By Maria Sherman
Two months ago, One Direction announced they would take a break in 2016. Most assumed it was the end: A sweeter way of saying “indefinite hiatus.” Some still believe disbandment is on the horizon -- the boys are finishing up a U.K. tour, one some Directioners think might be their very last. That’s the Debbie Downer route (stay positive, young ones!) but there’s still a lot going on in the 1D universe.
The band’s beloved drummer, Josh Devine, is embarking on something of a solo career. The talented guy released his debut EP in August, Through the Fire -- it’s different from his duties in the British boy band, but it’s equally as catchy. We sat down with the guy for lengthy chat to really get to the heart of this new, exciting endeavor.
It's always good to start at the beginning. What are your first music memories? How did you get into the stuff and at what point did you realize you wanted to become a musician, professionally?
I started playing the drums at the age of 3... As a baby I used to get hold of drumsticks that my dad left lying around in the house and I would hit things to the point that mom and dad had to get me little rubber pads that lay on the floor to hit, instead of their possessions. My dad was a singer in a band called Seven, who toured a lot around the U.K. My actual earliest memory behind a drum kit was just before my 4th birthday. My dad was in the studio recording and he asked the drummer if I could play, so I sat on his lap on the drum kit and played! I can remember loving it. It was so fun but I held a beat quite well! There must be a video packed away in a box somewhere actually, I gotta dig that up one day!
How did you originally link up with the One Direction boys?
I actually got a message on Facebook from Chris Leonard [who writes and works closely with artists like Ed Sheeran] asking whether I was free one weekend for a TV appearance with a new boy band, so of course I never wanted to let an opportunity like that pass me by and I said yes! It kinda spiralled from there, really. Later that week, after the TV performance, I got a phone call from Jon Shone, the musical director, asking if I would like to come and audition for the tour, which initially I thought was only going to be for a few months. So I auditioned, got the part along with Sandy Beales [bass] and Dan Richards [guitar], and it just never really stopped. Everything just kept getting bigger and busier, and we ended up touring the world for four years straight. It’s been such a blessing.
At what point did you decide to embark on this solo adventure?
I've always written little bits of music since I was in school, and I always hoped to have the opportunity to record and release stuff. End of last year just felt like the right time to start releasing some music of my own, where I could freely express what I wanted to say musically and lyrically. I started writing with my friend who I had met through the first ever TV performance with 1D, Ollie Green, and we put down demos with the intention of getting other artists to record them. I play other instruments too, and Ollie really pushed me to get confident with singing and then the idea of actually releasing the songs ourselves. It was nice to express myself musically without just being behind the kit so I thought, ‘Why not!’ I have all this music in me, time to start putting it out and seeing if anyone likes it.
One Direction have an impressively busy schedule. When do you find time to write?
Yeah, it literally is non stop. I actually try and write at every possible moment. For instance, I was in rehearsals with 1D in London for a couple of weeks last year. We would start at 11 a.m. and finish around 7 p.m. Then, I would then go straight to Ollie’s studio from 7:30 p.m. to about 4 a.m. almost every night for the duration of the rehearsals, as that was pretty much the only time I had free. It was very productive. We actually wrote the majority of our EP, Through the Fire, in that time so it was 100 percent worth it. Recently, Ollie has actually come to a few of the stops on tour and we have set up a mini studio in my hotel room to write and track ideas down for some new material. It’s all about trying to keep a balance and not wearing yourself out, but in the end, if we come out with something that we’re proud of, it's worth every minute.
With their upcoming break, do you have any plans to perform your own material live? Or write a full-length?
Yeah, if the opportunity arises, I think definitely that would be fun. I mean, if there’s people that would want to come and watch that support us and dig our stuff, it would be rude not to play a few shows. It’s just a completely new thing for both of us to sing and be the center of attention. Ollie is used to producing and writing in the studio, and I’m used to being behind a kit on stage so it’s a daunting thought but I think we would both love to. We are looking at putting out a full album, we are constantly writing songs individually and together so I think there will definitely be some more material to come.
Some people may not view touring musicians as songwriters. Does that misconception feel limiting? Do you think about it ever?
People might view session players as just playing other people’s stuff and even some touring musicians themselves don’t view session musicians as songwriters, but I would never limit myself! There aren’t any rules, just because I session for a band or in a studio doesn’t mean that it’s all I should do for the rest of my life musically. I will always be a session player, as I enjoy it and it has been my dream since I was young, but I just feel you will never know what else you can do if you never try. Some people just put a label on you like ‘Oh you’re just a muso, like a wind up monkey toy that plays, then shuts down until the next time’ but I’m not, I want to be more than just what I have achieved so far. I want to keep achieving and keep dreaming. Sounds cliche but it’s true -- I just want to keep doing what makes me happy.
Through the Fire has been out for about a month now (and it's great!). How has the reaction been? What does the title mean and what were you hoping to accomplish with the EP?
Aw, thank you! Yeah, the reaction has been mind blowing. People seem to really like it, I’m now getting people come up to me in public and instead of the usual ‘Hey you’re One Direction’s drummer,’ it’s now ‘Hey Josh, I really like your music.’ And that to me is a huge thing, because Ollie and I put so much time and effort into this record. For someone to say some nice words about it means the world. It’s something we’ve created ourselves, and people are just showing us so much love. It literally is the best feeling, the fans are the most important people in the music world. We named the EP after one of the tracks which we wrote to try and give people a positive outlook on things. The lyric in the chorus is “When I look in your eyes I see a fighter, through the fire.” It's saying that no matter how much you go through, keep going and fight through it and realize that there is hope, it will be worth it in the end. Our main mission with this EP was just to write something that we enjoyed musically and to put something out there that was positive. It really was a proving point to me that music is my passion, whether it be drumming, singing, playing guitar or just being involved with writing, it’s my life.
What inspires you to write?
Literally anything inspires me to write. Tragedy, happiness, anger or frustration, just anything. When I sit down and play in some chords or if I have a melody running around in my head, it’s usually whatever I’m going through as a person at that time, that defines how the song pans out. I find when Ollie and I write together, we just bounce ideas off each other so easily and quickly, we could have the basic song done in half a day, it’s great. It's great to have someone that is on the same wavelength.
Do you have any major goals with this project? Are you hoping to tour yourself?
Ultimately, I would love to tour doing this project and then also in my own band. I could quite happily just keep touring, I love being on the road. I will continue to write music and be a part of making music, for myself or for others. As long as there’s demand for it, I will keep going!
Besides the obvious, how does this project differ from your responsibilities with 1D?
The 1D stuff is a completely different league, I am blessed to be able to play drums for four of the most in-demand superstars on the planet. The main thing for me is instead of being told what to play, I can be more creative in my own way. The only way I can describe it is it’s like going from employed, to self employed. With 1D, there is obviously this huge whirlwind and huge team of people that comes with being the biggest band in the world. With this project, it’s just Ollie and I. We call the shots, but we don’t have as much power. But hopefully in time that will all come, for now we’re just seeing what happens and having fun with it.
What does the future hold?
I guess I’m open to anything really. I have some set plans for the next year with stuff I will be doing, but I am just looking forward to seeing what crazy, unpredictable things happen. Whether it’s touring with another band, my own band or hitting studios as a session drummer, I am just excited and privileged to be doing what I’m doing. Life is a blessing.