It’s been a minute, but L Devine is back! Back!! Back!!! With a brand new track, ‘Push It Down’, she’s refreshed, rejuvenated, and determined to be an artist on her own terms. Read our latest Hype playlist cover feature now.
Words: Finlay Holden.
L Devine has been taking a bit of downtime following a series of charged pop hits, with her two 2021 ‘Near Life Experience’ EPs providing ample evidence of a musician with ambition and talent to spare. Having taken a step back to reassess her trajectory, Liv is armed with a new arsenal and prepared to deliver a freshly honed vision.
“The things that have changed for me personally have massively impacted my writing, my work and my career,” she explains of the necessary reinvention. “I moved back home, away from London, left the label that I was with, changed management… for a while, it was just me on my own back in my hometown making music. It felt like everything got stripped right back to where I started from, which turned out to be exactly what I needed; the music I’m making now is the most authentic I’ve ever felt. I feel like kid Liv again in the best way possible.”
That younger version of Liv always had the drive to craft music, but the idea of pop superstardom was never the end goal. “My first idea of a pop star was this all-singing, all-dancing icon like Britney [Spears] and Christina [Aguilera] – who I fucking love still – but I didn’t see myself in those artists. It’s been redefined in the last couple of years; pop music can now be anything. You can make really edgy music that has huge appeal without any boundaries.”
The journey towards finding her identity as an artist has been complex, a road with twists and turns along the way but bookended by her North East roots. Once desperate to get a foot in the pop door within a region dominated by indie rock, Liv’s time surrounded by industry figures in the big smoke quickly became overwhelming.
“I thought I needed my hand held by people who really knew what they were doing,” she reflects. “I took a lot from those experiences, but I think I didn’t completely have a confident idea of myself; it’s rare that you do when you’re 19. I’ve grown up a lot over the last few years and have a better sense of my identity in general. I’m steering the ship now, and it’s really exciting.”
“The music I’m making now is the most authentic I’ve ever felt. I feel like kid Liv again in the best way possible”L Devine
Finding her own feet and building up to a sprint, the major label experience unwittingly gave Devine everything she needed to pursue things on her own. Establishing a portfolio of bangers on Warner Records, the singer has now moved to AWAL, where a close-knit team are backing the intent of an autonomous creative capable of navigating her own steps forward. “I’ve learned my craft and absorbed everything I possibly could like an absolute sponge, and now I’m able to make these huge tunes downstairs in my flat.”
Thankfully, she wasn’t alone throughout this transitionary period – bandmate, producer and newfound BFF Julien Flew has been the co-pilot on this crazy solo mission, and his invigorating energy was a timely gift. “He seemed so open to me doing my thing and let me lead him, trusting my opinion, which is just what I needed,” she describes fondly. “That gave me so much confidence in the material I was coming out with. From the get-go, he drilled into me that it all needs to come from myself – I’d never felt championed like that before.”
Marking a refreshing change-up after “speed-dating” session musicians, the relatively new studio professional was eager to establish a working relationship where the pair could delve deep into new waters together. As such, the duo’s upcoming output dives far below any agreeable surface and explores the sides of Liv previously filtered out.
As she illustrates herself, “when you’re writing a song, everyone has the idea that they want to be super vulnerable, but it’s hard to do that when you’re working with a dude you met four hours ago. You can’t help but think, ‘this person doesn’t want to hear about my inner chatter of self-hate; it’d be weird to dump it on them’. With Julien, I dump away.”
The first proof of this mental outpouring comes in the form of ‘Push It Down’, a song kicking off a new era for L Devine. Far from the affirmatory vein she has mined from with tracks such as ‘Girls Like Sex’, this exciting new cut shows Liv accepting all aspects of who she is, including the negatives.
“I’m steering the ship now, and it’s really exciting”L Devine
“In pop music, people want you to create songs that’ll make everyone feel happy and confident. I’m a queer artist, and I think it’s very much expected of us; we always have to be empowering, self-affirming, sex-positive… but I don’t feel like that a whole lot, if I’m being honest. In a way, a lot of my self-deprecating material is a more real representation of the queer experience.”
‘Push It Down’ ditches false pretences and taps into inner rage with a chorus “all about repressed emotions – certainly something the queer community will massively understand. I’ll never shy away from the fact that I make pop music; I’m meticulous in honing pop melodies and rhymes, I love that side of it, but I never wanted to shy away from the lyrically heavier stuff.”
With all this talk of pop and with Liv confessing that her musical tinkerings often begin with “bleeps and bloops”, the natural instrumentation of this single comes as a rather startling surprise. Julien’s guitarist tendencies have triggered a “consistent fusion” of electronic and rock sounds across the board, with ‘Push It Down’ embracing the latter to match the emotional journey detailed lyrically.
“People are gonna think I’m gearing towards a heavy guitar record,” she jests. “This is the one where it does lean into that most. It starts with these really soft acoustic guitars, keeping everything under the surface before I can’t take it anymore, and it erupts into the heavy chorus.”
“Now I’m able to make these huge tunes downstairs in my flat”L Devine
“It’s a situationship anthem,” she continues, but it’s evident that the focus remains very much on herself. “People sometimes say my songs feel like a relationship story, but they’re not at all – none of these songs are about the people that broke my heart; it’s focused on what was revealed about me. There’s never a yearning for anything beyond myself; I’m just learning how I behave in different situations.” Not a love story, but a Liv story, then.
Finding a voice is one thing, but consistently prioritising it is another task entirely, and one this resilient songwriter has achieved in droves. “Everyone feels pressure, the goal is to get huge hits, and that’s daunting,” she says of her time in the industry.
“The pressure to stay true to yourself amongst it all is maybe even more so – making music without any opinions being thrown at you is a relief. Even when those opinions come from people who’ve achieved amazing things, it’s hard to listen to your own voice amongst the noise. I’ve ended up making my best music with no voices around me because it was only me I was trying to please. No one knows you like yourself.”
Returning after two years with a fresh approach might scare or excite some, but a grounded L Devine has learned “not to anticipate anything. The thing I’m excited about is putting music out there and redefining myself as an artist with music that I’m really proud of. It’s a chance, for the first time ever, to tell people who I truly am, how I think and how I sound. That’s what I’m excited to share.” ■
L Devine’s new single ‘Push It Down’ is streaming now. Follow Dork’s Hype Spotify playlist here.