Denver-based celestial-pop artist Grace DeVine’s music hits you like holy fervor, illuminating your heart and sending your soul radiating out into the world like sunlight. It feels like the sun cascading down through the clouds, turning the city streets gold and making every color brighter while teaching all that hear it that they too hold the power to become something holy.
DeVine’s new EP “Taste of Heaven” sounds beautifully alive, aware of the afterlife but more concerned with celebrating all the lives people live until they get there. Insightful and grounded while feeling huge, the project deftly handles concepts bigger than any one person and brings them down from the heavens so that everyone can have a taste. Plus, it’s groovy as hell.
Ahead of her September 15th show at Globe Hall celebrating the official release of “Taste of Heaven,” DeVine spoke with 303 Magazine about turning color into music, her writing process, defining her voice and more.
303 Magazine: There’s a feeling of evolution that pervades the EP. For example, “Mangoes” feels wonderfully nostalgic, lyrically and musically. It’s filled with themes of memory and dreams of the past, the changes that a person undergoes as they move through life. Then you have a song like “Just Around the Corner,” which feels full of anticipation and hopes for the future. How would you say that you’ve evolved as an artist over the years and what do you feel or hope that the future holds for you?
Grace DeVine: I feel like I’ve stopped writing what I think people want to hear and started focusing on songs that don’t exist, but that should exist. For anything someone goes through, a song should be waiting for them. These past two years, I’ve been yearning for songs related to what I was going through. That’s how this EP came about!
I hope the future holds more creation and collaboration. I love what I’m doing and everything else from this point on is just extra!
303: To follow up on the previous question — from a lyrical perspective, what’s your songwriting process like? Would you mind walking us through it a bit?
GD: My songwriting process changes with every song (which is a lot of fun). I journal and free-write every day. Sometimes, I get these concepts like “I want to write a song about [blank], ” which sparks ideas. Other times I get a melody in my head, and usually there are random words that are assigned to it. Sometimes, those stick as lyrics. With (titular track) “Taste of Heaven,” the melody for the chorus just popped into my head one night, and it stayed as the chorus you hear on the released track. Other times, these lyrics are just placeholders for something better to come.
What I really love is when I have a few lines, a solid image or idea, and/or one good lyric to start. Like with “Mangoes,” I had recently experienced a loss in my immediate family, and I knew I wanted to use the mango tree from my childhood home as a metaphor for how things have changed. The last time I was home, I noticed the tree was barren and it was like, “Woah, I really am losing something here.” Everything sunk in. I wrote in my notebook, “Mangoes don’t grow here anymore,” which is a lyric that doesn’t appear exactly in the final cut of the song, but it is the base of the song and the idea.
303: I’m also curious about the band dynamic. I mean, your band is phenomenal. So funky and versatile. How involved are they with the songwriting process? Do you usually come to them with lyrics and form a song from there, or is it the other way around, or is it a bit more collaborative?
GD: Thank you so much! I have the best musicians and people around me that I could ever dream of. As I said before, the songwriting process changes a lot. Most of my songs are initially written alone. However, two of the songs on the EP — “Taste of Heaven” and “Mirage” — were co-written with my manager, Aaron Rothe. “Interlude” was co-written and co-produced with Greg Laut from Little Trips (If you don’t know Little Trips, check them out! You won’t regret it!). I also love to write with people outside of my band. Ronan Andrews is my dear friend, and I truly admire him as a songwriter. We have written so many tunes together. Some of them have been released as duets and some are yet to be heard by the public!
303:The production on the EP is magnificent. It’s so crisp and the songs really do feel huge in a way that pierces the soul a bit. What was the recording and production process like?
GD: I really appreciate you saying that because I wanted these songs to evoke big emotions that kind of break your heart but in a cool way. When it comes to producing, I generally get the track to a solid demo stage before I bring people in and then finish up. I enjoy sound design and thinking of the instruments and textures as a color palette. For example, in “Mirage,” I aimed for a light and digestible palette of sky blues, fluffy pinks and sand tan. Then, when the bridge comes in, you get that dark color scheme of TV static, navy blues and emerald greens that is also in “Interlude.” It’s important to paint with the right colors to get that full, heart-wrenching feeling and know which schemes and textures work for each song.
As for the collaborative elements, Forrest Raup plays drums on almost all of my songs. He has a gift for enhancing songwriters’ visions. Kyle Leoffler from Fresh Fruit! (another amazing local band) is a bass guru and has blessed me with his collaboration for years. I had Aaron Rothe’s help with the production on “Taste of Heaven.” Mitchell Gardner (also from Fresh Fruit!) recorded all my vocals, pushed me to show emotion in my voice and also brought the songs to life by mixing all the songs on the EP.
303: The EP also feels incredibly unique, distinct in terms of sound, voice, and construction. It’s confident but not arrogant, sweet at times, heavy-hitting at others. Could you talk a little about finding your identity within music, your “voice,” so to speak?
GD: What a compliment! Sometimes, I feel like my “voice” is just a mosaic of artists who have influenced and inspired me, including my friends and colleagues. Sometimes, I think my voice is how I dip my fears in gold and show them off to the world. Most of the time, when I think of my “voice” as a musician and songwriter, I think of a big, booming voice that is impossible to ignore. I think I like that one best.
303: Could you talk about any inspirations you might have when crafting your sound? Music, movies, TV shows, literature, people, experiences, or anything that informs your sound.
GD: I’ve always been inspired by divine imagery (some pun intended) — Heaven, angels, the afterlife, etc. I was raised in Reform Judaism and am more spiritual as an adult but there’s just something about the sun shining down to earth through the clouds while a choir of glistening voices fills the air. That’s what making songs feels like to me. This is the concept of “Taste of Heaven” as a whole. I wanted the songs on this EP to feel holy and huge in this larger-than-life way because that’s what art is. It’s larger than life and it’s a connection to the divine. Any artist will tell you that the craft puts us through hell a million different ways but when it’s going well, we really do get a taste of, well, heaven!
303: In a live setting, some artists thrive off the energy from the crowd or focus on vibing with the band or a mix of many different factors. Ahead of the show at Globe Hall, what would you say makes for a great live show?
GD: Come to my show and you’ll find out!
303: Finally, is there anything else coming up on the horizon that you’d like to plug?
GD: The next era of music will be different but I can’t say too much now. What I can tell you is my last single, “Gifted Child,” is a glimpse into the future. For now, I’d like to thank everyone who worked on the EP “Taste of Heaven” with me: Forrest Raup, Aaron Rothe, Gregory Laut, Kyle Leoffler, Mitchell Gardner, Riley Merino, and Danny Pauta.