It’s a tale as old as time: a girl moving to the big city to follow her dreams. Dreams that every parent eyes with suspicion because they are simply too big, because the chance of them actually coming true is one in a million. But here is a girl who followed through, who’s making her dreams reality. A girl whose third live performance was a slot at BBC’s Big Weekend. L Devine. Newcastle’s coolest pop star and Charli XCX’s vision of ‘The Motherfucking Future’.
Ever since releasing her second EP ‘Peer Pressure’, L Devine has been on a steady rise. “It’s still very surreal. You’re always onto the next thing, and everything goes by so quick. I was so overwhelmed by the show the other night, and now I’m like ‘right, when’s the next one?’ Get my thinking cap on and try to top it, but it’s unbelievable. I’m so happy with how everything’s going, and I’m just really excited.”
And she has every reason to be excited: sold out headline shows in Newcastle and London and a slot at this year’s Big Weekend in Middlesbrough mark the start of her journey as a live performer. A start that most artist can only dream of. Talking about her Middlesbrough adventure, she says: “It was definitely a bucket list moment, just to be on the line-up next to those huge names like Miley Cyrus and Billie Eilish. And if you look at other artists who have played the BBC Introducing Stage in the past years, it’s so cool to be recognised by the BBC.”
But let’s start at the beginning. As she puts it, Liv got into music by copying a friend. “I always thought he was really cool, and he picked up the guitar so I thought I should do it, too. Then I just kinda got the bug for it, and I got really into writing music. I’m pretty impatient. I didn’t want to spend all my days looking at YouTube tutorials on how to learn other people’s songs, so I just made my own up.” Growing up in Whitley Bay, by Newcastle, Liv was surrounded by a culture that was very big on alternative and indie music, but her first songs were all very singer-songwriter. “That was all I had. Me and my guitar in my bedroom. Then I realised that I listened to so much music and I would get tired pretty quickly sticking to just one genre. That’s when I became interested in production and a lot of electronic music. Because I had been playing guitar so much, I was so excited about weird sounds and unique beats. I guess I got into pop music, not because I listen to it more than other genres, but because pop music is the one you can bend the most. It doesn’t really have any boundaries. You can constantly reinvent what it is and what it means to you.”
And so her journey began. From her bedroom up North down to London, where she moved in with a friend hoping to get in with the big guys. Eventually, the labels came knocking, and with good reason.
L Devine is the voice of a generation. In her songs, she speaks about the struggles of growing up as with ‘Peer Pressure’, a song that sampling Heathers, wrapped in cool pop beats, gives an insight into the mind of any 20-year-old trying to fit in. But especially her song ‘Daughter’ that tells the story of confronting the intolerant mother of a girl she dated saying “It goes against everything that you taught her, but I’m sorry Miss, I’m in love with your daughter” has not only struck a chord with her audience, it’s also very dear to her heart.
“All my songs that have connected with people are the ones that I’ve been so desperate to get off my chest, that are helping me through the situation. I wrote it in 15 minutes. It was so easy to write because it was just me telling the story start to finish. It was completely overwhelming. I was nervous to put that song out because it was the first time I had explicitly talked about my sexuality and it was so out in the open, and I didn’t want to feel like I was cashing in on it or anything. I was scared of what people thought of me after putting out the song, but everyone was coming to me, telling me how much the song had helped them. How much they needed that song. It was really special.”
But just writing songs isn’t enough for Liv, she prefers to get involved in all aspects of her craft. “I’m super into production now. I make my own beats; I write songs to my own beats. But I also like to take advantage of the talents that are around me, so I always love getting in the studio with a producer and seeing what they can bring to the table. I just love writing songs with people.”
This is most apparent on her most recent release ‘Naked Alone’ that she wrote with Swedish producers INDIIA. It’s a different sound from her two previous EPs. It’s fun and fresh and a little more tongue-in-cheek. Unapologetically talking about being horny, it’s a sex-positive anthem that Liv has been wanting to release for two years now. Talking about why it took her so long, she says: “I was super nervous releasing ‘Naked Alone’. Especially off the back of ‘Peer Pressure’, where I was talking about, not heavier stuff, but there were always messages, and I felt like I had to say something in my music. But then I thought ‘You know what, fuck it. I’m 21, I wrote a song about sex, and it’s cool as fuck, and I think especially young girls need to hear that. They need to hear another young girl talking about the fact that she’s horny and owning it.”
The overwhelmingly positive feedback and numerous radio plays ‘Naked Alone’ has generated so far speak for themselves. The world is ready for L Devine to take her home.
What sets L Devine apart from the rest of the pop world is her attention to visuals. Similar to Billie Eilish, her music comes alive on screen. But where Billie hones in on the strange and twisted, Liv’s aesthetic takes a more indie film approach. Talking to her about the two improvised short films that accompanied her EPs, it’s clear to see that Liv has an endless supply of creativity and that she is not just excited about music.
“Visuals are super important to me. It’s one of my favourite things if not THE favourite thing at the moment. I love diving into it. Whenever I’m writing, I have visual ideas coming to mind, and I’m always making mood boards. I’m shit at Photoshop, but I’m always trying to make some kind of artwork or designs for T-Shirts.”
Liv is bursting with ideas. And though she has definitely caught the bug for “the live thing” and wants to focus on touring and meeting her fans for a while, we can still expect a few more singles plus stunning visuals in the near future. But don’t be too sure what unique sound L Devine is going to pull out of her pocket. “I’m never settled on what route I wanna go down. That’s what keeps it exciting. That’s what I love about songwriting. You can do whatever the fuck you want.”
Taken from the September issue of Dork, out now – order your copy below.
Words: Laura Freyaldenhoven