Devin Kennedy: Intuitive Artistry
With co-writing credits including Ben Platt, Ryan Tedder, Andy Grammer, Jake Miller, James Maslow, R3HAB, and Alex Alono, artist-songwriter-producer Devin Kennedy is gaining serious momentum as an artist. With over three million monthly Spotify listeners, his album racked 2.4 million streams on day one.
Playing drums, guitar, and bass before the age of 10 (his grandfather was a concert pianist and his father worked in music for television and film), Kennedy grew up listening to The Beatles, Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and others. His first two concerts were Paul McCartney and John Mayer. “I fell in love with music done at the highest level. [The] Beatles’ songwriting is the north star of every songwriter, and John Mayer is up there,” shares Kennedy. “I've always tried to make the best songs possible—that's where I have the most fun.”
Meeting his father’s producer-friend Pat Regan at just 12 years old, he was encouraged to sing and taught to produce the music he played in his pop-punk band in high school. “It was definitely life-changing for me,” says Kennedy. “I learned so much from him. We produced two albums for my band and that really led to me becoming a producer.”
Kennedy says that studying production, songwriting, and business at Berklee “really set me up for staying independent and running my own business coming out of school.” While his band fell apart while he was in college, bandmate Jordan Greenwald (of lovelytheband), who was playing guitar for James Maslow (of Big Time Rush), passed the torch to Kennedy when he became too busy with his own career. Playing guitar, keyboard, and helping to put Maslow’s live shows together, Maslow and Kennedy became good friends. “I love James,” gushes Kennedy. “He taught me how to be a solo artist, what it looks like to be on the road and do interviews. He gave me that initial touring experience, took a chance on me when I was 19, and gave me some incredible opportunities.”
Kennedy says songwriting is all about writing your first 100 songs, and that the hardest part is being clear and concise, adding that, “Whether you want to be a songwriter, an artist, a producer, or anything in between, consistency is absolutely crucial."
Left to his own devices, the chords and melody come before the lyrics, but Kennedy says he prefers co-writing because it helps the song evolve, and that he slowed his process to get the best result. “I used to do sessions where I would try to produce and write the song in one afternoon,” he admits. “These days, we'll sit down with co-writers on acoustic guitar, find some cool chords, write the best possible song I can—and then produce it later. The song sounds more honest that way.”
With opportunities including a tour with Jeff Bernat in 2022, and Daniel Seavey earlier this year, Kennedy says he got there through hard work. “It’s really about some cool folks throwing you opportunities and the only way you get there is by outworking other people,” he reveals. He recommends taking time to create daily, emphasizing that putting yourself and your health first is of paramount importance. “Trying to be creative while you're distracted is impossible,” he says. “Set yourself up for success: eat before the session, get good sleep the night before, no business calls directly before your session. [Avoid] anything that might put you in the wrong headspace.”
Kennedy can tell when a song is special because he gets impatient about releasing it (exactly what happened with “Forget About You”). “10,000 small decisions—that's what makes a great song,” he says. “Trust your gut about what you love. If you love it, there's gonna be folks out there that love it too. I’m no viral artist. I just have a dedicated group of people that gravitate towards my music.”
Debut album, California Rain, is out now.
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