Kevin Devine moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island when he was in sixth grade. “I had to take a bridge, to a ferry, to a bus to get school” for a while, he explained.
And short of the trauma off that public transportation on a daily basis, changing schools between sixth and seventh grade is kind of a big deal.
“That’s about the time I started playing the guitar,” he explained. Being that age is “a profound displacement to begin with, but then moving in the middle was even harder, but there was something good about it too — because I was alone a lot — and music became a sustaining thing.”
“It was a huge refuge. I got a guitar for Christmas and I would bang away on it with a little amp. It was a friend until I made some real ones.”
In junior high, he started a band. “I can’t imagine we were very good” he laughed, but we played ‘November Rain’ at the school talent show. It was me, a pianist, a trio of backup singers and at the end, a faux funeral.” (And though you might have had to have seen the video to understand that, it sounds like it was epic.)
Devine went on to explain, “at some point, however, I realized I couldn’t play the guitar like Slash but I could play something like Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ pretty well. Their songs were perfect in their simplicity. I also thought I could also write my own, three chord songs. Nirvana was a big bridge and music was a place to put all those feelings you have at that age.”
Later, as a teen, he “was a good student, but I also had a lot of questions,” and he eventually “found people who had the same thoughts — they were weirder than me,” but it was still a community he could be a part of. “I remember going to a party and there were two girls shaving each others heads there. I was both in love and terrified at the same time.”
Today, for Devine, his career is “my life and my experience I take it one foot at a time. I’ve toured all over the place. I’m not a famous musician but I have a career. I have eight records under my name. I’ve gotten this far by being focused on the thing that I was doing and not thinking of it as a career.”
His latest tour started just a few days ago. Bubblegum and Bulldozer were produced with a Kickstarter campaign. “One is folk rock, one more punk, one is quieter, one is nosier — it’s been fantastic and also the best received work of my career.” And because he put them out himself, he was able to create a small label.
“Growing up, I loved seeing my friends start these little hardcore businesses — little record stores in houses. I saw them implement and this idea of DIY and entrepreneurship, so I’m taking those lessons I learned from watching them fifteen years ago and putting them to use.”
If the work he does with his label is anything like his career so far, you can expect to hear a lot more from Devine and the bands he works with. In the meantime, you can check out tracks from his latest, as well as pictures and a video, below.
“Private First Class”
“She Can See Me”