The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Songwriter Devine pushes on

Singer-songwriter Kevin Devine performs in August at the House of Blues in Dallas.
Sommer Saadi
Singer-songwriter Kevin Devine performs in August at the House of Blues in Dallas.

Singer-songwriter Kevin Devine performs in August at the House of Blues in Dallas. (Sommer Saadi)

Kevin Devine doesn’t care anymore.

He isn’t annoyed because the radio doesn’t play his songs. He isn’t thinking about his name being plastered in the press, and he certainly isn’t still angry with Capitol Records for dropping him four months after signing him.

To hell with it all. Devine is too busy making music to care if anyone is listening.

“All I’m responsible for is making things,” Devine says. “Everything else is up to everyone else.”

It is a humbling and liberating revelation. On the one hand, Devine has to man his own merchandise table at shows and flatter his fans while sheepishly promising his compliments are not ploys to sell T-shirts. He also has to introduce himself to the stage even after he’s already spent five minutes tuning his guitar in front of the audience.

On the other hand, Devine gets to make music without the daunting restrictions of a major label and without any concern over whether his albums will appease the mainstream. There is no certain genre his sound must fit, and his freedom fosters a unique music-making experience that explores a range of sounds.

“I don’t think it’s weird if one song sounds like Hank Williams, and the next like Modest Mouse, the next like Nirvana and the next like Elliot Smith,” Devine says. “And the marketers’ frustrations [at labeling Devine] ultimately keep me in love with what I’m doing.”

Devine’s music has had a history of being difficult to define, which undoubtedly provides most of its allure. When he needs them, Devine summons the Goddamn Band, a loose-limbed collective of about 15 artists he has worked with over the last five years. Members of the band rotate but the chemistry remains the same, and Devine exploits that chemistry to create brilliantly produced tracks that highlight all of his bandmates’ skills. The result is a haunting combination of sounds from string and brass instruments, percussion and piano, and the always exhilarating back-up vocals.

But in the case of his two singles released on Aug. 19, “Another Bag of Bones” and “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” Devine cultivated a folk-inspired instrumentation that has come to characterize most of his songs. To record “Another Bag of Bones,” Devine settled into a small studio for the day and built the song solely around his vocals and guitar. Despite the simplicity of the song, its content gives it an oddly aggressive tone. In true Dylan fashion, Devine uses his lyrics to comment on issues like the war and the government. He calls it a folk song with bite.

It is the first new song of his fifth album that is expected to drop at the end of the year. Devine says his experience of recording this album is the best he has ever had recording music, and being back under an independent label might have something to do with it.

“I tried the music industry game once,” Devine says. “I’m glad that I did it then because now I know I don’t want to do it again.”

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