Janet Devlin Speaks Openly About Bullying And The “Outernet” BC Artist Profile: Janet Devlin
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The first thing that you will notice about Janet Devlin is her eyes, piercing blue and perfect. They may make you uncomfortable, because they watch you with a bit of mischief behind them. “What is she thinking?” you might ask yourself, “What is she noticing that no one else seems to?” So I asked her and what I realized is that she is taking in her surroundings and just absorbing everything. It’s her super power, her ability to adapt into culture and then apply her observations in her music and lyrics. She is the introverted extrovert and outgoing introverts process the world is quite different. Twenty-one now since she debuted at sixteen on the X-Factor UK, the woman that stood before me, was self assured, composed and had time to process the hate and love in the world. Her new song “Outernet Song” is a time capsule of these observations and Blurred Culture sat down with Janet to find out more…
What is your first musical memory?
First ones that comes to my head, is a shared memory that my parents have of me I was two years old. I couldn’t really speak that much, but there was this film Pinnocio and it was this knock off version, so it wasn’t the Disney version, so it was this really creepy version of it but this little girl puppet had a song in it and I apparently used to sing along and along with it in my one-sey but I didn’t know how to speak so I was singing before I could speak full sentences basically.
What happened to you with on-line bullying?
This started before television (X-Factor UK) funnily enough, I remember there was a website called “bee-bow” and I think someone made a hate page about me from school. You could make band pages, so they made a group page about me.
That’s a lot of effort –
Yeah, to go to just to be mean. Thankfully you can report it so I just reported and it got pulled down with in a few days. But it started off really early, most of the bullying that I got in school was face to face. So that was was the initial start of cyber bullying, and it just progressed with television, when I went on TV. You can […] prepare yourself only so much. There is a level that you can kinda go, “I’m gonna put myself out there, and I’m gonna get hate”, but there was so much hate that it was … I was 16 but the bullying in school kind of prepared me in the weirdest way. I kinda was just getting hate, so I was like, “Ah, this is fine.” but it was more, like, even celebrities and stuff were saying mean stuff. It was bizarre. [It] still happens, but because I’ve been doing this now for five years, I’ve got like rhino skin. I’m like the Bat Mobile. Nothing kinda gets through anymore, but it’s always the same stuff, like stupid things like, my hair color. Ridiculous. My appearance, like my weight fluctuates quite a lot, so it’s either, “She’s too fat.” or “She’s too thin.” and I’m like, “When will you people be happy?” and obviously my voice, cause it is a bit quirkier. Sometimes it can be mermaid-y so some people hate it, some people don’t. But if someone does not like my voice, they just let me know. […] I’m like, “I don’t have a choice here. This is kind of the thing I was born with. So if you don’t like it, I don’t mind cause there are a few people that do.” I think the worst one, for the online bullying, was in the UK we have a day where you write love on your wrist to talk about suicide awareness and someone told me to take a knife, cut it out of my skin, and hop in a bathtub. I was like, “I’m not offended, I’m offended for this charity that you’ve just totally hated upon, not me.” Some pretty mad stuff.
What’s your best advice to somebody who is going through online bullying?
Really just understand that when people pick on you, there is something that they are covering up for. People that bully tend to either have been bullied or there is something not going right in their life. Like it tends to be, especially at school time, I mean, maybe they don’t have that great a home life, so they will pick flaws in you to make themselves feel better. So I think you have to take the bigger position and go, “Oh, you’re obviously really unhappy,” and you kinda have to feel really sorry for them, which is a really hard thing to do so you kinda have to separate yourself and just be like, “There is something wrong with this person, not me.” There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s them. And the second you realize that [say], “I’ll be my own person!” because the kids that bullied me in school, as soon as I went on television and as soon as I had a level of “fame”, they all wanted to be my best friend, so I think when you are different, when you are being bullied for being different, it’s actually a good thing. As long as you realize that, you’re going to be a way more interesting adult then they’ll ever be (laugh) I think it’s just envy, so as soon as you accept yourself, it should all go over your back.
I’d like to ask you about the X-Factor, what would be the advice you’d give to yourself now, back then?
Hmmmmmm. Chill out. (Laughs) Chilllll. I used to suffer really bad anxiety. Panic attacks, anxiety attacks. [W]hat people didn’t see on the show, was me disappearing into bathrooms to cry sometimes, cause I was so scared. I wasn’t really good at being social, I’d never really had to meet new people, I wasn’t good at that. So I’d probably go back in time and say,”It’s ok. People aren’t that scary. It’s fine. Chill out.”
Watching the clip of that first audition and meeting you now, it’s like two different people. How have you grown as an artist sense then?
Once someone gave me this bit of advice, basically they gave me the Beyonce advice, “You know whenever you’re working, you can put on, just your self, but like an amplified version, and when you go home and close the doors you can be yourself. Really yourself.” So, I like to think now in days, I kind of have a work mindset, to make everyones life easier, I could be less anxious. I started doing mediation and I work really really hard to get out of the anxious position that I was in and I still have bad days. There are still days when people terrify me and I get really scared and I have to take myself away from situations and things, most of the time I’m fine, but it’s been a lot of work. It’s been over a year of intense self growth really.
Would you go on the X Factor again?
Yeah. I just wanted to be an artist[.] [W]here I’m from there are so many artist and musicians, you can’t make a living as an artist. I wanted to get out as soon as I could and I had no contacts. I didn’t know anyone in the industry, because everyone who is in the industry moves away. So, I’m glad I did it because it got me to know the people that I know now and I was really lucky, because my audition, I was portrayed very well. They were very favorable in my audition, so I’m quite happy with that … The only down side of it is that I did it so young. People look at me now and they’re like, “What happened to Janet?” And it’s like, “Guys, I’ve been working in this industry now for five years, you’re gonna grow up.” I think it’s like, when you look at photos of your younger self and you’re like “Why did I wear this thing? Why did I do that?” Everybody has that, everybody grows and everybody changes, so I think, minus that, I’m actually pretty happy. I feel like now I’m 21 but I’ve done so much in those years. I’m so happy with the people that I’m surrounded with that I wouldn’t change it.
Can we talk a little about the first album that you made, which you ended up scrapping and what happened with that?
Yeaaaah. Sure. Legally there is only so much that I can say. But, I made this record. A lot of money went into this record and I heard it back after it was mastered and it was not me. It wasn’t what I wanted for my first album. Cause you’re always based on your first album and that sound it’s not me. I just couldn’t go out with it and at that point I was like I’d rather leave the industry then put this out. And I’d just met new management and they’re such cool guys. So whenever they sat me down and asked, “What do you think of your new album?” I went “I don’t like it.” They were actually kinda happy cause I think they’d just heard it and I don’t think they liked it either. So when I said that I didn’t like it, they were like, “Ok” but we were on pledge, so we had to make an album in a certain amount of time. So I had to make an album in 6 weeks. So “Running with Scissors” was made in 6 weeks. That was very intense. It was who I was at that time and I’m really proud of it. We had no budget. Zilch and no time, and that’s why the album is called “Running with Scissors” cause it’s something you’re told “Don’t do that! Because it’s dangerous!” and what we did was very dangerous but it paid off.
Can I ask you about your tattoo?
My tattoo! I got this in New Jersey (Laughs) last year. It was Friday the 13th… I’d done my last UK tour, [and it] was my “Delirium Tour” and delirium is a permanent sense of confusion. So, I could totally get a question mark and I find myself in a lot of the time in this permanently perplexed mind set, that if I go into right now, in this moment I’m very confused. I’m like,”Why am I here? How did I end up in America? What am I doing here?” Always confused and always questioning things. It fits my character and I really wanted to get it.
The new song, “Outernet Song” was that written about a particular incident?
The song it’s self I started writing when I was 19 years old, so that’s why sometimes it sounds a bit like a teen rant. Because I was a teenager when I wrote it. I was back home in Ireland and I was there for the longest time I’ve ever been home for since I started this job. I was home for almost three weeks and I was watching TV and it was morning TV and it was, “Just for your figure! How to put on natural makeup. Make it look like you’re not wearing any make up.” And all of these things, and I was just like “Ok, I’m leaving this living room.” (Laughs) so I went up to the dining room and I just started looped these four chords, you can tell I’ve written it if it just has four chords, so I was just looping them around and then the first verse was born. I came over to England, played it to a few people and there like,”Wow, that’s really… I really like that! That’s really cool!” So I got a wee bit of,” Ah! I’ll just continue that and add things to this thing.” So I laid it down and took it with me, and just added as I went along. So certain things, cause it’s sometimes,”Where did that come from?” like cause that was my life then. The online bullying came more so from too much time on the internet line in the song where I talk about what people say so it’s :
“Too much time on the Internet
It’s not hard to find what people said
‘Why’d you change? Where’s your innocence!”
‘I miss your blonde hair, why’d you dye it red?’
“When you sing you sound like a 10 year old”
“you’re that ginger kid from a TV show?”
if you don’t like what you hear then turn it off
it’s not like I’m being played on the radio”
These where very specific hate comments that I get, but it’s all very tongue and cheek, I’m not trying to be like, “Oh woes is thy! Everyone is being mean to me!” But that’s the very introspective section of it, it goes more about all of us. I’m trying to tell people, well, I don’t tell people what to do ever, it’s just kinda saying, if we don’t but into the media, trying to force feed our insecurities, like if we actually think about it there’s so many multimillion dollar industries that will go bust tomorrow if we all woke up and went,“HEY, I love myself!”so many and it’s mind boggling, and all of these companies and I always get it when someone talks about “Why you wear so much make up?” Makeup is for me friend, I wear it cause I like how I look with the makeup also how I look with out the makeup but it’s my choice. SO the whole song is just so many things in one song. The end of the song:
“And I’ll do anything for a like, anything for a share, anything for a re-tweet
to gain some followers
anything for a like, anything for a share, anything for a re-tweet
where’s all my followers?
Everyone wants an online presence but the whole thing is when you put yourself out there, you put yourself out there for both hate and love, so it just doesn’t matter.
And she is so correct.
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Cortney Armitage is a photographer and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Born into the world of indie rock ‘n’ roll, she travels back and forth from Los Angeles capturing artists in and out of their natural habitat. Contact her at: www.CortneyArmitage.com