I wrote poetry rather than songs, it took the pressure off. I can’t write when I’m in survival mode”

BY SAMANTHA GRIERSON, IMAGE BY CLAIRE BROWN

In a grey and uninspiring room, I met with Janet Devlin. She’s pre performance and taking time out before she takes the stage for the third night of her Confessional tour, her first since 2016. I ask about the transition from being behind a digital screen to a live gig. She says, “It’s great… and terrifying. There’s something Greek about it,” referring to Greek Tragedies where the protagonist, despite having all of the right attributes, succumbs to disaster. And I have to say this image remains with me throughout my time with Janet. A compelling mix of hard fought resilience and vulnerability, the two tumbling together to create a bewitching singer-songwriter who has bravely channelled and shared her personal experiences of dealing with alcohol addiction, a Bipolar diagnosis, contributing her story to the #MeToo movement and coming out as Bisexual. Significant and weighty life events for the 26 year old. 

We discuss her Bipolar diagnosis, which has made her consider her personal actions and consequences. She recalls how she used to overshare on social media about her personal life and relationships, which she doesn’t do anymore, having drawn a line. We discuss the similarities she has found with her autistic friends when talking about “meltdowns” and not being able to take back conversations and information shared during a Bipolar episode. “Taking time out in my lockdown world, to work with a psychiatrist, attend online AA and the right medication has helped me with regulation and the feeling that I don’t want to be me today,” she says, looking me dead in the eye. Janet recalls that, “Lockdown was difficult because of obsessive thoughts I had about drinking, which led to me temporarily starting smoking just to get through it. I wrote poetry rather than songs. It took the pressure off. I can’t write when I’m in survival mode. TikTok and goofy YouTube videos saved me!” She laughs and her face lights up and I can’t help smiling too. I wonder how this endurance will translate into her performance  tonight.

Photograph by Claire Brown

Janet emerges onto the stage, an explosion of dark magic with coral and silver hair, the crowd directly propelled into Confessional, a bold drum-thumping headline anthem to her album. She stamps her feet and bows ritualistically. At times it feels as though she is the only person in the room, in her own raw, ethereal world, and then suddenly she is back and smiles with such warmth she could be an old friend. “Don’t trust a word I say,” she chants, throwing her hair in a torrent of energy and emotion during Saint Of The Sinners. “I haven’t written a love song,” she says and launches into the same-titled song, this time showing her cheekier side with a twinkle and she poses the question, “Maybe ten years time, you won’t know my name?”

She sings a seductively country style cover of Kiss and as she says the immortal words, “You don’t have to be rich to be my girl,” the crowd explode into cheers and shouts, and her hesitation on the final word.. “I just want your extra time and your…. kiss” melts even the most reserved observer. Rounding up the set, she sings her latest song Place Called Home, which is upbeat and bounces along. A smiling Janet sways to the notion of finding her home. And after the last hour, the journey we have taken through her life, stepping alongside her thoughts and walking by her side as the ghosts appear and vanish, you can’t help wishing that for her too: a place called home. 

Listen now to Place Called Home and find out more about Janet at janetdevlin.com

You can catch Janet on her Tour: 

9 September – Chester – The Live Rooms

10 September – Manchester – The Deaf Institute 

11 September – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club 

12 September – Glasgow – Drygate 

21 September – Liverpool – Jimmy’s 

24 September – London – Union Chapel 

2 November – Dublin, IE – Sound House 

3 November – Belfast – Voodoo

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