30 Mar Creativity Exposed: Devan & Khalid
Queen’s students Khalid Yassein and Devan Glover (also known as Devan & Khalid) are a folk inspired duo that’s making music simple again. Relying on raw talent and authenticity, Devan & Khalid make music in the most genuine sense of the word: “We try to make our music so that if you listened to it, you would feel like there were two people right there; just something honest and relatable,” says one half of the musical pair, singer, songwriter and guitarist Khalid Yassein.“We bring something really cool to the genre in that we are a duo, and that’s pretty rare. There’s something honest about having two voices.”
This honesty is captured in their recently released first EP, “This Town”. Consisting of three original songs, all of which were written by Yassein and co-produced by both him and Glover, “This Town” was amazingly recorded in just one day. “Devon is on exchange, so we had only one day in the studio,” says Yassein, explaining their short-lived recording process. “In the weeks leading up, we were practicing three to four hours a day, finishing up the songs and the arrangement. We originally planned for four songs but we only had room for three – so expect more from us.”
“This Town,” is solid proof of just how extraordinary a duo can be. Made up of the kind of stuff that only folk music—that is, good folk music— can conjure, it’s music stripped down to its core: just a guitar and two voices in harmony. With raw, candid lyrics and genuine charm, Devan&Khalid make the kind of music that you really listen to. It’s the kind of music you just can’t help but to share with the person next to you. And after all, isn’t that what making music is all about?
Here’s what Yassein has to say about everyday creativity.
Note: Because she is on exchange, Devan Glover was not available for this interview.
Preparing for a performance:
“Devan and I are pretty terrible at preparing for a show ahead of time. We meet a few hours before the show and figure out what we’re playing. I’m completely lyrically challenged so I typically have to print all of the lyrics out right before the show – I still mess it up after that. Hopefully by now we know the originals pretty well. But then we go to the show and it goes OK! I’m sure people can notice our lack of preparation when we forget words or when we’re supposed to sing but I like to think it makes it natural and maybe even endearing? We like to keep it pretty casual when we play shows.”
What it means to be a creative individual:
“For me, songwriting is almost a therapeutic process. If I’m having a certain feeling, writing a song is like a way to organize my thoughts and capture a moment or a memory. That’s part of the satisfaction; to put your emotions onto a page, or have it as a tangible thing in the world and not just a clusterf*ck in your head. There’s no better feeling than to finish a song and feel like you’ve shared a thought or a feeling. Hopefully that doesn’t sound too pompous.”
Finding and channeling his inner creativity:
“When I write, I like to lock myself in my bedroom and just mess around on the guitar or piano. I try to write when I’m feeling strong emotions… when something’s bothering me or on my mind. I think the best art comes that way. I usually have my iPhone out recording while I mess around murmuring indistinguishable words until I hear something I like. Then I roll with it and the words come. Sometimes the words come first. The way it worked with our EP, This Town, was basically me putting together the backbone of a song and showing Devan the idea. We’d give each other suggestions and record demos of the tracks until they became what you hear on the EP. I love the process. For me, the songwriting is the best part of it all. And it’s awesome that we’re now comfortable enough to give each other real honest input.”
His most “creative” endeavor to date:
“My EP with Devan, This Town. This was something we’d both been thinking about since we started playing together. It’s so cool to me that what were just ideas in my head were written down, shaped by Devan and I, refined, and then recorded professionally. We worked a ton before Devan left for exchange and I’m so proud that we have something concrete to show for it. We recorded for over ten hours in one day, and then we waited for a few weeks for the recording engineer, Damon De Szegheo at Oak Recording Studio in Toronto (awesome guy), to mix and master the songs. We were so happy with the way the songs turned out, and for me it was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And people seemed to like it as well, which was plus!”
Being brave, and a word of advice to aspiring artists:
“I’ve written songs since I was eleven years old, but it was always just a private hobby for my own enjoyment. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve felt confident enough with my songs to show people my music. Even though I look back at some of the songs I wrote when I was a kid, and laugh at the stuff I came up with, I wish I had someone to encourage me to share and keep working on my writing. To publicize something that is so personal can make you feel vulnerable, but if everyone were motivated by the fear of judgment and criticism, there would be no art. No Beatles, no Bob Dylan, no B4-4. Creating and sharing art is the most amazing part of the human condition. So don’t be a weeny and do it!”
Listen to Devan&Khalid’s EP “This Town” here.
You can also check them out on Facebook.
Khalid will be performing Sunday at the MUSE X McCafe Acoustic Session.
Abi Conners, Online Editor
Photography: Emilie Nolan