Interview with Devin Sinha
We're still coming off the high of this year's Seattle Acoustic Festival (SAF), where we got to meet and connect with tons of amazing musicians. One of the reasons we love this city is because of how celebrated art is in the community. You don't have to look very far to find some amazing talent, and even more welcoming is the fact that there is a nurturing and supportive culture of people who produce and consume that art.
We caught Devin Sinha for the first time at SAF this year. We did a little digging and we noticed we knew a lot of the same people. (This city feels like it's getting smaller every day!) With Devin extending an invitation to us for his upcoming record release we thought this would be a perfect time to connect with him and learn more about him.
We're super excited to be bringing you this interview, a first for Rain City Collective. We hope to do many more. Devin was really fun to work with, making the process effortless and smooth between photos, interview and shooting video for a live performance. (Stay tuned!) In between doing "the work" we were cracking jokes and talking about our favorite video games. We couldn't ask for it to have gone any smoother.
So let's get into it! We hope you enjoy getting to know Devin as much as we did.
Interview with Devin Sinha:
We've each been here a little over a year. Great city. But that last winter was no joke. It's also changing so fast that we'll soon have our "remember when" stories for Seattle. You moved here from Kansas, right? What was that change like?
I just hit my five-year mark here in Seattle, but I moved from Kansas City. Of course, the landscape and geography are far different here, with Oceans and Mountains all around compared to the landlocked, flat Midwest. However, I would not call the temperatures here extreme by any Kansas standard. I think the harsh winters and blazing summers built character, but I prefer the temperate weather up here. As for the personalities, I think people in Seattle are very kind but take more effort to get to know. The Midwest feels very open, whereas the people here are tougher nuts to crack, but I’ve made some amazing, lasting friendships in my time here.
You just finished your 3rd album, Our Fathers were Lions, tell us a little about your writing process?
My writing process differs song to song, but was pretty prolific. While I do have a song on this album that I’ve been sitting on for a few years, most songs were written after the launch of my previous album, Our Past And Present Futures. Typically, I’ll begin with the lyrics and message I want to say, and later go back and write a melody. My usual style is to have at least the first draft of a full song completed rather quickly – often within an hour of sitting down to write the lyrics. On this project, that was the case for many of the songs, but there were a few that went through multiple permutations and combinations of guitar and lyrics, or even changing instruments entirely before I landed on a melody.
Are there central mood/themes to your albums?
While each album has its own moods and themes, if you zoom way out and look at my songwriting as a whole, I’m often inspired by relationships – whether spiritual, familial, romantic, etc. I love the way that people and societies can influence each other, and the dynamic of interactions inspire a lot of my work. My previous album focused heavily on choice and consequences, but this album has less of a straight line running through it, and I treated it as an opportunity to grow in my arrangements, melodies, and writing style.
Making music and then sharing it seems crazy difficult. It's not enough to be creative. You've got to get the songs and feelings on paper, get the band on the same page, refine it, and then play it. And that's just the beginning. Now that you've got the album where you want it, produced it, set up a launch show - what next? You've done this thing, and it's ready to go. Somewhere in Detroit, there's someone waiting to hear this - how do you get it to them?
If I knew the perfect answer to this, I’d be a household name at this point! With so much music in the world, it can be hard to find your audience. There’s a little bit of science and a lot of magic to it, but a combination of distribution to various platforms (meet your listeners where they are), communication (social media, newsletters, music videos), and shows can help expose the music to new people every day. Of course, working with radio and PR teams have helped spread the album’s reach to new audiences as well.
Tell us about the band. How'd you all find one another?
This is part of the fun of being a singer/songwriter. My name is on the band and LP, but so many people have influenced this project. I do have a core band that I perform with for live shows, and about half of the band has been with me for most of my music career. That said, due to changes in life and priorities, people have come and gone, but each person brings something new and special to the music. Working in studio, I’ve gotten the pleasure of hand-picking other musicians that I wouldn’t normally play with to come lend their talents as well – be it for backing vocals, specific instruments that aren’t core to my live band, etc. The Seattle music scene, particularly for singer/songwriters, is extremely supportive and creative, and many people play in multiple bands around town so concerts with multiple bands on the bill can really feel like family reunions.
Who are some bands and/or musicians that had a major impact on you growing up?
Besides the fact that my father played and wrote a lot of his own music during my childhood, I was exposed to a variety of music growing up and it wasn’t really until high school that I began to decide what style of music I would gravitate toward the most. Growing up, I heard a lot of Bob Dylan, and my dad was quick to point out the poetry in his lyrics and authenticity of Dylan’s songwriting. Later on, I became heavily influenced by Dave Matthews Band and their live arrangements and creativity and technical skill. In high school and college I was introduced to songwriters such as Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel), Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers, and John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) who have all influenced me in different ways that I could spend hours explaining (but won’t, for the sake of everyone’s time!)
Who are some of your favorite musicians today?
I’m still a passionate fan of Dave Matthews Band and The Decemberists. I think Andrew Bird’s latest work is one of his strongest. Outside of Rock/Folk, I really love what Amelia Meath did with her conversion from Mountain Man to Sylvan Esso. I’ve also been getting more into artists like Damien Jurado and Sun Kil Moon, as well as Typhoon, The National, and Lord Huron.
Were you raised in an artistic household?
My parents were both school-teachers, and their influence on me as parents can’t be understated. Not only did they foster my creativity and instill a drive to learn and always be growing, but being around students helped them stay in-the-know with what other kids (older than I was at the time) were listening to. I think my dad first introduced me to the music of Vienna Teng and Dispatch based on what his students were recommending to him. My parents also made me take piano lessons for a couple years, and supported me playing trumpet for 7 years throughout school, which taught me a lot of the basics of music theory.
My sister, who is two years my junior, has also been in multiple bands and has introduced me to new artists time and again.
We saw online your tongue in cheek comment about being the world's only outgoing software engineer. Do your tech colleagues look at you as the music nerd? When you're not composing or coding, where would we find you?
Well, nobody has yet used the term “music nerd” with me, but I’m sure that they recognize my passions outside of technology. I’m fortunate enough to have multiple passions in my life, and don’t shy away from showing people that not only am I in the music scene, but I’m deep in the tech scene as well. Nobody says you can’t have more than one passion in life. When I’m not composing music or designing software, you’ll probably find me either traveling or consuming some form of media. I am an equal-opportunity lover of books, movies, tv, video games, board games, etc. I also love any and all social activities, and love going to other peoples’ shows in the Seattle music scene.
Since we're both relatively new here we can get away with this - tell us about a few of your favorite places or things to do in Seattle or the PNW.
One thing I love about this part of the country is the variety of things to do. Seattle has city life, mountains, water…you name it. I love the fact that I have options depending on my mood.
Where is the best place people can find out more about you?
The best place to find me is at www.DevinSinha.com, and I post often on my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/DevinSinhaMusic), Twitter (www.twitter.com/giffdev), and Instagram (http://instagram.com/giffdev). I am definitely social on all of social media, so please reach out and say hi!
Thanks for reading! Stay connected with us on social media as we continue our adventure of connecting and showcasing some of the talented people of Seattle.
* This was not a solicited or paid post. Rain City Collective is a professional photography and videography entity, but we are also fans of the Seattle arts scene. The distinction between our paid commercial work and unpaid work to highlight incredible creative artists and musicians will always be clear.