Our brave new world of online data often seems infinite, abundant, overly-fertile. It is, therefore, a significant event to discover an anomaly, the appearance of a public face whose identity has not already been branded across social media, a personality that remains something of an enigma. So it is that the spotlight of a YouTube video – after all, we cannot escape completely our digital primordial sludge – turns its black and white lens upon a delicate profile shadowed by a broad-brimmed hat. Walking away from camera, the slender figure clad in a leather jacket exudes the aura of a 70s rock god; it is no surprise that a curtain of hair falls far enough to swing with his swagger.
The 85 second long teaser introduces Devan DuBois, a recent signing to Sensibility Music (a small Nashville label with the Civil Wars on its roster). Sensibility’s publicity for their new artist offers only a few brief glimpses of a prettily chiselled countenance (think Johnny Depp in the ‘90s) and rough mixes of two songs; Long Live and Too Many Aces.
The images are compelling , and so deliberate as to be a hairsbreadth short of the satire of Owen Wilson’s ‘Hansel’ in Zoolander – but such is the tightrope between the ludicrous and the magnificent that rock’n’roll has walked since Little Richard first donned sequins and proclaimed “Oooh my soul!”. Just like Richard too, DuBois presents a less-than-straightforward gender identity. Elegant, full-lipped and doe-eyed, with a penchant for skinny trousers, open necked shirts and extravagant hats, he resembles a Skynyrd-Bowie hybrid. Exuding the diffident egotism that is the lifeblood of the Southern gentleman, both in person and in music his Louisiana roots may clearly be discerned.
The two DuBois songs currently available online suggest a diverse artist; Too Many Aces is tough blues rock (recently used as the soundtrack to a Ketel One advert) while Long Live takes blues chords and distortion and mixes them with heady orchestral sounds suggestive of the psychotropic Californian landscape. His lyrics are poetic and evocative; “We came out with our hands up and we were dancing, it was a sight to see / light broke in through the canyons all who were standing fell to their knees.” DuBois’ vocals are alternately revealed and submerged by the musical noise, and at their sweetest and most soaring reveal pure tones which evoke a young Jack White in attack but with a more honeyed, Southern softness. Both songs are complex yet accessible, and Long Live in particular suggests that DuBois has the musical talent to justify his nascent mythology.
But the question still remains; who is Devan DuBois? We contacted him for a little more information, but he remains elusive in essence. And very much, in our opinion, such stuff that rock dreams are made of.
Which state do you call home?
Tennessee & California
Where did you grow up?
Do you have plans to tour?
Your image is more fashion-conscious than is perhaps usual for blues-rock musicians. Who are your style heroes?
I don’t know of any heroes. But you can tell a lot about a person by what they wear.
Who are your major musical influences?
What makes a good hat?
A good head.
When can we expect to see a Devan DuBois album in stores?
Music: vinyl or digital? Why?
As long as it sounds good. Some people need certain settings or an environment – or they think they do. It’s all trickery. While beauty and connection are undeniable, some people still need convincing.
But, whatever it takes to have that experience. Absolutely.
Have you written all the songs on your forthcoming album? Yeh mostly all the songs. A couple songs I wrote with Bryan Brown, Jason Dowd, Stephan Hovsepian, and producer Jeff Sojka.
Who (living or dead) would be your ideal songwriting collaborator?
Joy Williams of the Civil Wars has provided background vocals for your tracks. What was it like working with her?
She is a master of her instrument. She is full of ideas and is very encouraging. She makes people better. There is a lot to her – I don’t think the world has seen yet.
What does Nashville mean to you?
It is where we all meet in the middle. It is just right. Keeps you on your toes.
What might we be surprised to learn about Devan DuBois?
What inspires you to write songs?
Hmm. Knowing I can do it.
It’s what I know.
Anything else you would like to tell readers about yourself and your music…