In the midst of writing and working, I took a few moments to listen to Devon Howard's music. When I came upon Forever and Always (Steppers Mix), I had to check the YouTube video again to make sure it wasn't a brand-new release from Michael Jackson. My point is, if Michael were still alive, you would have thought it was Michael. Michael would definitely have been all over this song! I was dancing in my bedroom as soon as the song started. I played it at least five or six times. Well done, Devon! It was my pleasure to interview this future superstar regarding his musical journey. This is what he shared with me.
Please tell me about your background. How did you become interested in music? I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. My father was a writer, influencing me to do the same.
Where does your vocal range fall? I’m a first tenor
I was wondering when and how you started out professionally. As a part of the R&B group Me 2U, we signed with RCA Records and released our debut album in the ’90s. We demoed a few songs I wrote, which found their way to RCA Records who quickly signed us.
Having an independent label presents what challenges? As an Independent label, you are in control of everything. But you’re now in competition with the major labels who have a much broader reach and are much more connected. It’s always an uphill battle.
In your opinion, what does it really take to “make it” in this business?
You have to be really passionate about what you do. You have to have laser focus on your goals and not get distracted by the outside noise. And have thick skin. This industry is not for overly sensitive people.
How would you describe being an independent artist? What are its best and worst aspects? The best part of being Independent is you can create music, and your art the way you see it. Without the politics or focusing on getting a HIT record. You can create it the way you feel it. The worst part is you don’t have ‘the machine’ behind you to push your projects once it’s done.
Have you ever released a song you thought would be a big hit, but didn't do as well as you expected? Can you tell me about it? Funny thing is, it’s always the opposite for me. The songs I don’t think would be as successful are usually the songs the audience like the most. I try not to put too much pressure on myself when I’m putting out music. My hope is that people will like, relate to it and support it.
Is music your only job or do you have a day job? Creating music is full-time for me right now. I worked with foster kids in Baltimore, Maryland for 20 years or so. Working with kids and homeless youth is as important to me as creating music. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to do both.
What importance do you place on your friends and family purchasing and downloading your single? Does their support play a major role in your success? I never really look to family and friends for support when it comes to my music career. They know what I do, and we talk about it from time to time. But, it’s important for me to compartmentalize my life so I can have a life outside of music. When you’re an artist, sometimes people treat you differently. That’s all they want to talk about is your music. I enjoy talking to family and friends about everything else but music lol.
Do you agree or disagree with the concept of likes and dislikes for a music artist's social media music posts? Do you consider that an accurate assessment of the talent, value, or ability of the artist? The idea of likes (in general) on social media is a slippery slope. In one sense, it’s good to know that people/fans are engaging you and your work. It’s immediate feedback. On the other hand, being constantly validated in such a way can become addictive and the focus is placed more on getting attention for just about anything and everything. I am very clear about my intentions when I use social media.
How does your vocal style set you apart from other vocalists according to those who have heard you sing? People have complimented me on the smoothness of my voice. Saying it has a lot of emotion and feeling to it. They’ve also said that it’s a cross between Michael Jackson and Babyface.
Could you speak from the heart to your fans and tell them one important thing about being an independent artist that you would like them to know? What I do is for love. The idea of love in all of its’ forms intrigues me. Forever love heartbreak, looking for love. As an independent artist, I get to write stories for you that are real to me, in hopes that you can find yourself in them. Many artists, like myself, have to work really hard to get our music heard. But we love what we do and appreciate all the support we get.
What advice would you give a new artist looking to enter the industry? Remove the idea of fame and fortune and just do the work. If you really love what you do then it’ll show up in your art. Also, be willing to learn and when the opportunity presents itself, show up ready, and give it 100%.
What is one thing you wish DJs knew about being an independent artists? What is one thing you wish DJs knew about being an independent artists? DJs are the lifeline to our art. I am so thankful each and every time my songs are played. You’re the link between our music and the audience so we Independent artists never take that for granted.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before? My music is a smooth, R&B old-school vibe with a modern feel. Heavy on the love songs. Lol.
Do you write and produce your own music, or do you employ a producer? I do. Writing was what I started doing first, before singing. My father was a writer so it was something I feel I inherited. Having been doing this music thing for so long, producing was inevitable.
What are the real challenges of being an independent artist? Would you like to share your experiences with our readers? As an Indie artist, I feel free. I’ve been on a major label, and other larger indie labels but never felt like I was doing what I truly felt. Now, my voice, my work is all me. What I feel, what I want to say, what I wear, and who I work with are all my own choices. I truly feel free regarding my creativity. I’d love to work with a bigger team if I could maintain my artistic freedom.
Are there any mental preparations you make when preparing for a new song release? I don’t. lol. I’ve learned to not take personally people’s emotions and feelings. If the people like it, great! I’m very grateful for their support. If they don’t, I welcome constructive feedback as well. Especially if it helps me grow. Now, to be clear, I would wish that people could connect to my music and enjoy it, but it doesn’t have an effect on me if they don’t.
Do you ever feel like you want to quit this business, for whatever reason? Many times. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and everybody’s goals are different. For some, it’s a way up or a way out of their circumstances. Others are intrigued by money, fame, and fast life. I enjoy the work and the creative process. I can spend days lost in it. It’s hard to find like-minded people. Those differences have ended quite a few friendships.
How many singles/albums do you have out presently and what is your favorite album/song to date? My Solo CD ‘Return to Love’ came out in 2015 and the official single released from that project is ‘Could This Be Love.’ My single ‘Forever & Always’ was released in October 2021.
What inspired you to create your latest album/song? Can people buy it now? The new single is the remix to my last song and is entitled ‘Forever & Always (Always Steppers Mix). I wanted a version of the song that would get people to the dancefloor. The song is about finding the kind of love you’d want to last forever. It’s available at all the mainstream digital outlets including Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and Pandora. My CD ‘Morning Son’ will be out in May 2022.
Devon Howard Photo Credit: Lolita Brailey
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