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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hawaii chapter.

This past week I had the immense pleasure to interview an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. Her name is Devon Gabriella, and I am absolutely so certain that you are going to love her! We had the opportunity to sit down and chat via video call.

Shae: Hi Devon! It’s so nice to finally meet you!

Devon Gabriella: It’s so nice to meet you too!

S: I have been looking forward to this since we set this up, so why don’t we just jump right into it?

DG: Sounds good!

S: So my first question for you is: what got you started in music?

DG: Ooh, good question. I have to reflect on this because I can’t really remember any distinct point where I was like “oh, this is what I want to do”. I think it’s just one of those things, as cliché as it sounds. It’s just always been…[something] ingrained in me that I wanted to do this kind of stuff. But I’d say tangibly, the first time I got started was when I was like three or four. My dad is pretty musically inclined, and we would sing some little jingles on the piano together. I also grew up singing in a little trio with my friend and my twin sister and we performed at local talent shows. Then when social media came along, I was like “well, we’re gonna do this route”. So there’s a lot of different factors in [why I do music] but there never really was one moment. And that’s when I, when I’m asked this question, why I think it’s hard because it’s like I wish I had that one moment where I was like “woah, yeah this is what I want to do!”, but it also reinforces how passionate about it I am because I can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to do it.

S: It’s so amazing that you can pick out those little small moments where you just remember doing it so distinctly but also, it’s just always with you.

DG: Yeah, it’s just something I’ve never questioned, either…if I were to [do something else] I wouldn’t be living authentically.

S: How would you describe your music?

DG: I’d say it’s pretty specific. I’d say it’s raw, and I’d say it’s a story. I like to make music where from the beginning of the song, you get an introduction to what it’s about and by the end of it, you went through the whole arc. There’s also something really powerful about kind of letting it stop where there isn’t an ending; that’s kind of a lot of things in life, like, you don’t get that perfect resolution. Smaller things [I’d use to describe my music] would be sad, but it’s changing very soon! The theme isn’t really changing, but I am really trying to move more into acoustic pop.

There’s also something really powerful about kind of letting it stop where there isn’t an ending…

S: I remember first listening to your music, and the first song I heard was “a little hope never hurt” and I remember immediately thinking “oh, it’s very early-Taylor Swift meets Olivia Rodrigo”.

DG: Very that, yeah. I definitely notice I draw inspiration from other people. I do try to keep it, you know, very real to me, but I think there is a way to tastefully take other songwriter’s approaches when they come to writing about what they wanna say. I was with someone earlier today and they also said I sound just like Olivia Rodrigo, which is hard sometimes, because I’ve just always sounded this way and I can’t control how my voice sounds. But it’s a huge compliment when someone compares me to songwriters like that.

S: Speaking of that, who or what would you consider to be your biggest inspirations for your music?

DG: I would say “who”…I listen to a lot of Gracie Abrams. I think she’s super talented and she is lyrically very inspirational to me. Lizzy McAlpine has also become a huge inspiration of mine. She is probably one of the, if not the, most talented singer-songwriters out there in my ‘verse of up-and-coming singer-songwriters. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Sabina Carpenter as well, so it’s like I want to make music that I want to listen to or put on as well. I also [get inspired] by past experiences, but I also think there is something really cool about using your imagination and putting yourself in a situation you’ve never been in. I also pull inspiration from my relationships or my friend’s relationships and things they’ve told me or I’ve seen online and putting it into music.

S: Speaking of putting things into song, into music, what would you consider to be the most important elements you include in your music?

DG: Oh, I love this question! I think that after having moved to LA and having collaborated with some other songwriters, I’ve realized how important lyrics or staying true to what you want to say [is to have in my music]. When you’re in a room full of songwriters, there’s all these different individuals with different experiences and styles or writing, so I think lyrics first and foremost I want to be able to listen [back on it] and not go “ooh, why did I say that?”. I think also keeping a similar sound is important. Like, for me, I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a pop rock song because it’s just not me, but I am also not limiting myself. I’m exploring different sides of that pop acoustic world. So, I guess I’d say the sentiment, then the lyrics, and then you can get a good melody in there.

S: So speaking of writing and lyrics, what does your writing process look like?

DG: I was just writing, so it’s very fresh on my mind! I am a huge Notes App girl. So when I write, I’ll usually take out my Notes App, start strumming a four-chord pattern and kind of hum along, or if I have a sequence or phrase that I really want to use, I’ll try putting that in between. It can get a little frustrating sometimes when you have an expectation like, “oh, I got such a good line and I just can’t find what feels right melodically”. It’s difficult, but that’s when, you know, you either understand that it’s time to take a step back or that it just takes time. Sometimes, they just come to you. I can spit out a song in ten minutes that I’m super proud of, and other times it takes a while. So it varies.

S: You’ve already talked about writing from personal experience and writing based on your friends’ experiences, so would you say that most of your songs are personal experience or taken from the experiences of the people around you?

DG: The songs that I have out are definitely my personal experiences. I sometimes struggle, because sometimes you just have a line that is so specific and you’re like “this person, if they hear this, they’re going to know that it’s about them” and I don’t know if I can handle that right now.

S: Speaking of songs you’ve released, what is your favorite one that you have out so far?

DG: Okay, so out so far, I would say it’s “a little hope never hurt”. I think that it was just such a turning point for me, and to have Spotify put me on one of their own editorial playlists was like the moment where I felt everything coming together. Obviously, as an independent artist, I’m not managed or anything right now. I’ve met some amazing people that have helped me navigate the industry, because the industry is wild, but to write a song in my bedroom and then put it out through a little distributor and have it hit a million streams was something that I was trying to manifest at the beginning of this year and to see it happen, with everything I put into it, was just so rewarding. But I know once this is out, this would be my next favorite song. I have a song coming out very soon, and it’s different than anything I’ve ever written or put out, and that’s gonna be my new favorite song.

S: That was actually going to be one of my other questions. (laughs) Can we be looking forward to something new from you soon?

DG: Yes. I have a whole private playlist of so many demos of songs that are ready to go… I have a certain song that should be finished in the next couple of days and I can’t stop thinking about it. I think it’s very different, and different in a good way. I’ve been kind of hinting at it, and I’m so excited for it.

S: So back to “a little hope never hurt”; it’s definitely one of those breakup songs that we all love to hear when we are going through it. You said that this one comes from personal experiences, right?

DG: Yeah.

S: I know you say you don’t want to talk too much about it, but could you talk about some of the emotion you were feeling in the writing process?

DG: Yeah, of course! It’s funny, because at first, the first line of that song is “always leave my door unlocked in case you change your mind” and I get so many comments like “lock your door! That’s so unsafe, you’re going to get robbed!” But they’re missing the sentiments behind it! Maybe a year and a half ago I had a falling out in a romantic way with someone, and we weren’t really together but you know, something happened and he walked out. I had this fantasy like if I left the door unlocked, then he might come knocking at 2:00 AM and be like “I’m sorry, let’s start over”. So that experience was a huge influence on the song. All of the lyrics are really personal and are something that I hold very true to me. I haven’t thought about how I started writing that song in a while. Thanks for reminding me! I remember exactly where I was, reflecting on the situation and how I felt and how I never want to go back to that place again. But I think it’s really healing to write about something that took place like that and seeing where it is now.

S: Wow. Thanks for taking us a little deeper into the song! What do you want people to take away from your music?
DG: I think when I feel most empowered or when I feel the most gratification, I guess, is when people message me and tell me that my music has helped them in some way, whether it’s in their relationship or getting them through a breakup. But also, I’ve written some songs on mental health and just kind of feeling, you know, some negative emotions, and people commenting that the song has helped them get better or to know they’re not alone. I know it sounds so cliché and I feel every single song where it’s like I want everyone to know that they’re not the only one who’s going through it. I’ve gotten so, so many messages and I can’t even describe how much it means to me. I have a hard time articulating that back to them because I don’t even know what to say. But like, first of all, thank you for listening. And I can’t even describe how happy it makes me feel.

I want everyone to know that they’re not the only one who’s going through it.

S: Kind of on the same topic, your fans. Have you been able to meet any of your fans in-person yet, or has everything been through like TikTok and Instagram?

DG: It’s still through TikTok and Instagram Live. I’m hoping to do something like a Zoom or something. I’ve done some live performances, sometimes I get “oh can I take a picture with you?” and I don’t know if they know who I am through social media or not or if they just liked the performance, but it’s been so surreal. My friends are like “oh my god, you’re gonna get recognized here” and the first time it happens, I’ll be floored. And I feel like I’ll be more excited [to meet my fans] than they would be to meet me.

S: Have there been any venues you’ve performed at yet, or has it all been through the comforts of your bedroom?

DG: Since moving to LA, I’ve performed at The Hotel Café, which is a really iconic venue here in Hollywood. I also performed at a place called Madame Siam with an organization called Breaking Sound, which works to highlight new and upcoming artists. I’m hoping to get in a few more performances before the end of the year.

S: So what would be your dream venue to perform at?

DG: I would say Troubadour, which is a venue here in Los Angeles, and also Madison Square Garden, even if I’m just opening for someone. I mean, I love New York and the energy that place brings, so I’d say definitely those two.

S: So do you prefer a more small, intimate venue or like a big, outdoor, open-air, huge amount of crowd space kind of venue?

DG: I really do like those intimate moments. I think that there is a happy medium between the two, where it’s like, still, you know, you can talk to the people around you, but it’s not overwhelming. I’ve been to a few concerts where it was the perfect audience size. It would be great to be where you can still interact and there isn’t so much going on on the outside. But it would still be so cool to perform at a venue where you can’t even see how many people there are because there’s just so many people. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get to experience that one day, and I’m working hard towards it every day.

S: So, my last question. Like we discussed earlier, you said you’re gonna be sharing snippets of things to come, and you’ve been sharing snippets of original songs that haven’t been released yet. Are any of those on the plan to be released soon? Will there maybe be an EP or a singles album released soon?

DG: There have been talks about an EP, a possible album…I would think I would do an album at the top of next year, maybe mid-next year. But I’ve always wanted to put out an EP. I think I’m just waiting for, you know, the right formation of songs to come together. Being able to put out an EP is such a different feeling than putting out a single. I do have enough songs to put one out, and people are messaging me like “where’s the album?”, “where’s this?”, “where’s that?”. And it’s hard. I only have five songs on Spotify; you’re gonna get sick of that, listening to them over and over again. But [I’m crossing] my fingers that everything works out and it would be so unbelievable if I could do that. I would be super honored and grateful to be able to do that and put out something that people want to listen to.

If you want to follow Devon Gabriella and listen to her music, check her out on YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram.

Shae Walker

Hawaii '23

Shae currently studies Communications at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and is the Campus Correspondent for HCHawai'i. In her spare time, Shae likes to listen to music, hike, and cook.