July 21, 2021
Photo: Surf Mitchell
Devin Mitchell, known as the artist DEVN, has released his highly anticipated debut EP, St. Luke St., this week. The West Charlotte native has recently garnered attention after his feature on Lute’s most recent single, “Myself.”
Music has always been a significant part of Mitchell’s life. His origins began in the church at age seven when his grandmother had him sing in the choir. Although he wasn’t considering a music career at that time, those around him could recognize that Mitchell had musical capabilities.
“I didn’t realize the talent, but I would always hear people go, ‘Oh, he can really sing’ or ‘He could do this, he could do that.’ And that’s where it [started],” Mitchell recounted.
His involvement in the church choir acted as a catalyst to propel him into a music-focused life. Sneaking into the back of the church as a kid to play the church’s pianos and organs, he eventually learned some basic chords. At nine, Mitchell said he produced and recorded his first beat, using the piano chords he learned. The early childhood experiences were integral in creating, developing, and molding Mitchell’s sound.
Mitchell attended Charlotte’s New Life Fellowship, where he began a mentorship with famed gospel singer John P. Kee, and eventually attended Charlotte’s Northwest School of the Arts. The eclectic and inspirational environment helped Mitchell hone his craft.
“The thing with Northwest is, if you’re into Harry Potter, that’s kind of how it was, without the magic…you have all types of people that did things. You have the people who make sculptures and then you have people who do art, chorus, dance, the theatrical kids. I mean, it was amazing,” Mitchell said.
It wasn’t until 2018 that Mitchell began his debut project, St. Luke St. Twenty-two minutes long, the eight-track EP immediately draws you in with its opener, “The Chase,” a mesmerizing guitar-centered track that speaks to the experience of chasing a woman and enjoying the game. In the song, he describes the cat-and-mouse dynamic with lyrics like, “You’re playing hard to get so I can chase you.” His euphonious voice flows well and accompanies a penetrating baseline and dreamy, sometimes distorted, guitar riffs.
In 2018, his twin brother Kevin “Surf” Mitchell, a well-connected photographer in Charlotte, introduced him to Lute’s manager, Big Dho. He sent Dho the music he was working on and the rest was history. Mitchell credits Dho for helping him complete the project.
“He just pushed me to continue to work on the album. I kept sending countless songs, and he would [give me feedback] until eventually, we had a completed project,” Mitchell said.
The project pays homage to his childhood roots– the street he grew up on– touching on his experiences with love, failed relationships, and heartbreak. He opens up about these experiences as a way to help others, especially other men, to be more vocal about their feelings and what they’ve gone through. “Never Again” is a proclamation of never going back to a cheating situation. He explains how he saw the signs, “I saw it / I felt it / I thought it / Second-guessed it.” He ends the song in a better space, recognizing it “wasn’t meant to be.”
“I like to help people. [So] what’s the point of doing [music], if you can’t help someone through something,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has a transcendent sound, mixing genres such as R&B, trap, soul, and melodic rap. “The Chase,” “Never Again,” and “Sky High” offer more of an alternative R&B sound with spacey, warped sounds and distinguished baselines.
But the album isn’t all moody songs about failed relationships. “Mind” and “TEN” give us a lightheartedness and a taste of trap influences with punchy 808s that make you want to move. There are still alternative R&B undertones with the presence of striking guitar melodies. He switches up from his slower, singing cadence in both songs, delivering shorter and faster flows. The track, “I Need That,” offers a Caribbean influence, a nod to the sounds he grew up around with his uncle who is from Guyana and his mom, a lover of reggae music.
St. Luke St. is a transparent album about real life experiences with love and the range of emotions that can arise in many common circumstances. It addresses the entire spectrum of relationship issues, from breakups to enjoying the fruits of independence. Mitchell’s words are relatable to the common frustrations and sentiments we’ve all experienced or witnessed. With his debut EP, Mitchell’s sound cannot be confined to just one genre. He balances the blend of his influences into a melodic and soulful package with distinctive lyrics and ear-catching beats.
Listen to DEVN‘s debut EP St. Luke St. and watch the video for “Foreva.”