Janet Devlin's Second Coming
With a record contract and debut album in the can, the X Factor graduate's hard work is beginning to pay off
With the ink just dry on her first recording contract, her debut album flying off the (virtual) shelves and a well-received solo tour on its final leg, Janet Devlin certainly seems to be achieving her aim of becoming more than 'a TV singer'.
Not that she is dismissive of The X-Factor, the television talent show on which she made her name. 'It’s been great for me,' she says. 'It’s given me a fan base to bring my album to. The X Factor isn’t the worst tag you could have.'
Devlin's time on the 2011 season of Simon Cowell's annual ratings juggernaut was characterised by a stubborn determination to do things her own way, from digging her heels in on song choice to maintaining control of personal image.
Despite her warm words about the show two years after having been voted out in fifth place, however, the singer from Gortin, County Tyrone has carried on as she started, determined to steer her own course with her post-X Factor career.
She wanted, and got, 'full creative control' of her first record, Hide and Seek, and with a strong online fan base, opted to crowd-fund it through Pledge Music, with posters, special gigs and, of course, copies of the album available online for pre-order. 'If I’d gone to a label first, they could have changed things before the album was even made,' she explains.
Devlin's confidence in her own vision seems well placed. Within two weeks of launching her Pledge Music campaign, she had achieved nearly half her goal amount. Within a couple of months, the target was surpassed.
She hasn’t completely gone it alone, however. Many of the songs were co-written with singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner and his brother Toby, and there are writing collaborations with other talented up-and-coming singers and musicians throughout the album, such as Jack Savoretti. Devlin also has a management company behind her, who she speaks highly of.
For those who haven’t heard the album, Devlin says there are 'a few surprises, but nothing too scary'. From folky, upbeat pop to a live band sound with guitar solos, she says the mood begins with 'light-hearted lyrics', progressing to some 'darker, more personal songs'. She says there is one common thread running through Hide and Seek: 'All the lyrics right throughout the record mean something to me. That was important.'
Although she is keen to be 'judged on my music' rather than for her on-screen persona, Devlin has not entirely abandoned The X Factor fold. Her record deal is with Thumb Print Music, a label set up by one of the show’s performance mentors, award-winning producer Eliot Kennedy.
Kennedy has been working with Devlin since she embarked upon her solo career, and has, she says, 'got me over my fear of record labels'. Thumb Print Music will assist in distributing and promoting Hide and Seek.
'It’s very weird how it all happened,' adds Devlin. 'Eliot is a really successful guy. He’s got a Grammy and an Ivor Novello award. Apparently he’s wanted to set up his own label for a long time, and he just felt now was the right time. I’m the first person he’s signed.'
Discussing the pressure this puts on a new artist, Devlin's trademark nervous giggle makes an appearance, and she admits that nerves and stage fright have not left her. She describes releasing the album on Pledge Music as 'a leap of blind faith', as fans had no way of knowing before buying what they would get.
Her first solo tour of the UK and Ireland – which arrives in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast on Saturday, October 5 – has proven far more nerve wracking than singing for thousands of X Factor fans in packed stadiums.
'It’s scary,' Devlin admits. 'If you’re on tour as a support act for someone, it’s fine. You know people will be there to see whoever it is. Whereas I’m like, "Please turn up!"' The tour has seen Devlin play in relatively small, intimate venues where, unlike the arena stages of the X Factor tour, 'you can actually see people'.
Everything seems to be shaping up for Devlin. A recent London show sold out and Hide and Seek has been getting rave reviews – it’s also currently sitting at a 175% funding level on Pledge Music. But the girl from Gortin is still sick with nerves at the prospect of playing in front of a home crowd for the first time as a solo artist.
'I want to be excited about it… but I’m very nervous about the Dublin and Belfast shows. London, Dublin and Belfast have been the three I’ve been most nervous about. I’m trying not to think too much about it.'
Despite the tummy butterflies, however, it looks like the girl from Gortin is enjoying the freedom to do things her way.
Janet Devlin plays the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast on October 5.