Interview – Dev
– by Ria Nevada/photos by Ryan West
She may not be a household name yet, but R&B songstress Dev, currently opening on the Usher/Akon tour, is well on her way.
Production team The Cataracs discovered Dev’s confident and soulful voice through her Myspace page, and eventually handpicked her to provide the backup vocals of the famous club anthem “Like a G6”. The stylish and gorgeous performer took centre stage on her own award-winning tracks like “Bass Down Low” and “In the Dark”. The latter was a favourite on Canadian music charts last year. Who knows what heights she’ll reach when she releases a full-length album?
As the lyrics of her songs imply, this California girl knows how to get a party started, which is why Akon and Usher have chosen her as a supporting act. Before her set at Rogers Arena, Dev sat down with us at the offices of her record label, Universal Music, and spoke about her musical training, the social media phenomenon, and even a little bit of hockey.
Ria Nevada: Thank you so much for speaking with us before your huge show at Rogers Arena tonight! So our city had a huge win last night; our team is in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Dev: Oh nice! I think one of The Cataracs was just talking about that. Yeah, it’s amazing.
RN: Are they hockey fans?
Dev: One of them is a complete sports head, so he knows everything and anything when it comes to that. So it’s great.
RN: So rest assured, your crowd will be ready to party.
Dev: Nice. Yay. That’s great!
RN: So folks at home probably recognize you best from your vocal stylings on “Like a G6”. Do you ever worry that your music doesn’t extend past the walls of bars and clubs or episodes of Jersey Shore?
Dev: [laughs] No, that doesn’t worry me at all, actually. I think G6 gave me enough attention without giving me too much. People are still unsure about who the girl is with the big sunglasses in the video or the voice, you know? Because I am a new artist. But my album – I can’t wait for you guys to hear it, because it’s definitely filled with a lot more than all this bottle popping talk. I love being fun and sassy, and I think that all 21-year-old females love to do that, you know? But I definitely have stories to tell. So yeah, you’ll hear a little bit of everything on the album.
RN: I was telling someone earlier that we haven’t even heard a full album from you yet, so there is still that mystery behind Dev.
Dev: Oh yeah, I have like ten unfinished tracks that have not been released yet that are on my computer, waiting to be finished and are really pretty pieces of work. One of the ballads, I sing on the Usher show.
RN: So you were snagged by epic producers, The Cataracs, when they stumbled upon your Myspace page. What was your reaction when they first contacted you?
Dev: Um, it was, I mean, I had been a fan of The Cataracs already throughout high school and stuff. We’re all from Northern California. So I think it was the spring of 2008 that they found me. And I was so flattered, just because they had the songs that everyone listened to at parties. And then it was even cooler when I actually got to get to go and meet them because they happened to be just as cool as their music.
RN: A lot of people put up videos of themselves singing on YouTube as an artistic outlet. Did the thought cross your mind that you could get discovered this way?
Dev: Not really. I was a swimmer for 14 years. That was like my thing, you know? And I’d never even really sang in front of anybody except for my parents and my sister, but they’d have to, like, pay me, or sort of bribe me. But yeah, so when I threw the songs up on Myspace and The Cataracs found it, I was definitely surprised. Being an artist, being a musician, is always something that I wanted to do, but I was never gonna force it upon myself. I just knew that if something came along, I would just have to go all balls-out. And that’s kind of what happened.
But yeah, The Cataracs are kind of like the first people I even sang in front of. [laughs] It all worked, but I guess when I first put the songs up, I wasn’t really expecting this. No way! If you would, oh my God, if you could go back in time and be like “Yo, you’re gonna be on this one song that’s gonna be like an international platinum record”, I’d be like “Shut the hell up!”
RN: So you mentioned that you were a competitive swimmer. And you trained with the US Olympic Development program?
Dev: Yeah, I was on the US travelling team. So a registered athlete, and I got to travel all over. And I swam for, like, a million hours a day and worked out for a million more hours a day. That was like, my life, you know? I was counting carbs since I was like 10 [laughs].
RN: So do you think that rigorous regimen affected your approach to your musical career?
Dev: Yeah! Thank God I did that for 14 years because this is no joke. What I’m doing right now is no joke. It’s equivalent if not harder, seriously. So thank God I did that because I can’t really complain now if I have to wake up at five to catch a flight because I used to have to wake up at five and get into freezing cold water. So yeah, it’s definitely helped me out, for sure.
RN: Any plans of pursuing a musical and athletic career simultaneously?
Dev: I don’t know if I could ever, I mean, I would love to swim again. I think I will.
Dev: Yeah, we’ll see. I want to do everything though. I want to write books, and swim, and play every instrument, I’m just a weirdo. And a 10-year-old [laughs]. Every day I want to change my career.
RN: It’s not so much weird as it is really ambitious! Do you think Rio 2016 is next up?
Dev: No, no, I don’t know about that!
RN: Do you find yourself perusing Myspace and YouTube looking for young talent yourself?
Dev: Not yet. I’m still working on myself. I still have plenty of soul searching. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I want to write and say and do and wear. So maybe one day. I would like to give someone else the opportunity to chase their dreams, and express themselves and send a message out.
RN: So you are touring with R’N’B legends Usher and Akon. I can imagine you must be playing to a very eager female-dominated crowd almost every night.
Dev: Oh yes, yes.
RN: Growing up, were these artists that you found yourself swooning to as well?
Dev: Akon and Usher are legends. It’s actually crazy when I hear them play their sets because it’s just hit after hit, you know? But yeah, I was definitely that like 14- or 13-year-old girl that would see Usher’s “Confessions” and my heart would melt. My heart still melts. He like walks by and says “Hey Dev” and I’m like “Oh my God!”. But yeah, it’s amazing.
RN: I mean they’ve had long careers and they’ve been able to re-invent themselves and move forward. Have they given you advice on how to keep current and inventive?
Dev: Usher actually took me and The Cataracs into his dressing room and really sat down with us and spoke to us a lot about how he supported us and gave us some advice. It was absolutely amazing, because, like you said, he’s just been around and done his thing and he’s super successful. So that was really cool. And he really helped us out a lot. And just the fact that I got to hear someone like Usher tell me that he thought we were cool was amazing. But yeah he’s definitely helped us out. And Akon has been super sweet and he can’t wait to get into the studio with The Cataracs. He keeps like talking about it all the time which I think is so cool for us to hear. So yeah, it’s weird, it’s so weird and really cool.
RN: So you’ve done a few collaborations. Is there anyone that people wouldn’t expect you to work with in the future, that you’d like to collaborate with?
Dev: I don’t know. I like a little bit of everything when it comes to artists. Like some days I want to collaborate with Karen O and Elton John. And the other days I want to make a whole album with Nicki Minaj or something. So it just depends on my mood. As of right now, The Cataracs are like the only people I work on that sort of level of production. I’ve worked with a few other artists. And Timbaland did some production on the album and stuff, but as of right now, I think I kind of like just being with The Cataracs. Yeah, those are my boys! [laughs]
RN: Nice! Well we’re looking forward to watching your budding career and seeing where it leads you. Thank you so much for your time, Dev!
Dev: Thank you!