She leads a ferocious guitar-driven band equally adept at sprawling psychedelic jams and terse, soulful rockers."
~ New York Music Daily
"Jersey City's Debra Devi stands out among singer/songwriters as a true triple threat: a gifted songwriter, a powerful singer and an outstanding guitarist. ...
Devi displays the full range of her talents on her new self-released EP, Wild Little Girl which was released at Maxwell's Tavern in Hoboken on Friday, Sept. 8.
Firmly grounded in the blues/rock tradition, Wild Little Girl mixes wistfulness with forcefulness. Devi comes across as sassy and defiant on "Shake It," wistful and meditative on "Butterly." She wanders into modern country on "Tired of Waiting" and comes across as broken-hearted but hopeful on "Stay."
Every track leaves room for organic, expansive guitar solos.
Debra Devi Wild Little Girl Interview
Scott - Hi Debra, Thank you so much for taking the time out to do an interview with me and my Guitarz Forever.com site. I hope all is well with you... What is the name of the current Album you are promoting at the moment? How did the music come about?
My new 6-song EP is called Wild Little Girl. I hope everybody digs it! The title is meant to encourage girls and women to hold onto their "wildness"--to be themselves and pursue their passions and dreams with tons of energy and no hesitation.
The music came out of that energy within myself and my desire to express and share the trials and tribulations that women experience. I want to show what women are capable of when we pick up a guitar.
The timing of this record dovetails well with all the sexual harassment stories pouring forth. It's clearly time for women to fully activate their personal power and fight back until we put rape culture into a deep, dark grave for good.
Scott - What are your personal highlights on the new album? Why?
I really dig my long-ass improvised slide solo at the end of "Tired of Waiting." It was fun to stretch out over an odd-time signature like that.
I also had a blast making four low-budget music videos for the EP. Check them out at: www.youtube.com/debradevi
Scott - So where is your stomp'n ground?
I hail from Jersey City, the most diverse city in the nation! There are tons of inspiring artists, musicians and activists here. We are holding on in the face of extremely rapid gentrification and are putting pressure on city hall for reasonable growth that doesn't destroy neighborhoods or community.
Scott - Are there a lot of places to play your style of music in and around your area? If so, could you name some venues?
The Jersey City music scene has had to scratch and scramble for places to play until recently. There have been some great underground spaces, like dearly departed 58 Gallery - razed for condos - and 660 Grand, an art loft that is going strong and throws great parties and concerts. But we don't yet have a club like Maxwell's in Hoboken, for example, that can truly nurture the great bands we have here.
I held my EP release party at Maxwell's and have to give a shoutout to Mike Kuzan of The Latest Noise and Dave Entwhistle for doing great things to nurture the Hoboken and JC music scene there.
Jersey City is gonna get there, too! Recently some new venues have emerged like the Pet Shop bar and a gorgeous new 800-person venue called White Eagle Hall that has been very supportive -- booking local JC acts to open for national touring artists, for example.
I've worked with White Eagle Hall to book the first "Jersey City Rocks White Eagle Hall" show for January 19. It will showcase 5 Jersey City bands--The Components, Universal Rebel, Hey Anna, my band, Black Wail, DJ Sirena Mercado and MC Constant Flow. The bill reflects Jersey City's diversity and immense talent.
We play in NYC too, of course, which has tons of venues. One of my favorites is Berlin Under A in the East Village. It's owned by Jesse Malin, who is doing a great deal to keep rock alive in NYC with Berlin and The Bowery Electric. We are playing there Dec 11 with Danielia Coleman.
Scott - What was it about the electric guitar that inspired you to play it?
I love the way it sings and how incredibly expressive and powerful it can be. As a kid I used to sing along to guitar solos instead of lyrics!
Scott - What type of guitars do you play and why?
My main axe is a candy apple red Fender Strat from 1986. I've added jumbo frets, Seymour Duncan Vintage Rails and a Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Humbucker in the back position. I play it because it's a super versatile guitar.
I also play a 1992 mahogany Les Paul Special that I keep in the DADGAD tuning. I changed the pickups in it also to a Gibson P-90 in the neck and a Gibson super-ceramic humbucker in the bridge. I play it because it has the most rich beautiful tone.
My acoustic guitar is a 1964 Gibson J-45 I got for a song that keeps sounding better every year as it ages. We should all be so lucky!
Scott - What type of amps do you use? Do you use different amps for the studio vs live shows?
I use a wide variety of amps when I'm recording, then the challenge is to reproduce those tones live. On this record I used a couple different Marshall JCM 800s and 900s, an Orange Rockerverb, a groovy lime-green Ampeg head, a Fender Hot Rod Deville and a gorgeous white Vox AC30, both from the 1960s.
Live I'm using a very sweet blackface Peavey Classic 50. I use pedals both in the studio and live to get the cascading gain, drive and sustain I want, especially the Boss OS-2 for natural, vintage overdrive and the Boss Metal Zone, which works well to add sustain and harmonics to lead playing if used judiciously.
I also have a super-neat fuzz pedal called The Preacher made for me recently by Peter McMahon of Homestead Amps. He used capacitors from the 1960s that give the pedal that authentic Steppenwolf sound. So fun!
Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?
I'm a huge Bonnie Raitt fan, even though my music rocks a bit harder. I so admire the way she has handled her career - using her fame to help blues and R&B artists via the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and to speak out for the environment.
I also love The Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde was another woman who gave permission to many girls and women to pick up a guitar, just by being herself.
Musically, I dig anything with lots of great guitar - from Prince to Ministry to the White Stripes! And I have a deep love for the blues, especially Chicago and Texas electric blues.
I discovered Gov't Mule a couple years ago and I'd have to now cite Warren Haynes as my favorite guitarist for the power and expressiveness of his playing. I got to meet him last summer to give him the new edition of my book The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu. He's very nice!
Scott - Who are you listening to these days?
I dig Greta Van Fleet and also 16 Volt's new album The Negative Space. My brother plays drums with 16 Volt. Great stuff! I love the raw energy of The White Stripes and I think St. Vincent is wonderfully creative on the guitar and writes magically good songs.
Scott - Has the music business model of today helped you or hindered you?
It has hindered me in the sense that it's hard to figure out how to make money. But it's also helped because it's given me the freedom to make music and get it out to people and build a fanbase without having to sign with a record label. I like being my own mini-mogul!
For the first time, I've got a great team behind me, including Patrice Fehlen and Alicia Lees of September Gurl PR for publicity and management, and Lisa Swarbrick of INFJ Productions for booking. They are all strong, talented women and together I'm excited to see what we're gonna build.
Scott - Please give us some top musical goals you would like to achieve in 2018.
With the EP finished, I want to play tons of shows, break into more festivals, and do some touring in the US and abroad, as well. I wanna get out there with my great band! I'm so proud of the musicians I play with and look forward to traveling with them more in 2018.
Scott - Do you embrace online social networking? Why?
I do, although it can be time-consuming and sometimes it feels invasive. It's been a great way for me to share my music, find "my" fans, and connect with cool folks like you!
I used PledgeMusic to raise funds to make the Wild Little Girl EP. That is a powerful resource that was not available to artists 10 years ago.
Scott - Where can we buy your music?
You can find the Wild Little Girl EP anywhere you buy music - from iTunes to Amazon. It's also on Spotify, along with my first album, Get Free, and my "Silent Night" single. You can follow me on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/artist/0RkpYKUpJFPQcCMeZGJkHl
You can also hit up my website www.debradevi.com for signed CDs, T-shirts, my book, downloads and even some song books I created that will teach you exactly how to play everything from the Wild Little Girl EP and the Get Free album.
Scott - I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?
I have donated songs to several compilations to help raise money for causes I believe in, from supporting a female Iranian political prisoner to raising funds for the legal defense of an African-American teenager accused of shooting a police officer. We also appeared on a PSA for Headcount.org, which gets out there at concerts to register young voters.
I hope to do more music-related activism this year!
Scott - Parting shot across the bow?
It is very gratifying to see powerful men with huge careers toppled one by one as women step courageously forward to bear witness to their rape and harassment.
This subset of men who have felt entitled to assault women? Their day of reckoning has come, and their rule is over.