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EXCLUSIVE: Devin Kennedy Talks Music, Instruments and Growing up in LA

Searching for new music can be hard. That’s why we love to help you out with that sometimes. Devin Kennedy is a new upcoming artist who plays several instruments, sings, writes and now he’s going to be opening for WESLEY in LA at the Resident on July 22nd. You can purchase tickets here. Just releasing his new song “No Worries,” Kennedy chats with us about his music, his summer goals, growing up in LA and more! Check out what he had to say below.

Let’s just start off with a simple how are you?

Great man. How are you doing? I’m enjoying this Sunday out here in the sun. 

I know. Sunny sunday. Pun is intended. When did you move out to Los Angeles?

I’m born and raised. I’m from a little bit south of LA like San Pietro/Palos Verdes area. And then I bounced back and forth from the east coast for college. When I was younger, I was there for a couple of years. I’ve been back here for a little while. 

How is it to be born and raised in LA versus moving out to LA to be an artist? Do you feel like you have an upper hand because of that? 

No. I think it’s all the same. If anything, I think it’s a little bit over saturated. It’s been kind of a struggle… to break through at least. I always had the connections in the industry here. And I’m always meeting people. Not so much a struggle-It’s probably the same as everyone else’s struggle, right? It’s an interesting place to grow up. A lot  of music happening. A lot of venues. A lot of chances to get yourself out there-probably a little too early in the wrong band or the wrong music. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though.

I know you know a few people in the music industry, like James Maslow. Did you naturally make those connections?

It’s crazy to look at because it’s just like a tree of connections. It just branches off and it’s so random. Then those branches just meet randomly. It’s a small world. I met a friend when I was working in college. We started a band together and that was when we met some of the folks from that band, Hey Violet and then that band fell apart. The guitarist in that band introduced me to James. I’ve been writing and producing for James and with James for 3 years now and he’s one of my best friends. Yeah, it’s just kind of random how it happens. I’ve been very lucky to meet some of my greatest connections… people have really gone out for me and helped me out the last few years. 

You just released “No Worries.” Tell us a bit about the writing process of writing that and the overall message of the song? 

I think for a while I really struggled with writing the right positive song. I think it’s really hard to write a non-cheesy positive song and it’s really easy to write sad songs. I was introduced to a collaborator of mine, Ian Walsh who is signed to a publishing company out here. We’ve been writing together quite a bit. The stars aligned. He came in with these really nice chords and he said it would be really nice to write a positive, summer happy love song. And I was like ‘oh, I’ve been thinking of writing a song called, “No Worries.” I think it would be really cool to write about how I hate going out and I want to just spend time inside with the people that I care about. And not go spend money and about how you don’t really need it to have a good time. We wrote it and got together with one of the producers on the track, Dan Burke, who’s a guy I collaborate with all the time. It came together in a couple hours. He [Dan] was like, ‘hey, let’s put some hand claps on it.’ And then it just works perfectly. It’s just one of those things- you don’t really second guess it. It’s just there and you listen back and you’re like this works. This is awesome! I love it. We’ve been sitting on it for a couple months and trying to figure out when is the best time to release it this summer, what does the video look like and all that good stuff. Everything is feeling good now and happy to have it out there. 

What’s one thing that you try not to worry too much about?

I think I try not to worry about, at least at this stage in my career and life, my work-life balance. It is kind of crazy right now. I have a hard time differentiating because I could work 24 hours a day. I try not to stress too heavy on that because I know the grind period right now. I’m trying to get the song, trying to get out there and trying to make things happen. I try to not stress too much. Well, I got a little less sleep last night or whatever it may be or I should probably spend some time with my mom this week or whatever. I try to keep those things in mind, but at the same time I know this is the time to be working as hard as I can as long as my body can keep up with it, I am going to keep going that way for a bit. 

You have released seven songs. Have you ever released an EP?

I have not. That’s now the plan. My plan is to get a project out there, play  some more shows and try to get out in front of a few more people towards the end of this year. Get out to some fans on the east coast who have been waiting a really long time. So that’s really exciting for me. Everyone always says- build the hype, build the hype don’t put out a project until you know people are going to be ready for it . I think I’m getting to the point now where we can handle it and whatever fans there are are excited about it  

You play multiple instruments. What is the first instrument you learned how to play?

My Dad got me a drum set when I was two. I wanted to play guitar, but I was really small. My hands were too small. I just pissed me off. So, I got a drum set and did that for a really, really long time in bands through middle school and the beginning  of high school. And then, in the beginning of high school I was in a band and I was like, ‘you know what man, I’m getting really tired of lead singers. I’ll just become one.’ So then I started a band and I fronted that band in high school and really just kept going from there. I really dug into the guitar; which is my main instrument now. From there, bass came naturally. Piano is a life- long struggle for me. My education was a wake up call and made me learn piano. I’m always getting better at the piano.

Do you have a favorite instrument to play?

Guitar. I don’t play as much time these days. Everything is in the computer when I’m producing. I still have a drum set though. Mainly guitar though. 

Do you think technology will ever replace true instruments?

I think it has to a major extent already. I think it depends on the genre of music . When I was 18 or 19, I was producing a lot of rock music and it was really necessary to have real instruments. Do I think computers will ever replace something like guitar or piano? No. I mean, piano is easy enough to get on there, but, for me, all the guitar sounds still feel pretty cheap.  No one really got it yet. And you can’t really replace the feel of a human playing an instrument; unless you’re that good, but drums and piano are getting replaced more and more everyday.

It’s kind of sad.

It is kind of sad, but on the flip side of that I’m loving how much guitar has been in this year on the radio. That’s not going anywhere right now and it’s only getting more interesting in how it’s getting used in like R&B and stuff like that. I’m excited about that because there was that stretch when we were really in an  EDM world on the radio and that was not necessarily my favorite time of music. I’m glad to have guitar back on the radio.  

It’s sounds like you wanted to be a musician from early on? 

My Dad was a mastering engineer and did a lot of film and tv music. My parents ran a branding company for a long time. They would hire themselves basically. They would hire my Dad and create the music for the infomercial or whatever they needed. So we were in studios- my Dad and I. He’d bring me out to the studios when I was younger and he was teaching me guitar when I was really young and helped me with drums. And just jamming out when I was really, really young . So I kind of just grew up with it. When I look back – speaking on connections again– when I look at the first connections I made in the industry was through my Dad introducing me to people that he had worked with . It just kind of all branches off from there. So that was really inspiring for me at a young age. It was always in my mind that it would be really cool to do ‘that.’ Whatever ‘that’ is the coolest thing ever! Then in Middle school, I had a teacher who encouraged me to join a rock band class at my middle school . I played drums and we did a talent show. And after that, I was like wow I’m going to do that forever. That was the most fun thing ever. I never looked back. 

You went to Berklee College of Music. There have been a lot of musicians who have gone there. Do you think it’s helpful to go to a music college?

I think it depends on what you are going for. You hear a lot of people dropping out of music school and Berklee in general. Some of their biggest alumnae have been drop outs and that’s because, in my opinion,  if you are there to learn and instrument- and this goes for any music college- if you’re there to learn how to play the guitar or get better at the guitar, you’re pretty much there to get a touring gig unless you’re trying to be an artist . And when you get your touring gig, and because you’re good- you’re at Berklee-you’re probably going to get it two years in and most of them are just going to drop out. For my degree, I was there for production and business and I just felt I had more to learn. Do I think it’s bad that so many people go? No. I think it’s great that people want to further their music education. Especially now- I did a lot of my degree online because I was just bouncing around and writing and doing my thing. I think it’s becoming easier and easier for people to educate themselves on production and business. As they should. I always run into Berklee people every week when I’m writing and they’re always on the same level in terms of just knowledge about the business and landscape. I think the more people that are educated on it, I think the easier it will become for us to evolve the industry and get money back to the middle class musicians and keep things progressing for us.

Do you have any music idols, maybe even Berklee alums or people you’ve met, that you would like to work with? 

Yeah, absolutely! John Mayer is like my favorite musician to ever live. I wish I had met him, but I’ve seen him in concert a bunch of times. People always ask me if I would ever fangirl out if I met somebody. I try to keep it pretty cool. I’ve met plenty of people just doing random things. It’s never really a problem, but I think I would struggle to put it into words if I met him. I think I would just be like, ‘uh… oh no.’ I would love to work with  him. There are so many amazing artists out, Berklee and non-Berklee. Just talented people like. I love the Warped Tour scene when I was growing up. That was like my thing. I always thought that I was going to headline Warped Tour one day; so bands like All Time Low, Fallout Boy, and stuff like that was like my thing growing up. I was crazy for that. It’s funny to see, as I progress, how the closer I get to them in connections- it’s like I have friends who write with them now.  That kind of nuts to me that I’m in that world a little bit.  

You talked about how you’d like to tour? Have you ever toured on the east  coast?

I have not. I’ve only played shows in LA for my artist project. I’ve bounced around playing with James Maslow. Well actually, that’s not true, I play a festival in Connecticut a couple months ago and that went over really, really well. That was one of my first dates on the east coast for my stuff, but that was short notice. It was one of those get out there and do it type of things. I need to get out there and do a headliner. I’ve got some fans in New York and Boston who have been waiting a long time. 

You’re only at the beginning of your career and you already have such a strong fanbase. How do you think that happens?

It’s a mystery. It’s super easy to be impatient and to think this is happening so slow. Even like song over song-I’m looking back at the streams today for last few days and I’m thinking, damn, a year ago or two years ago, I had no songs out. But like a year ago, I would have got a quarter of what I got today. That’s crazy growth. I just need to always keep that in mind. The fanbase is definitely growing, but there are those die hards from the beginning. I think what it really is is that fans like to get in on this stuff early, right? If they can say, ‘I listened to Devon when he put out his second song.’ That’s clout for them in a few years. Or ‘I was at his first New York show.’ I know I love doing that- ‘Hey man, I heard about this song before you heard about this song.’ That’s probably why it’s so strong. The fans have been so great. It’s growing. It’s an interesting point for me right now because I’m not necessarily at the level of where I can say, I am going to go out and play 30 days in the U.S. I don’t have enough fans for that.  But, I’m also at a point where I have people waiting in certain cities; so it’s kind of like that middle ground where I’m like how can I get there- maybe opening for somebody else. It’s an interesting time for me right now. 

Do you have a fanbase name?

Yeah, I ran a poll on my twitter a few weeks ago because we’ve been going back and forth on it for years. I always feel like – I didn’t want to go out too early and be like this is my fanbase name because if the fanbase is not big enough then I just look weird naming my fanbase. I let them name it. They chose Kennedudes; which I’m a fan of. It works for me. There were a couple of other names, but they didn’t make as much sense to me. I think that works. The California kind of vibe. 

What are some of your summer goals?

I’ve been writing a ton. I just took my first vacation in like three years and I just got back. I’m feeling refreshed. I came right back and went right back into sessions and had a great last two weeks of writing sessions. So kind of just figuring out what are the next songs for me and also lining up some things on an industry side. For me, kind of through the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall, it’s getting some shows in line in LA and the east coast and then putting out a first project with a few more songs. 

Describe your music sound for people who are just starting to listen to you.

It’s organic R&B pop – I would put it these days. There’s always going to be an element of guitar or something that can really be played and show musicianship cause I don’t need to do it all on the computer. But it’s definitely pop leaning and had that R&B influence as well.

If you live in LA, make sure you get tickets to see him open for WESLEY on July 22nd at the Resident! You can purchase tickets here.

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