Devin Kennedy grew up surrounded by music. With his grandfather being a classically trained pianist and his father making music for commercials, Devin learned to play the drums, bass, and guitar before the age of 10. He learned to write and produce music that was influenced by his love of artists such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Fall Out Boy, and Yellowcard. He started writing original music and producing in his bedroom in middle school, and through lots of practice and trial and error, it has allowed him to make music he is proud of and to find a sound that is authentic to the kind of artist he wants to be. Attending Berklee College of Music after high school introduced him to a wide array of genres and music that broadened his musical palate and allowed him to break the genre barrier. It has, in his own words, allowed him, to “hone in my sound and do whatever I want musically. Now, what I want to put out there is really my only barometer of whether I want to put something out. It’s not really based on genre or if it aligns with what I’ve done previously”.
Aside from writing music for himself and his own solo project, he has also written for other artists. Devin has written and produced for the likes of Ben Platt, Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, Chester Bennington, Stone Temple Pilots, Andy Grammer, Jake Miller, James Maslow, and R3HAB. He is also being recognized for his own music, as well, landing him on many major playlists across Spotify, Apple and Amazon. His EP Poetry featured tracks “Forget About You” and “Follow Through” which was most recently used as the sound in Charli D’Amelio’s TikTok video promoting her Born Dreamer perfume, and was added to MTV’s Biggest Pop channel, Shazam’s Best New Music, and Live Nation’s One’s To Watch. Collaborating with so many different artists has allowed him to learn and grow as an artist and to hone in on his own sound as a solo artist, considering himself a product of every person he has ever worked with. With music being a lifelong passion on which he has been working for 10+ years, Devin is greatly appreciative of anybody who talks about his music, shares it or listens. His greatest passion is being on stage and connecting with his fans on stage with his music.
On June 8th, Devin will be releasing his debut, full-length album California Rain. He recently released his latest single from the album, “Frequent Flyer”, which showcases his signature blend of lo-fi beats with an R&B-laced pop sound. “’Frequent Flyer’ is a dreamy escape from reality that embodies the thrill of adventure and the desire to soar to new heights. It’s a celebration of living in the moment and cherishing every first-class memory along the way,” shares Devin. He also released the accompanying music video for for the track that features a dynamic visual story filmed aboard an abandoned Boeing airplane. With plans to get back out on the road and play new songs and meet new people, make sure to follow Devin Kennedy via the following links and stay up-to-date on all new music, tour dates, and album news! Photo credit: Kory Luke.
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You were raised in a musical household, with your grandfather being a classically trained pianist and your father creating music for commercials, and you learned to play drums, bass, and guitar before the age of 10! What can you tell me about your childhood and the ways in which being surrounded by music from such a young age helped to influence your own musical aspirations?
I would say that it inspired me and influenced me every step of the way. I started playing instruments super young–playing guitar and drums with my dad mostly, playing different classic rock songs and stuff. That’s where it really started. Listening to the radio with my dad to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. Then I fell in love with modern rock music, like Fallout Boy and Yellowcard and bands like that. I learned to produce and write off the back of being influenced by those type of artists. Then I went to college for production and business and figured out that I wanted to be doing a solo artist project and make the music I always wanted to make. My first two concerts were Paul McCartney and John Mayer, so I’ve always been inspired by incredible solo artists and that has led me to where I am now. Really everything originated from the creative environment that my family instilled and that pushed me to pursue it as a career and stay passionate.
You started writing original music and producing in your bedroom in middle school. What were those early songwriting and producing moments like for you and how did it help to shape your process going forward?
Back in middle school it was a lot of trial and error. I did not know what I was doing when I was singing, songwriting, producing…but who does when they’re just starting, you know? I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing, is trying to get better song by song. It has brought me to making music that I’m super proud of and allowed me to find this sound that feels authentic to what I’ve been trying to do all these years. I couldn’t be where I am now without sitting in my bedroom for thousands of hours and making a song and producing it. Then doing another one and having it sound a little better and a little better and honing the genre. It’s been a definite effort and passion over the last ten years, but I had to start somewhere.
You attended Berklee College of Music after high school, where you combined your passion for writing and producing in multiple genres to create your unique blend of R&B and pop. What was your time there like and how did they teach you to embrace all genres of music?
That’s exactly what they taught me to do. First and foremost, I went into college thinking that I was going to be in a band. Trying to find members and what genre it would be etc. Almost immediately when I got there, I took an ear training class and our homework for the class was to listen to what Berkeley considered to be the Top 100 Best Recorded Written Albums of All Time. It was all different genres from U2 to Steely Dan to Tupac to country music. The assignment was to analyze the music for its quality in recording and songwriting–not form a personal opinion about it based on genre. That was pretty eye opening. I never really listened to country music before that but I was like “I can identify things within this that I love, even though it may not be my preferred genre.” That broke the genre barrier for me and I feel like the music industry kind of went into a similar place of combining genres and doing different things. Like, “Let’s not classify artists in one genre anymore because people can do whatever they want.” That allowed me to hone in my sound and do whatever I want musically. Now, what I want to put out there is really my only barometer of whether I want to put something out. It’s not really based on genre or if it aligns with what I’ve done previously.
At the age of 18, you met and became the touring guitarist for James Maslow of Big Time Rush! How did you meet him and come to have that opportunity and what did you learn as a result about touring and the industry?
So I was working at the Apple store in the beginning of college, fixing iPhones, and I met a ton of people–not only co-workers but just people who came to the store. I met a couple of like-minded musicians and we started a band. One of the people in that band is Jordan Greenwald from lovelytheband. Around that time he was playing guitar for James and he needed someone to take over the gig for him. He introduced me to James when I was 19. James and I toured together on and off for three or four years as he was doing his solo stuff and while Big Time Rush was on their hiatus. Not only did it give me a jumpstart in terms of connections and meeting people but also in seeing how he conducted himself and promoted himself. I saw what it takes to be an artist and do shameless self-promotion and introduce people to your music. That taught me so much and I will always be grateful to James for that opportunity. He’s still a very close friend who I speak to all the time, so I made a lifelong friend which was awesome.
What can you tell me about getting to collaborate with so many other artists early on, as well as doing your own solo music? Do you feel that working with so many other artists has helped to influence your approach to your own music?
Totally. Every time I get in the room with somebody, whether it’s to write for them or for me, you learn something different from everyone you work with. Every time you work with them, you learn something new. It’s even better when they’re a friend. All of that has helped me develop this project and find my own sound. It was eye opening to watch other artists and other writers figure out their creative process and go about creating music in their own way. It helped form my own opinion of how to do it for myself. I’m a product of every person I’ve ever worked with. I try to be in the room with as many great people as I can because it makes me better and better.
You have talked about how these days you primarily write for your project but that some of the songs you write go to other artists. How do you determine when a song isn’t right for you and decide to find a home for it with another artist?
I can pretty much can figure out right away if a song is right or wrong for me. I just know if it’s something that I want to say. I mean, there have been times I’ve reproduced something and it’s changed my perspective on it. But for the most part I can tell right away. Sometimes it’s just a friend who is an artist or someone I am aligned with and rather than being so official about it I just say “Hey, we’d like you to release this song. I wrote this song and it’s not for me but I think you would sound great on it.” What’s much more fun these days is just being in the room and writing the song with the artist specifically. Then, you can get a gauge on their overall excitement about what you’re doing. It’s way more fun being in the room with people as opposed to trying to write a song for them. I love working with other artists. It’s something that I wish I could do more of these days and I hope to be able to do more of in the future.
You have received a lot of positive recognition for your music since the start! What has it been like to have that buzz and forward momentum early in your career and in what ways have you sought to grow your fanbase? What are your thoughts on social media as an artist and do you feel that social media platforms are a good way to connect with fans?
The initial buzz of my music is all I’ve ever wanted. I am so appreciative of anybody who talks about my music, shares it or listens. It’s a lifelong passion that I’ve been working on for 10+ years and so I’m just grateful when anybody listens because I’ve been there when nobody was listening. It’s my dreams coming true right there. I think social media has definitely played a massive, massive role in that. I use multiple social media platforms to reach and communicate with my fans. My fans are really just friends when it comes down to it. I want to be able to communicate with them as much as possible and treat them like a friend because they’re here supporting me to be. Your fans will go harder for you than even your family sometimes. So that’s family to me, really. So, I try and treat them that way as much as I can. By just being in touch and being a friend.
You have said that the reason you got into being an artist and writing and producing was to play live, which was your first love musically. What is it about playing your music live and being on stage that you love so much and in what ways do strive to connect with your fans/audience when on stage?
I love feeding off the crowd live. There’s no feeling quite like playing music in front of a crowd. The excitement of someone bopping along to your music or throwing energy back at you is super special. I like I say that I got into music because I wanted to play live. How it went down is my music teacher at my school asked me to be the drummer for the talent show. There was this song called “Wipeout” and the whole song is basically a drum solo. I don’t think anybody even knew that I could play drums and the entire school went crazy. I walked offstage and that was the moment I was like, “I love music.” I was like, “Whoa, whatever that is like that is what I need to be doing. It’s just a special feeling. I love it so much. And I love going out and connecting with my fan base there. It’s also really interesting to see which songs which songs work live better than others. It’s been really fun to experiment with that and different arrangements and different ways of playing the songs live. I’m looking forward to doing more of that.
Having started releasing music in 2018, what can you tell me about your early EPs, 2019’s You & Me, That’s Enough and 2021’s SunDayDreams, and how you’ve grown as an artist and your sound has grown with your more recent music?
I’m just getting better. That’s the way I see it. I’m honing in on what I’ve always heard in my head. I think I always had a strong vision for what this project could be. It’s kind of ebbed and flowed over the years, but I would say in 2018 and 2019 I was making the best music that I could make at that time. And I’m so proud of it. It’s always really about trying to communicate what I hear in my head into a song. The better I get, the easier that is to do. In the last two years or so I really hit a stride in terms of sound. It feels authentic. It’s much easier to communicate the vision and take what I’m hearing in my head and make it into a song because of the trial and error.
You recently released your latest single “Frequent Flyer”. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song, which you have said is a dreamy escape from reality and a celebration of living in the moment?
“Frequent Flyer” is about living an adventurous and carefree life. Living in the moment and not worrying so much about the future but just enjoying that present moment. The inspiration for the song was to take something that I personally love, which is a slow jam guitar song, and make it something that is still just as fun and compelling for any music listener. It’s one of my favorites off the album.
What can you tell me, also, about the inspiration behind the music video you filmed for the song that took place on an abandoned Boeing airplane?
Yes, abandoned airplane! Pretty on the nose but for “Frequent Flyer,” we wanted to film a music video inside of a plane which is a tall task. We were able to pull it together and somehow find this decompression jet that they would allow us to film in. It was a blessing that they would let us do that. It’s definitely my favorite video I’ve ever made. The visuals and the lighting on this video are not only cohesive with the rest of the project, but it’s also just absolutely wild. I can watch it over and over again. It’s one of my favorites.
What can fans expect from this album and what do you hope that they take away from it?
Fans can expect a little bit of everything on this album. There are some more lyrical and more songwriter-leaning songs. I’m giving some R&B and jazz feeling type songs and really everything in between. This album has a mood and a feeling for everybody. I hope that everybody’s able to find their own stories and their own soundtrack within the album. I know how I relate to each song, but I’m excited to see how everybody relates to it themselves.
What do you like to do outside of music for fun and to decompress?
For years I only did music and I’m now getting better about living my life a little bit outside of it. I really like taking pictures. That’s something I’ve taken up over the last year. I got a nice Fuji camera and I’ve been enjoying learning about that. I’m definitely not good at it yet but I just like going on walks and taking pictures of things and like finding stories. It’s very interesting to me. It’s also a creative outlet that I put literally no pressure on and I can’t say the same about music. I like being able to do something creative with no thought of where it’s going to end up and how people are going to react to it. I also really like cooking! Cooking is a full decompression thing for me. It’s also a creative outlet for me. So maybe the next thing I’ll do is take pictures of the food!
How do you stay grounded in your everyday life?
I spend time with my friends and family specifically. My parents live about 10 minutes from me and I try to see them a couple of times a week. My mom has six sisters as well, so we have a huge extended family. I do my best to see everybody as much as I can and just spend time with them. That’s the most important thing for me and is a priority in my life.
Who are you listening to right now and who are some artists you feel people should know about?
I am listening to the new album from RAYE right now. RAYE is amazing. Such a great album crazy. She’s literally about to take over the whole music. I also think more people should know about Bruno Major. I think Bruno Major is one of the greatest songwriters around. I’m so inspired by him. He’s amazing. He’s about to drop his new record which I’m super excited about. Honestly artists coming out of the UK right now I’m so inspired by and I’m trying to get out there and write with them. Sam Willis. There’s this Neo Soul movement coming out of out of the UK that is insane. Go check them out if you haven’t heard of them.
What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward?
My album, California Rain, is coming out on June 8th. I’m super excited for everybody to hear it. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the road this year and playing some of these new songs and meeting some new people. And my goal is to do exactly what I’m doing right now for forever. So I’ll be seeing you out there real soon! Always with new music and always playing shows.