After six years inside the major label system, L Devine wants the world to know who she really is. As she drops debut album Digital Heartifacts (February 2), she tells us why she’s ready to be the artist she needed when she was growing up…
Interview: David McLaughlin
Moving back home from London to Newcastle seems to have been a huge creative impetus for your debut album, Digital Heartifacts. How come?
“I fell in love with Newcastle again. I’m 26 now, but this still feels like a coming-of-age album. When I went home I was going through a lot of changes in my career. I’d left my label and my management, but I needed to be reminded why I started doing this in the first place. There’s no better place to do that than home. When I first moved to London, I needed the big city to be exactly who I was. As a queer person, moving to London from a small town was necessary. I still love it and I’m there all the time, but I’ve got the best of both worlds now.”
How have you found life as an artist on a label services deal with AWAL compared to the traditional major system?
“Doing and releasing things independently definitely suits me more. As the years went on with my previous label, I didn’t really see myself as their idea of a mainstream pop artist and it came to a natural end. I’ve had six years absorbing the music industry like a sponge, so I feel like I’ve got those tools and I’m equipped with the knowledge to do this on my own now. I used to feel like it was harder for my voice to be heard when there were so many people around me. Now, I’m driving things. Having a small team around me means everyone is fully invested.”
The songs cover mental health issues, relationship troubles and themes of growing up, but include lots of humour and wry observations, too. Is it important to strike that tonal balance?
“That’s just a reflection of who I am as a person. I’ve always armed myself with humour. I’m scared of taking myself too seriously. I cringe out at myself so much, so I have to wrap everything up in a joke. I’ve done that ever since school. I was a weird kid and the fear of being picked on was strong. So, I picked on myself first. Creatively, I like having a joke in there, too. It keeps things light-hearted, but it allows you to write about heavy subjects. It’s empowering in that sense, but I’m also kind of scared of what people are going to think because these lyrics are really quite revealing.”
What would your younger self have made of this record had she heard it, say, five or 10 years ago?
“I think she would have fucking loved these songs. I don’t think I ever really thought I was going to be an artist. I was a queer kid in the closet who couldn’t talk about the feelings that she had, so it started off as my outlet [to do that]. I like to imagine the seven-year-old me getting her first guitar and listening to this, thinking, ‘This is so sick.’ I think she would also be like, ‘God, are you okay?’”
Do you think the music industry could be doing more for LGBTQIA+ artist representation?
“Absolutely. If you want to support queer artists, then you need to do it all year round. Not everything has to be on the ‘Pride playlist’. We need to be included in the same spaces as non-queer artists. When people only want to hash up your most traumatic experiences for a headline during Pride month, it’s annoying. I’m an artist first and foremost. My queerness is a huge part of me, but it’s not all of me. There’s so much more to my artistry and my personality.”
L Devine’s debut album Digital Heartifacts is out now via AWAL