Before her set at Cluny 2 in Newcastle, I sat down with Janet Devlin to talk about her latest tour, successful single ‘Outernet Song’, as well as the singer’s Christmas EP Little Lights and her plans for the festive season.
Q: Hi Janet, firstly how is the tour going so far?
A: Tour is actually going super-duper well! I’m knackered already because I haven’t really stopped. I’m going all the way through to Christmas so I don’t get a break until then. So during the day I have to plug my headphones in, watch Prison Break or have a nap. But it’s been going good, the audiences have been great and it’s been the perfect little tour so far.
Q: You’re playing quite a few cool venues on the tour such as The Old Fire Station in Carlisle and now The Cluny which is really intimate. What is it like playing those slightly smaller, quirkier venues?
A: Smaller venues are good because you get to have that intimate vibe. In bigger venues you feel like there’s pressure to do big shows with big sets and make a big song and dance. This tour means I can do more stripped back stuff and test some songs that I haven’t ever done live.
Q: You finish your tour in your hometown of Omagh, how exciting is it to be going back?
A: I’m really excited – it’s scary though! I can’t explain it but when I do shows in England and Scotland I don’t feel the same level of nerves. [In Ireland] I go out and see my parents, my aunts and my mates and think “oh gosh”. I also see people I grew up with and that’s weird because I might not have ever really spoken to them but they’re here at my show.
“it’s been the perfect little tour so far”
Q: Your latest single ‘Outernet Song’ has gone down really well. It’s quirky and catchy but there is obviously an important message as well. What prompted you to write about that?
A: Social media is a part of my everyday life, it’s 24/7. I just wanted to talk about digital detoxing but not to too intense an extent. Just put it down for an hour or so a night, nothing major – I couldn’t put it down for too long! It’s knowing when not to be online, when you’re out for a meal with your mates or something. I’ve walked into rooms where everyone’s on their phone and not chatting and I’m like what?!
Q: Your latest record is a Christmas EP Little Lights. You also released a similar record last year, December Daze. How does this year’s compare to the last?
A: I don’t really listen back to my music. But my parents obviously bought it last year and on Christmas day they put it on and when I was listening I felt like I missed a lot of moods. I wanted to write some songs that mean a little bit more than just happy-clappy. I realised that Christmas is the most intense amount of emotions you can get in a short period of time, you’re up and you’re down. I wanted to try and write songs that represent the different emotions of Christmastime instead of just shoving this happy Christmas message down people’s throats.
“Social media is a part of my everyday life, it’s 24/7”
Q: You’ve created a really calming yet festive sound. Is that what you were going for?
A: I didn’t want to bombard people but I wanted to create that classic sound. I got Sally Herbert in to arrange strings and a real quartet which was amazing. She’s done songs for The Martian”and Florence and the Machine which is insane. That was cool to watch people play a string arrangement of your own song that you wrote. It was one of those moments when you’re like, “Oh my god, is this really happening”.
Q: My personal favourite track on it is ‘Christmas Kiss’. There’s a real Irish feeling to the song and you’ve said previously that you wanted to create a feeling of “walking into a raucous Irish bar”. What is Christmas like back home?
A: When I go home at Christmas I always end up at a bar somewhere. The thing about Christmas as well is we have “ceilidhs” and people just pick up instruments and start playing. So, for me, I always go back to the same bar and at 12 the doors lock, everyone starts playing music and it’s really raucous – that for me is part of Christmas. I wanted a song to encapsulate that mood – it’s my going home song.
“That was cool to watch people play a string arrangement of your own song that you wrote”
Q: Another original song you have on the EP is ‘Merry Christmas Mum & Dad’. What is Christmas like at the Devlin household?
A: Is ‘get fat’ a tradition? This year it’s mental because my brother just had a kid last year – Christmas is about kids in my opinion so that’ll be fun. So we will spend Christmas with the extended family. It’s going to be insane but we just basically eat.
Q: You’ve done a couple of Christmas covers on Little Lights as well. What would you say is your all time favourite Christmas song?
A: ‘Fairytale of New York’. Me and my bro have this thing where it’s not Christmas until we hear ‘Fairytale of New York’. We try and avoid it for as long as we can and then if we hear it we have to call each other up and be like, “it’s Christmas”.
Q: Lastly, I’ve got to ask about Newcastle. What do you know about Geordie-land?
A: I have a random fact about Newcastle. It used to be my favourite team growing up. When I was a kid I used to do competitive horse riding and one of the pony shows was based here. I used to see people holding up the Newcastle flag and I just decided that Newcastle were going to be my team.