Throughout her fascinating career, fuelled by a run on X Factor where she was viewed by millions, terrifying lows throughout a debilitating addiction to alcohol, and creating a YouTube channel which now provides content to half a million subscribers, Janet Devlin definitely has a story to share, and on her new album, she’s ready to share it.
I spoke to Janet just after the release of her second album, Confessional, as well as her deeply personal autobiography, My Confessional.
How is lockdown treating you? What have you been up to?
Lockdown in a lot of ways has been quite similar to my regular life to be honest. I’m not really much of a social butterfly so I’m used to spending a lot of time in the house! I’ve been doing a lot of my work online for years now like online shows and making content. The only thing that’s different is that I’m not going to the gym or the cinema or travelling to Ireland. But the difference definitely lies in releasing an album in lockdown. So I’ve just been doing the same work really if not more.
You got your start on the X Factor but before that (and still to this date), you post on YouTube. Do you feel as though the site is an important part of your life?
Oh definitely! It’s like my own little time machine! I’ve always loved posting there though, it’s been such a fun way for me to express myself, my art and let people get discover me and my music. So I’ll be continuing to post on there for sure!
Do you feel as though YouTube has given you the ability to connect on a much more personal level with your fans?
Absolutely. I knew that this album was going to take some time to make. YouTube was the best way for me to keep in touch with everyone, let them see my life and also just let them get to know me better. It’s been amazing to get to know everyone too as a lot of people share so much about themselves in my comments section. It’s turned into quite the lovely community over there and I’m incredibly grateful for everyone there for being so kind and supporting over the past few years.
If you could go back to the day that you had your audition, what would you change?/if you could talk to yourself on the morning of your audition, what would you say to yourself?
Well I’d give myself the heads up that I was told the wrong time – that’s for sure! I was told I was a part of the afternoon slot but it was actually the morning so I only had 20 minutes to get ready! There’s nothing I would change though! Except maybe wearing more deodorant as no one quite warned me about how HOT it was going to be in the arena.
What advice would you give to anyone starting up, or looking to form a career in music?
Such a hard one but it’d be “Just do it!”. I feel like so many people want to, but they let something hold them back. Just post that video, finish that song or put yourself out there! The worst case scenario doesn’t outweigh the knowing that you put the effort in and made the action happen.
Your new album is excellent. What were the influences? What was your creative process?
Thank you! I didn’t really have any influences for the album as I hadn’t hear anyone trying to do the whole Celtic pop fusion thing. The creative process was just built around honesty. ‘How can I make this song, story or chapter be as raw and as true as possible’. I did little things like make a list of words that I felt I wanted the songs to include. I did the same things with phrases or bits of poetry. I’d take these into a session and build around them.
On one of your live albums, you covered Numb by Linkin Park and I also saw the band pop up a few times in your personal Spotify playlists. Do you feel that they are a formative influence in your life/growing up? What other influences played a big role on your life?
I was an emo kid at heart when I was younger, and the music of Linkin Park played a big role in how I felt about lyrics. I always loved how you could just hear and feel the emotion of every track. I remember hearing “One Step Closer” while learning to play the drums, so this was one of the first few songs I attempted. My influences growing up were very varied though. I was majorly into country and bluegrass music but I also listened to rock and heavy metal. I loved the storytelling of country but also the sheer emotion of rock.
Also, your biggest song on Spotify is a cover of The Cure. What influence did they play on your life?
I just always loved their music growing up. I think moreso than their music, I loved their style. It showed me that you could dress as weird and wonderfully as you wanted as a form of self expression.
Do you feel that your career was directly affected by alcoholism? If it’s not too personal, why was that the case?
Oh it definitely was. I did more shows than I’d like to admit while painfully hungover. Luckily the adrenaline sort of takes over but the physical and emotional pain I was putting myself through was unsustainable. I also turned up to the studio either drunk or hungover so many times. Also I’m pretty sure every vocal on RWS was done when I was hungover too. Not my proudest moments… but more so than that, it held me back from giving my all.
Can you describe the moment that made you want to become sober?
I wanted to get sober but I never could. I wanted it with every fibre of my being but I could just never seem to do it. It wasn’t until I went to my first meeting at 20 when I realised sobriety was an option. It was almost a relief because I was exhausted from trying to moderate my drinking. There was no ‘parting of the clouds’ moment that stopped me. It was sitting in a room with a bunch of people who knew what I was going through that made the difference.
Alongside your album, I saw that you were also releasing a book about your life. What was the experience of writing about your own life like?
Emotionally exhausting to say the least. It was an eye opener for me in regards to a lot of my behavioural patterns. When I had to write it down I was tired from just writing about the self-destruction, let alone living through it. Also, I have a terrible attention span so that made the process even harder! Now that it’s out though, I definitely feel liberated that I don’t have to lie anymore.
Growing up bi in Northern Ireland did you have people that you looked up to?
I think I mainly looked up to a few older kids in my friendship circle who were out already. It wasn’t easy for them. The got bullied for being out but seeing their strength inspired me. They weren’t backing down in the face of ignorance and I admired them so much for it.
Do you feel any pressure to act as a role model for your fans? Do you think that there is a level of responsibility for artists to be role models for their fans?
I feel the pressure, but in a good way. It almost stops me from acting out on my negative behaviours because I would imagine having to explain what I did. I suppose because I don’t really do anything reckless anymore, I don’t really feel the pressures anymore.
Has becoming sober had any effect on how you relate to the LGBT community? (Because so many LGBT events are centred around bars and drinking)
Not how I relate, no. I’ll be honest – I’m still trying to figure out my place within the community. This is because of a few negative experiences of bi-erasure from dating a few girls. The whole “I like you, but I don’t think I can date you because I feel like I’m in competition with men”. Although this only happened twice to me, I still hear a lot of people saying they would never date a bi girl for different reasons. Which leaves me feeling not straight enough to be straight and not gay enough to be accepted. I’m working on it though! I’ve started making more friends within the community and so far so good! But as for the parties, I don’t usually mind the booze as most of my drinking was done in the confines of my bedroom. So I’m actually finding lockdown harder than I ever would’ve felt in a bar or club.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you want your career to go next?
Just to keep on truckin’ really! I just hope that my music can reach more people. That I get the chance to take my songs on the road and play for people and to thank them personally for the support. I’ve started writing a few little uke songs from home to get a head start in the next project!
Janet’s “Confessional” is out now.