Interview: Mary Devlin

Mary Devlin is a 22 year old singer-songwriter from New Jersey who loves vintage fashion and music from the 60s, but she likes a lot of other eras too and doesn’t like to be pigeonholed. On her Instagram you’ll see 60s Twiggy style makeup and vintage inspired outfits with a lot of pictures of musicians and models from the 60s that inspire her. She’s really friendly too. I first met her online on Tumblr years ago and we stayed in contact since then. She does great covers of modern day pop songs and classic rock songs. Below is her cover of “Space Oddity”:

And here’s an original song of hers, an oldie, but goodie, “Looking Like Jackie O”:

At The Diversity of Classic Rock we support up and coming musicians and we’re lucky to have Mary here on the blog talk about her music and inspirations. If you want to learn more about her, keep on reading!

Angie Moon: How would you describe yourself to a new listener?

Mary Devlin: I normally don’t like to describe my sound as any one genre, because I don’t even know what kind of music I write haha! I would say though that I do tend to write moodier songs. When I perform however I’m always full of energy and love interacting with a crowd. I write simple songs, I’m not a complicated songwriter.

Angie: How did you get into classic rock and vintage fashion?

Mary: My parents have always been classic rock heads and brought me up on the best, but it wasn’t until I discovered “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix that I really began to have my own genuine appreciation for the genre.

I used to sneak off into my mom’s car when I was ten years old and blast Hendrix over the car speakers, just so I could enjoy it all by myself. Vintage fashion I got into myself, I wanted so badly to look and dress like Pattie Boyd! I officially started collecting vintage fashion and going thrift shopping in my sophomore year of high school in 2012/2013.

Angie: Who are your biggest music and style inspirations?

Mary: For music, I would have to say the Beatles, Nirvana, Marika Hackman, Lorde, and Simon and Garfunkel. I really take inspiration from these artists and their use of language and the melodies they all use.

Marika Hackman, Lorde, and Paul Simon specifically all have such a strong grasp of the English language and I pray for the day I can write like any one of them! Style-wise, I look towards Pattie Boyd, Jimi Hendrix, Twiggy, Françoise Hardy, and as silly as it sounds Studio Ghibli characters!

Angie: What’s your favourite vintage item you own?

Mary: Favourite vintage item is without a doubt my silk mini dress, most likely from 1967/68. It’s a gorgeous golden orange colour with very cute patterns of sewing needles, vines, and flowers all over! I believe I got it as a birthday present for my 16th birthday. I remember in choir in high school an upperclassman told me I looked like a Beatles wife in the dress and I nearly died from how happy that made me!

Angie: What are your favourite albums of all time?

Mary: Oh gosh, what a hard question! In no order, I’d say Melodrama by Lorde, Revolver by the Beatles, We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman, Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin. If I named more than five I would be here forever!

Angie: How did you get started as a singer-songwriter?

Mary: I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13 and quickly moved up into the advanced class in less than a year. My instructor had a cool thing going on where he would take the students who were pretty advanced and place us in bands according to our age, and then he would book us paid gigs! (The money always went to him tho, lol!). This allowed me to learn invaluable public speaking skills and also forced me to overcome stage fright at an early age.

I started writing songs as soon as I started learning guitar which definitely set me apart from other people my age who were just learning cover songs. Now I’m proud to say that I’ve had regular paid gigs several days a week since the summer of 2015. I live in a shore town so gigs can be hard to come by in the off-season (October-April) and as a result, I usually use this time of year to focus on school and practice/write more material.

Angie: What is the song you’re most proud of writing?

Mary: Can I pick two? “Looking Like Jackie-O” and “Lover’s Hands”. Jackie O is sort of the song that everyone knows me by, and the only one of my original songs that has its own music video! I wrote it when I was 16 and it was a real turning point for me as it felt like my first complete and coherent original song.

“Lover’s Hands” is a song that went through many phases, originally sounding happy go lucky with dark lyrics before having a dark melody to fit the words. I spent months putting it together in my head before bringing it to my bandmate Francis who wrote a kick-ass solo for it.

Angie: Earlier in the year you did a charity gig for the Australian bushfires, what was that like?

Mary: Oh it was fantastic! I felt so saddened by what was happening and wanted so badly to help. I was super lucky because the first venue I messaged said yes immediately and within a few days I had so many bands messaging me to ask to be a part of it! The place was filled to the brim with people and the bands were all AMAZING (shoutout to InTrees, Alton, Venice91, Cheyenne Dan, and The Diner Neon!).

If memory serves we raised about $270 from both cash and Venmo donations, which is pretty good for a bunch of college kids! Overall it was very successful and flowed so smoothly, I would definitely do something like that again!

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“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

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Angie: What have you been listening to lately?

Mary: Lately I’ve actually been listening to a lot of Beatles! These times have been so scary and uncertain, and the Beatles have always been in my life and always feel like old friends coming to greet me. It’s been very soothing and relaxing to listen to their music!

Angie: How are you coping as a musician during this pandemic?

Mary: Phew boy, I won’t lie and say it’s not scary. Musicians on all levels whether they be small town performers like myself or big time pop stars like Taylor Swift depend heavily on sales from performances and tours, it’s where the majority of our income comes from. So to now have new rules saying there can’t be gatherings of more than 10 people and that restaurants and venues must be closed, it’s uncomfortable, to say the least. Even if this all clears up within a month, who’s to say how long the readjustment period will be? Thankfully, I may be covered as a small business owner (my business being my music) through this stimulus bill, but I have also been in contact with my booking agent to ensure that as soon as the venues open I’ll have gigs. Basically, I’m more or less just trying to cover all of my bases for now as everything is so uncertain!

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Tired and ready for a nap!

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Angie: Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Mary: Yes! My bandmate Francis and I have been working on two new songs at the moment, “Crybaby” and “Hey Boy”. The first is a bluesy jam song that I think really sounds like the best fusion of Hendrix and Clapton. The latter is a song I wrote nearly three years ago that we’re currently bringing to life!

Angie: What is your ultimate goal?

Mary: My ultimate goal is to sign with a small indie label and tour the country performing my music live. I don’t need to be rich or famous, I would really just love to be able to travel and perform music for a living! If that doesn’t work out, I plan to look into doing A&R (Artist and Repertoire aka talent scouting). A&R would still allow me to travel and I would get into free shows!

Angie: What motivates you?

Mary: I have been called stubborn and determined all my life. I have an incredibly hard time letting something go if I don’t feel as though I’ve seen it through to the end, which has gotten me into trouble at times!

When I was 13 I had the dream to write my own music and perform live for a living, and I’m determined to not let 13 year old me down unless there’s really no other option! I also find motivation in the support of my family and friends. I am extremely lucky to come from a family of artists and to have never had to deal with judgemental questions about how I plan to live on a musician’s salary. I’ve never had anyone doubt me, and this endless support is extremely motivating!

Angie: What advice would you give to aspiring singer-songwriters?

Mary: Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you can’t make money from being a singer-songwriter! As long as you’re smart about it and take the right steps, you absolutely can make money. Also, you must maintain an active presence on social media! The internet is so helpful, utilise sites such as Instagram and especially TikTok to post your original music and also keep people updated on what you’re doing.

Sometimes the life of a singer-songwriter can be unpredictable and even a little scary. You may have long periods of time where you feel like you’re on top of the world and really successful, and then you may have those weeks or months without many gigs. Make sure you have more than one stream of income if you decide to go into the music biz, it’s always worth it to have a backup plan!

You can follow Mary on Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog!

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