers out there for sure. I would definitely want to work with Babyface. Babyface is kind of at the top of the list. I want to work with Timbaland; I think it would be dope to do some stuff with him and Pharrell for sure. I’d definitely want to do something with Chris Brown. You know the top people like Beyonce, Kanye West, the greats, and Jay-Z. I’d definitely want to work with those type of people. I’d like to get in with D’Angelo and Andre 3000. I would just love to see how D’Angelo would come up with arrangements and stuff like that. I think that would be crazy.
Colette: You recently covered ‘The Weekend’ by SZA and Tank’s ‘When We,’ do you find the process of covering others difficult?
Devon: I find it difficult only because I don’t really hear anything that I am able to sing to nowadays, like Tank. SZA was something fresh and brand new to me, and the girl is actually singing. It gave me the opportunity to hear an album and be like, “yo, this is kind of dope!" I like what she’s doing. She’s not just a body singer, she actually knows how to do arrangements and things like that. It made me excited. I got the opportunity to actually sing instead of taking a rap song and singing to it. I had a blueprint, and Tank has been doing that for years. I just don’t think that today that there are not too many singer singers out there that allows me to cover anything that’s current. Unless, I hope over into the Pop charts which is the Ed Sheeran, Adele, and stuff like that. For the most part, it’s difficult because you kind of don’t have the inspiration and you have to pull from your own experiences of singing. Which is cool, it’s fun, but sometimes I just like being like damn, I really love to sing that song because the way this dude sung it or like the way she sung the song its had in that sense. It’s easy for me to sing the song because I am a singer, but it’s hard in the sense of getting the inspiration to want to sing something. That’s pretty much it.
Colette: Can you share with us about the new music you have coming?
Devon: We’re finishing up the new project now. I went down to Atlanta last year; I was there for about a good two months to record with Troy Taylor and Bryan. I flew out to Miami, that was the Rico Love and Bryan-Michael Cox sessions. I flew back out to Atlanta to finish up the project.
The project is pretty much giving a younger perspective of what our generation definition of what a relationship is, which ain’t really a relationship. Nowadays, people aren’t in committed relationships and can pretty much do what they want. I wrote it from a male perspective of what we go through when we go through a breakup. Cause when a lot of females go through a breakup they don’t have an issue with expressing it. A lot of dudes don’t really say, “yo, what was our process when we went through a real breakup? Not just smashing random chick left and right, and whatever. Then you breakup with her, and you're like I’m about to go clubbing.” Pretty much saying, how you react when you really get your feelings hurt by this chick and what was the process. It’s usually in reverse; you know the female is upset at first. They cry, they need a little bit of time, they get over it, and then they cool. Us, we pretty much like F*** it, “I’m just about to go party and do whatever I want, etc.…” Then you start slowing down and realizing “ I think this is really over,” and you try to get her back, but it’s too late because she done already went through her heartache and we going through ours. Y’all are like the Ying to our Yang; we go through our processes the opposite. So, I thought I’d cover that perspective during this project.
I got one song called “No Options.” It’s basically an arrogant way of saying you think you got options out here other than the dude she’s dealing with when she really don’t because I’m still the dude that she wants. I have a song I just recently wrote, that's like damn she’s really over me. I should be over you by now, but I’m not because I can’t deal with the fact that you really moved on. I think the project shares a light on that kind of perspective. You don’t really get to hear that from us, so I thought I would cover that idea as far as the music. It’s a couple of club joints on there that I think everybody would enjoy. It’s a couple of heartbreak joints, and a couple of little sexy joints thrown in there. The Rico Love records are really the sexy ones, and I just built off of that. Altogether the project is just the core of the male perspective, or at least my perspective from a males point of view of what our generation's definition of a relationship is and the process that we go through in one.
Colette: Do you have the title for the album yet?
Devon: I don’t. Not yet. We’re pointing the finishes touch to the project meaning we’re doing a couple more records then the project is completed. I have at least 40 records that we’re considering, so I got to break that down and break it down again so that it can be a reasonable number of tracks on there. I think once I listen to the entire project in itself after I pick the actual tracks I want to be on there. I know what it’s about, but I do want to pick the perfect name based off of the songs I choose. If you were watching my Instagram Live awhile ago, I was throwing pieces of music out there to get people’s perspective and to see how they felt about it. I’ll eventually sit down with Rico, Troy, and Bryan to get their thoughts for the album title, being that they’re the main producers and writers for the project including myself. I definitely have a couple of ideas, but until I sit down and listen to all of the songs in its entirety, it's nameless right now (laughs).
Colette: Will there be any features?
Devon: As of right now no. It wasn’t intentional it just happened to be no features. Rico is on one record. One of the records is called “Never Met You.” It’s not that necessarily that he’s singing or anything, but his voice is on the record. I don’t know if I would call that featuring Rico Love, but it would be dope to see it in the credits. Nothing as far as any rappers or other singers, it’s nobody else on the project.
Colette: Can you tell all of our followers how they can reach you?
Devon: Definitely. Y’all can reach me on all social media networks @OfficiallyDevon. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, anything you can think of you can reach me on those social media network @OfficiallyDevon.
Colette: We appreciate your time today and for allowing us to interview.
Devon: No problem.