Dev has made a lot of buzz by doing the opposite of what is told.
She burst onto the scene in 2010 when she sang the hook on a song by the Far*East Movement called “Like a G6”, which went on to top the Billboard charts. Yet that song itself was actually based off of another song Dev (born Devin Star Tailes) had already recorded called “Booty Bounce”. What got Dev into singing in the first place, aside from choir and a love of Amy Winehouse? Why, recording a diss song to her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. As legend has it, the song was then uploaded onto MySpace before the production team known as the Cataracs took notice, and once the connection was made to “Like a G6”, history was made.
Yet launching Dev as a solo venture proved tricky: she put out numerous singles, filmed music videos for each one, and even her hits—like the throbbing “Bass Down Low”—didn’t wind up making the final track listing for her disc The Night the Sun Came Up. In fact, since 2010, Dev has appeared in an astonishing 19 music videos counting her numerous guest spots (with the likes of JLS and Timbaland). That debut disc features a bit more of a confessional songwriter edge than what most people are used to, but it’s that very same edge that has made Dev stand out from the electro-pop crowd, and all of her hard work has finally paid off: her single “In the Dark” peaked at #11 on the Billboard charts, and her track “Naked [ft. Enrique Iglesias]” topped at #2 on the Dance Charts.
Now, touring at numerous radio events during the summer, the ever-busy artist took some time to sit down with PopMatters and answering our 20 Questions, here revealing a strong affinity for Brand New and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, her fiance’s Mickey Mouse socks, and why she almost made it as a champion swimmer . . .
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I’m very emotionally involved in all of Janet Fitch’s books. She has such a beautiful and interesting way with words. I’ve actually read her books a few times each; I’m addicted.
2. The fictional character most like you?
The main fairy girl from FernGully. Or Ducky from The Land Before Time. When I picture myself being a fictional character I imagine myself as them. They’re sick. Very fantasy and cute.
3. The greatest album, ever?
This is a crazy question. I’d be here all day, there’s too many. My debut album is pretty amazing. Probably Brand New’s The God and the Devil are Raging Inside Me. I’ve recently been listening to this album again, it was my favorite in high school. The lyrics and melodies and vocal harmonies are all too good. It’s a very emotional album but it soothes me.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I was never really in too deep with these two. I’d say Star Wars. The characters were way more fantasy-like and magical to me. I’m into that type of shit.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Well, music, I listen to all genres across the board, I played the flute for ten years, I love music. Live shows. Live shows with great production, live shows with the worst grimiest production. I like festivals. I grew up going to Warped Tour and Rock the Bells, I remember being 13 and being so inspired watching my favorite artists live. Food. I love Mexican food. My dad’s side of the family is all Mexican, so I’ve been fortunately spoiled with the best homemade Mexican food. I also love books and fashion. Traveling offers a lot of fashion inspiration for me. Different cities, and people, and cultures. I get inspired a lot. Art, I like to paint with pastels, painting always offered a cool outlet—not too many people know my love for painting.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Accomplishments are always something to be proud of, right? I’ve been able to experience and play around a lot with music, clothes, and art, and the fact that I have created “accomplishments” out of my love for those things is rad as fuck.
7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?
For loving my art, for loving music. I want people to remember my love and appreciation for being able to create freely. Inspiring others. Inspiring other women. In an artistic way, from a mother’s stand point; from a creative stand point. I never really expected, growing up, that anyone would ever ask me these types of questions or give a fuck about my answers, so it’s really cool for me. Even if that sounds vague, just knowing I could inspire others to love themselves, that’s enough. When I think back to artists I loved that have passed, I get inspired to be bad ass like them. I hope to do the same to kids. Inspire them to be brave, fearless, comfortable, and creative.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Selena. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Bob Marley. Johnny Cash. Audrey Hepburn.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Anything Alexander McQueen. The album Fever to Tell by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
10. Your hidden talents . . . ?
I was a swimmer for 14 years. I love being able to have that as a talent and a therapeutic thing. I love to swim. I played the flute for 10 years. I can sew. I’m really good at getting wine stains out of t-shirts. And I’m great at eating chocolate.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Anything out of my dad’s mouth. He’s insane, but brilliant. He’s celebrated my success with me and also prepared me for failure. He always made sure I was comfortable enough with myself just in case I do fail; when I do fail, it’s okay. And I really appreciate that.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I recently bought a vintage Chanel belt that I’m very proud to own, and I hope my daughter will love it! It’s hers as soon as it fits her. It’s thick black leather with gold Chanel buckles all around it, I never thought I’d have such a cool piece [laughs].
13. You feel best in Armani or Levi’s or . . . ?
Levi’s. I like boutique shopping, vintage spots, Opening Ceremony, American Rag, Supreme, Hellz-Bellz, even like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, Virgo and Cinema. Just depends on my mood, of course.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Danny Brown. He seems like he’d be a great conversationalist. I enjoy his music and personal style, his haircut is rad, and his missing tooth. I’d invite my DJ, DJ Sourmilk, my fiancé Jimmy Gorecki, and Danny Brown. However I’d prefer the taco truck on the corner of Grand and Olympic in downtown LA.
15. Time travel: where, when, and why?
I like where I’m at now, I’d love to travel to the past, but women like me weren’t accepted, I couldn’t really create and have tattoos and shit, unless maybe I was a pirate. I’d time travel back to the 1700s and become a pirate, but that also seems like a very insane lifestyle. So yeah, I’m good.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
Spa vacation all day. In Hawaii, with champagne and ice cream.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?
Coffee for sure. I stay drinking coffee all day. I also need juice from Nature Wellness in LA. Toothpaste, deodorant, my finance’s Mickey Mouse sock—they’re my favorite. My daughter, and the Real Housewives shows, and love and hip-hop. I’d also need my iPod. And cereal, I love cereal.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
There are so many places I have yet to visit. For now I love California and Brazil. But California is home, and home is where I can sleep in with my family in a big bed hidden in our secret world and write good music.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
If I was 45 and single, I’d be all over that! (Haha, JK Jimmy if you’re reading this.) I’d give him props for doing his thing and tell him I voted for him and I think it’s rad he has a basketball court at the White House.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
A new album. I’m taking the summer off to write and record. I have so much cool shit in my notebooks, I can’t wait to turn them into songs. I’ve experienced so much these past few years with my child, touring, meeting tons of new people, I can’t wait to get in the studio. I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin, so this shall be awesome.