Thursday, June 4, 2009

Simply Devine

By Meredith Deliso

Traveling cross-country on tour to support his fifth album, the enthusiasm of his fans never ceases to amaze Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine.

“The response has been crazy,” says Devine while driving through California on his nation-wide tour in support of “Brother’s Blood,” out earlier this spring on Manchester Orchestra’s label Favorite Gentlemen Records. “That’s 3,000 miles from where I live...Sometimes I still have this thing in my head where people are all going to leave, even when it’s our show. Right before a set, I genuinely have a moment of panic.”

Devine has nothing to worry about. After touring with Brand New in 2004 and on subsequent tours since then, the singer from Brooklyn has built a solid foundation of fans, with his introspective lyrics and sometimes sparse, sometimes amplified folk rock.

Growing up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, Devine now calls Bay Ridge home when he’s not on the road playing upwards of 200 shows a year. He culminates his current tour with a gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 7.

On his fifth album, Devine wanted to capture the live sound he has been honing with the members of his band, a collective of nearly a dozen musicians he pulls from, called the Goddamn Band.

“We were mindful of making something that was a bit more live sounding,” says Devine. “We were trying to get the right performance even if it wasn’t a perfect performance.”

Elements of ‘90s guitar rock, more ambient elements, and folk can be found on “Brother’s Blood,” the result of a collaborative effort with the band, who bunkered down in Williamsburg’s Headgear Studios last August for two weeks of recording.

“A lot of times it was me trying to make a Kevin Devine record,” says the musician of past efforts. “I think I let go of that more on the record and trusted the band, and I think the band really came through. This record is what it is without question because of that.”

Growing up in Bay Ridge, with his life revolving around school and church, “it gave me a picture of this kind of provincialism, of a really strong sense of community,” says Devine. “I think that’s in a lot of the music – wrestling with those ideas of faith and family and where you come from. Even though you change a lot, those are things that are elemental and unchanging. I think I learned a lot of that from Brooklyn and from where I grew up.”

From taking guitar classes at William McKinley Junior High School to hearing his mom’s Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan records, music has always played a large part in his life growing up. The fact that the musician, who has done everything from working at the Gap, a bakery, and as a counselor at Poly Prep’s summer camp, to even as a elderly woman’s personal assistant, is able to do it full time is still a surprise to him, and it inspires him at every show.

“Sometimes you can have the best show in the world and there can be 40 people there. But you have to play the same for that crowd as if you were playing in front of Madison Square Garden,” says Devine. “They chose to spend their time with you. I try to keep that in mind all the time and have some perspective.”

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band play the Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. 6th St.) on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance, available for purchase here, or $15 at the door.


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