Joella DeVille is somebody that I’ve been following for a while now. I first stumbled upon her music at the beginning of this year. At first glance, her look and overall sense of style really grabbed my attention. Then I dove into some of your music and was really taken by it. Especially her music videos. Joella has serious style and is a total original. It’s evident in her videos for “Ease The Pain” and “Submit To Ya.”
Joella DeVille has been creatively-driven nearly her whole life. Ms. DeVille has been featured in NPR’s “Songs We Love” segment. Her music – which is a blend of soul, R&B and pop – has been featured on various VH1, Lifetime and Bravo television shows. She’s been in the game for a minute doing her thing. And I was lucky enough to get he chance to ask her about her life, career and what it may look like looking forward.
You are a New Jersey native, born and raised. Did the city of a big impact on you as an artist?
I think I was more influenced by the music my mom was playing while I was growing up. Like Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Luther Vandross, various gospel artists. As well as the classical music that I played by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, DeBussey, etc. Because of the classical music I was exposed to, I really have a deep love for musical compositions and production that has a lot of strings and piano.
You come from a musical family. You spent time at the Newark School of the Arts when you were young. What was that experience like how did it help you grow as an artist?
It really helped mold me as an artist. If you look it up, a lot of actors, actresses, and musicians come from that school like Naturi Naughton and dancer Savion Glover. They really expected a lot of us. I didn’t feel like we were regular students, I felt like they wanted us to be the best of the best and they really nurtured our talents. I received multiple scholarships during my time there for both piano and violin. I honestly didn’t appreciate it as much then, because it took a lot of time out of my childhood. And sometimes I wanted a day to sleep in or just play with my friends, but it has made me a better person and musician. I know people who wish their parents could afford for them to play instruments, so I’m really grateful.
At what point did you seriously begin pursuing a career in music?
Around 2007, I auditioned for a group that some Sony execs were putting together, and I got in the group. But I basically would have had to drop out of college to stay in it because our rehearsals were in New York City, and my school was in Pittsburgh. So I had to drop out of the group at the end of the summer. And I think that decision was something that always weighed on me because I really did have a love of music and I thought that was going to be my only chance. So in 2008, I hooked up with a producer I met while in college and we worked on some music and he told me about a music conference in Ohio and after I went, I decided that this was something I was going to do. So once I graduated in 2009, I really started my journey as a solo artist.
You’re not only a student of music, but one of film, as well. You took the time to earn a degree in screenwriting. What specifically inspired you to do that?
Well that degree is in creative writing so it includes poetry, fiction, journalism, and screenwriting. I honestly didn’t think about screenwriting until I was forced to take those classes and I really enjoyed it. It’s changed my perspective on how I write, how I view things that I see, how I view television shows and movies.
Do you think you would ever move on to become a director?
Honestly I’m not sure. I direct my music videos so it’s not far-fetched. I guess we will have to see.
You linked up with Steve Raze, formerly with AllHipHop.com, early in your career. How did that partnership come about?
I met Steve at one of the music conferences and he really took me under his wing to bring me to events and allow me to meet people in the industry. He was just that super down to Earth industry person who really wanted to help and believed in me and didn’t want anything in return, which is really, really rare.
What did you learn from your experience with Raze?
Steve was the one who basically forced me to make a decision with my career. He told me I needed to start introducing myself as an artist. He said something to the effect of “I’m not bringing you to these events to be telling people you’re going to law school. If you want to be an artist, that’s what you need to be.” And that’s when I decided I wasn’t going to law school anymore, and realized I had to put my money and energy towards building my craft.
As far as current artists in music, who are some that you are listening to? Are there any that you feel truly inspired by?
BJ the Chicago Kid, Baby DRAM, Ty Dolla Sign, Solange, Rihanna. All of them really inspire me because they all literally embody the importance of being yourself in this industry and letting people love you for who you are and what you create. They all have different styles and none of them sound like your typical artist. You can tell they are creating what feels good to them instead of creating music for other people. They create music for themselves. Music that’s true to them. And it’s forced me to go deeper and tap into Joella, the person and the writer. So I’m excited about the new material I’m working on.
You’ve got a snippet of a song, “Stereotypical,” that you have shared with your fans. What inspired that song and when will it officially be released?
I’ve really been slacking with it’s full release, but I plan to release it in a few weeks. But it’s inspired by someone I was dating, who I really didn’t even want to date, but he kind of pushed it. And I started getting to know him and of course he presented himself to be someone he wasn’t. And eventually I just realized he was a stereotypical n***a, who I should’ve gone with my gut about and just not even bothered with. So I knew a lot of women could relate to that feeling.
When can people expect that full-length debut album to drop?
Honestly I’m not sure yet. Everyone will just have to stay tuned for that. I try not to put any pressure on myself as far as releases because people are still discovering my music and learning about me. So when the time is right, I will definitely let everyone know. But I am working on some new music and I definitely plan to release by December, if not sooner.
You have been described as the “Black Katy Perry.” Do you feel like that is an accurate comparison, and how would you describe and define yourself as an artist?
I think in a way yes and in a way no. I think I just don’t confine myself to any specific genre with my music and as a black female artist not necessarily doing strictly R&B, the pop comparisons make sense. I like being able to write and release different vibes based on what I’m feeling. The last release was a song about dealing with depression but it’s set to EDM production. So I like to express myself in creative ways that are true to my diverse love of music.
You can check out Joella DeVille on her official website, where you will also find links to her social media. You can also check out her music on Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.