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Deanna Devore Is An Artist You “Need To Know”

Written by on August 23, 2021

Chicago and Toronto based musician Deanna Devore is a multitalented artist who connects to the vibes of both cities.

Originally from Toronto but a Chicago resident since 2008, Deanna Devore calls the two sister cities home. While her family is located in Toronto, Devore lives primarily in the Windy City where she teaches guitar and songwriting at Old Town School of Folk Music.

With an ongoing list of endeavors and creative projects — including teaching, composing, producing, songwriting and scoring films and commercials — Devore’s refined skillset is evident in just about everything she sets her mind to. Her songwriting builds entire worlds around listeners, and her experiences scoring and teaching guitar have lended to her writing abilities reflecting numerous styles and emotions.

Devore’s July track “Need to Know,” her second collaboration with singer D.Lylez, is a hypnotic R&B ballad that made its way onto Vocalo’s Poised to Break Through playlist for August 2021. We spoke with Devore about being based in two cities, her experience as a teacher and writing “Need to Know.”

How do you juggle being based in both Chicago and Toronto?

Pre-pandemic I would try to go to Toronto for extended long weekends. During the pandemic that was harder to do. My family is in Toronto and my teaching job is in Chicago. 

What are the primary similarities you’ve noticed between the two cities? Primary differences?

Chicago and Toronto are very similar. The lakefront, the downtown and the overall vibe of the city. As far as differences, the Chicago accent vs. the Canadian accent. 

What have you learned about yourself through living in both places?

That I can learn multiple subway maps. 

When did you first start playing an instrument? When did you first begin composing? 

I first started playing piano when I was 3, which then was followed by ukulele. Soon after, I wrote my first song. 

What is your process for scoring a film or other visual piece? 

I first look at the brief that is given and any musical references they provide, so that I can get a sense of the sound they are looking for. I then watch the picture on mute, so that I see the key moments which I bring out in the music. This is especially true for ads and scoring commercials … you have to keep in mind the essence of the brand and what they are trying to sell. 

Do you have a director you dream of scoring a film for?

Hmm, I don’t have anyone specific in mind right now, but I did love the cinematography and feel of the show Normal People. I loved the score, too. 

If you could write your own movie to score, what would it be about?

Good question. Something with beautiful, artistic shots that allow me to write cool, driving beats. 

I saw that you teach songwriting and guitar at Old Town School of Folk Music. What does being a music teacher mean to you?

Being a teacher is a very rewarding experience. It’s great to see students evolve and to be able to help them along the way. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

I love my students. Teaching has introduced me to so many great people. 

How does the process of teaching songwriting compare to teaching guitar?

They are quite different. With guitar there is a bit more of a “right and wrong” — there are certain instructions you can follow in order to learn the instrument. With songwriting, it’s very creative so it can be a bit of a challenging thing to teach. 

What do you believe is most important about “learning by ear”?

The ability to hear rhythms and sound in a way that allows you to emulate it. 

As a teacher, what do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your students?

Students have different ways of learning that work for them. Some people learn more visually, and some people learn more by ear. 

In what ways has teaching songwriting and guitar changed the way you look at writing or playing?

It’s made me a pretty versatile guitar player. I teach songs in a variety of genres. As for writing, it made me dissect my songs which I never had to do before, in order to be able to explain my process to students. 

What is your dream piece of musical gear — whether that be a guitar, a synth, a pedal or anything else? 

I’ve always wanted to try the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth.

How did your collaboration with D.Lylez on “Need To Know” come about? 

I had featured D.Lylez on a previous single called “Lately.” I was looking for a male R&B singer, and he was recommended to me. I loved him so much that I asked him to sing on “Need To Know.” 

What is your most memorable performance experience? 

Probably opening up for Jamie Cullum. I was playing solo and the room was full and unbelievably quiet. It was a little intimidating at first, but also wonderful. 

Your last three singles all have very bold covers. What do you look for in cover art, and how do you collaborate with visual artists? 

I’m a big fan of colorful art. My last two covers were by an Atlanta artist [Canessa Thomas] who I had actually connected with because she was a fan of my single “Lately.” We connected on Instagram. It’s great when things like that happen. 

What can fans expect from you in the future? 

More music released as an artist and more music for ads and film.

Follow Deanna Devore on Twitter and Instagram, and stream her music on Spotify below.

Edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson

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