With Devlin’s sophomore album A Moving Picture dropping in less than a week’s time via Island Records, we caught up with the Dagenham MC to discuss the album, his growth as an artist, his new singles with Ed Sheeran and Wretch 32, and the pressure to keep fans happy…
What should we expect from the new album?
I called it A Moving Picture, I think that when I’m making my songs, when I’m around that cinematic vibe, songs like Community Outcast, that’s where I thrive. So I tried to write a few deep meaningful songs. There’s a bit if me going in: me and Wretch have got a feature on there (Off With Their Heads) an old grime track. So it’s just me being me. I’ve got a tiny bit more freedom (so I’m) just trying to enjoy my music, and try to bring more strings and orchestral sounds to the record.
How would you describe you’re growth as an artist?
When we were young it was literally just about writing lyrics to bomb the radio, not songs as such. So I feel like my song-writing has progressed, touching on different themes and concepts and just a different form of writing. But it’s still got the same elements and the same vibe about it. (I’m) trying to make songs for the mainstream, to appeal to everyone, and still kept the same sentiment at the same time. It’s a balance innit.
What made you go from just spitting bars to starting to explore concepts more in your music?
When I was young I always loved that venomous vibe of grime, the fiery flows and the wordplay. But I just sat back and thought, and I’m quite a deep thoughtful person anyways- I think a lot, and just tried to look at if I’m coming in this game, then what have people not done? And I thought I could capture some concepts and make some big tunes. Take it a little deeper. So that’s the angle I try to come at it from at least.
“venomous vibe of grime”
You’ve referenced a lot of non-grime/rap influences in your music; there’s a reference to Tracy Chapman on Art Of Rolling and obviously there’s the Jimi Hendrix theme on Watchtower, I also read that you’re a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. Where did this diverse influence come from and how has it affected your music?
Yeah man I went to (see Springsteen at) that festival in Hyde Park! But I grew up around a lot of music, obviously my mum in the car and that. And I think that’s only benefitted me across the board, from Motown to rock n roll to hip hop. I think you can take an aspect of any genre and appreciate it at least. It’s good to have a wide spectrum.
You’ve done a few collaborations with Ed Sheeran now, including Watchtower, how did you start working with Ed?
I met Ed on Example’s tour and I thought he was mad talented so he earned my respect straight away. He’s just a lovely lovely kid, and I seemed to click with him. You meet some people through what you do and you know what I mean, I just thought this geezers real, and i just knew he’d be big, hes just my pal and now we’re both successful, he’s a lot more successful than me but we’re both doing our thing, and its nice that we can make music the other end of things, from before being signed to afterwards.
“the music’s dirty man”
As well as Watchtower you recently released Off With Their Heads with Wretch 32 and have mentioned a single called Rewind. What are the concepts behind those tracks?
‘Off With Their Heads’ is just straight up, the music’s dirty man, it’s just me and Wretch back in the day just barring out, so not a deep concept as such. But ‘Rewind’ is talking about, obviously I’ve done a lot in the last two years, and I’d just like a certain amount of people to still be around now to see where I’ve took it to. I’ve lost people that id love to still be here now and see me get successful, so that’s that record.
Despite only being 23 now, you’ve had over ten years experience in music. How do you think being so experienced at such a young age has affected your career path?
I think its benefitted me man. I’ve been through the mill and back. And you’ve got to live it to do it. We’ve been knocked, we’ve been up, we’ve been down, I’ve seen many different situations and I feel like I’m equipped better for it. So it was good, all that pirate radio and doing the underground raves that was all training to where I’m at now; to where I got signed and there was pressure to write 14 songs, I was fit to do that.
“I don’t want to be a cop out, some sell out”
Do you feel a lot of pressure to please fans who always insist that they “Just like your old stuff”?
I just don’t think you can keep everyone happy all of the time. I wrote freestyle bars every week for years and years, bombed loads of sets, and now it’s time for me to take it somewhere else. But make sure I always do those bars, like 64’s and the tune with Wretch, that’s a part of my game. All I’m saying is that my game’s got bigger now, there’s other aspects of where I’m developing and trying to push things.
You haven’t switched your style up that vastly anyway; you’re still true to your roots.
Do you know what I mean! I ain’t come out with no funky house record, no dance record. I’ve tried to play to my strengths and be clever with what I’m doing. I’m not running around Dagenham spitting bars in the youth club or a radio no more, (but) this is a professional business and I’m trying to push it to the maximum, but obviously I’m still trying to do my thing man, I don’t want to be a cop out, some sell out you know what I mean!
A Moving Picture is out next Monday 22nd
Words by Grant Brydon
Edited by Natalia