By Amanda Kilfeather and Chelsea Ness
Irish singer songwriter, Janet Devlin gave up some of her time to speak to us about her time on the X Factor, relationships with alcohol, managing mental health in the public eye and working the music industry….
How would you describe your music to new listeners? I’d probably have to go with pop-folk with Celtic roots!
While growing up, who were your musical influences? What drew you to them?
I listened to a lot of country music growing up, as well as more traditional Irish groups. I’d
say the artists on the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? had a pretty big influence
on my taste for music. I suppose the use of religious symbolism in it has stuck around too.
You first stepped into the limelight on season 8 of The X Factor. Over the series, you received the highest volume of consecutive public vote outs of all contestants a great achievement! Are there any other professional and personal highlights from the show that you hold dear?
Thank you very much – I couldn’t believe that when I found out! I think the number of artists I
got to see live at the time was insane. I would sneak into so many soundchecks so that I
could listen! I got to see the likes of Coldplay, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars
perform in a room with like 10 people – it was crazy!
You first appeared on our screens at quite a young age (only 16!) – What advice would you give to young musicians looking to kick-start their musical careers?
I think I would firstly have to say “There’s no rush!”. The industry will be there when you’re
ready. Don’t feel pressurised to jump in too young. There’s nothing wrong with working on
your craft and enjoying your youth. I would also say that you should use the internet to your
advantage. Do as much as you can, make as much content as you want and don’t hold back
because of the fear of what others may think. The people who bullied me for being weird
before TV were the same ones who wanted to be my friend as soon as I was doing well. The
opinions of the nay sayers doesn’t matter.
In what ways did you find that your experience on the hit show impacted your own career, going forward?
It gave me a pretty instant fanbase so that was incredible. But after the show I had to work
really hard to keep them – as the majority of them were a TV and not a music fanbase, they
dropped off quite a bit. It took a very long time to convince people that I was a serious artist
and not ‘just a singer’. To this day, I still have to prove this to people but it seems to working
out just fine and I’m so lucky to have a really dedicated fan community!
After the release of your debut album, ‘Running with Scissors’, in 2014, you spent a lot of time gigging in America – how would you compare the music industry over The Pond to the music scene here in Britain?
It was amazing to spend so much time over there! Now, this is no shade at the industry over
here but I found the US to be much more accepting and less judgmental of the fact I did TV.
Also, everyone was always so positive. I couldn’t get over the whole “glass half full” mentality
that I was met with over there. I suppose it was just nice to feel like my art was really being
seen and it wasn’t all about my past – they seemed much more focussed on my future. It was
Your recently released, ‘Away With the Fairies’ a stunning song. What was the inspiration behind writing it?
I wanted to write a track about my alcoholism but as you can imagine it’s somewhat of an
unrelatable topic to most. I also didn’t want to bum people out with such a heavy topic. So I
decided to try and pull the magic that booze gave me into a song but marrying it with the
darkness it brought too. There definitely is a mystical side to booze. The fact you can
purchase a little elixir that’ll remove years’ worth of insecurities and inhibitions is like
something from a story book. I couldn’t ignore that fact.
Since your early days sharing music on YouTube, your writing has really matured and become more personal through each project. How valuable is that honesty in creative expression to you? Does it make the creative processes any more challenging, or freeing?
I think the honesty just makes it much more meaningful for me. Each song I’ve written over
the past few years has a part of my soul in it. So I feel like I’ve left a little piece of me on this
Earth, so when I inevitably pass on, something of me will always be here. It can be tough at
times to re-live the painful moments of my life, but I get to turn that hurt into art. So it made
the suffering worthwhile in some way.
We also really appreciate your transparency and bravery in openly discussing your relationship with alcohol, as you used your online platform to address the topic. We’re sure you’ll agree that it is so important to continue the conversations and challenge the stigmas around mental health – especially regarding the music industry, as it’s a creative outlet that many artists turn to for therapeutic cathartic reasons. Do you intend to continue your part of the conversation, and if so, in what ways?
I’m just going to keep on keeping on really! Because even though we’ve made leaps and bounds over the last few years with opening up, it’s still not as normalised as I believe it should be. From reading some of the comments I get under my videos, it would still seem that a lot of people don’t understand mental illness – some even still believing that it’s a choice. So I’ll continue to talk about my mental health until the day I feel that it’s not a taboo topic.
When the world gets back to normality after the lockdown, what plans do you have
for the future as an artist?
I want to get started on my next record as soon as possible! I’m dying to get back into the
studio. I also want to hit the road. It’s been far too long since I’ve been on tour and I can’t
even begin to explain how much I miss playing to people and meeting everyone! So as soon
as this is all over, expect some live dates from me!
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT JANET DEVLIN BELOW…