JD Lion, the electric artist from Austin Texas, chats with Happy about unchartered sounds and the influences to his music.
Without holding back, Joe Devadanam (aka, JD Lion) dove head first into his solo ventures, releasing tracks that inspire as much as they make you want to dance.
HAPPY: Hey Joe! Where do you find yourself today?
JD LION: That’s a great question! Currently, it’s a very interesting time for me. I’ve been going through a lot of personal upheavals. It’s a time of growth and change and every new day brings challenges and opportunities. I’ve recently been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, which affects your hearing, which as you can probably imagine, brings some challenges to a musician. It’s been a real change in my career, but for as many of the downsides, as there are, there have been upsides, like being able to connect to my new friends in Australia. I find myself grateful for it all.
HAPPY: JD Lion…. where did the name come from?
JD LION: The name JD Lion came from a very familiar place. JD stands for the initials of my name (Joe Devadanam) and Lion comes from a tribute to my Dad who passed away in 2012. He was referred to as the lion in my family, and I’m carrying it on, being his namesake. I adopted the moniker in tribute to him. So, JD Lion. For my Dad. It’s all for him
HAPPY: Congrats on the release of Don’t Trip! Tell us a bit about this track
JD LION: Thank you! I’m super excited about Don’t Trip. About 2 months into the pandemic, after we all got over the initial shock of the world shutting down and seeing things unfold, I started thinking about what things we will be looking at when we come out of it. I thought about how people are going to want to go back to how it was. Summer days, sunsets, beach hangouts, cookouts, hanging out at the park, etc. I wanted to make the soundtrack for those moments. I’ve always been a huge fan of Kool And The Gang, and the outro of the song is a direct wink and nod to them and my fandom and love for them. The name of the song, 100% tribute to Mac Miller and the chorus to Blue World. Basically, I just thought of “Don’t trip, we don’t have to let ’em in.” Basically, it was my message for the world: “Don’t trip, everything’s gonna be ok.”
HAPPY: After 20 years as a professional drummer you’ve decided to become a solo artist! What made you make the transition?
JD LION: I spent half my life playing drums for people and it took me to so many places that I never thought possible. I’ll always be a drummer at heart, no matter what. I’ll use that double negative to say that I’ll never not be a drummer. That said, I always had sounds and ideas in my head. None of the sounds and the ideas that I dreamt of fit with the people I was working with, and my personal situation made me reevaluate the road I was on, and frankly, I was getting tired of it. My dear friend Cloudchord – who’s an incredible producer and composer – told me to take the leap, and after getting over the initial hurdle of excuses, I went for it. I just woke up one day and said “I’m a solo artist, and I’m going to make records”. I had no idea how this was going to go. I was scared that I’d be horrible. I’ve been a drummer, I don’t know how to be a solo artist! I constantly battle that impostor syndrome. It’s that feeling I don’t belong – the voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, etc. It’s all a lie, man. I fight through it, and here I am.
HAPPY: Were there any challenges in the process?
JD LION: The feelings of impostor syndrome were the initial challenge. As someone who’s been in the business, who’s made records, I know what songwriters and composers go through for the final product. Being front and centre in delivering the product was a whole new experience. Frankly, I thought I was all bluster. Only after I finished my first collection of songs I found myself starting to believe and then before I knew it, I had a whole record! It’s awfully scary, to have your debut record to the world be a concept record, but I decided to be brave enough and went for it. Why not? To this day, I still wake up going, “what the hell am I doing?” I keep working and growing and one day, it’ll all make sense. I hope!
HAPPY: Are there any artists that have a significant influence in your music?
JD LION: My influences are all over the place and I’m super proud of it. DJ Premier from a production standpoint is my north star. Other producers like Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, Matt Lange, and Timbaland really shaped how I view the macro of music. Within the artistry, it ranges from Led Zeppelin, to Pat Metheny Group, to Tool, to John Coltrane. I can’t begin to peg all the different sounds I’ve heard in my life and how I want to pay tribute to it all, so I just do my best to try to show the genres love and respect and to try to piece it all together in the best way I know how to do. I know that’ll be a lifelong pursuit.
HAPPY: Have you been working on anything new lately?
JD LION: The great thing about what we do is that we’re ALWAYS working on new things. My brother used to work in politics, and he taught me that when you run for office, you obviously try to win the election. When you win the election, you have to start planning your campaign. I feel it’s the same way in music. I’ve always been of the mindset that the release isn’t the finish line, but rather, there’s no real finish line. You finish a song, it’s on to the next one. You release the music, you’re already lining things up. Very much like running for office, but even more so like a factory or a production line.
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HAPPY: Do you think the circumstances of the pandemic have changed your sound at all?
JD LION: To be completely honest, I think the pandemic is the reason I’m a solo artist. I released my debut record Born Out Of The Desert on Valentine’s Day 2020, but then a month later, we all know what happened. It gave me the space to put out my EP, Northern Lights, and it gave me the opportunity to really lay the groundwork for my new record, Evolve Or Die, while having the time to make my contribution to the world of Christmas music with my single Holiday which, to me, is the Christmas song that’s not a Christmas song. Within Evolve Or Die, the theme of the whole record is about adjusting to the pandemic. So many musicians I know were/are road dogs. They make their living playing hundreds of shows a year and the pandemic brought it all to a halt, and so we all had to adjust. I wanted to be able to find a way to thrive in the throes of a pandemic, post-pandemic, and frankly, be set up for the next one in case there is one. Those of us who evolved, we well…evolved. Those who didn’t, proverbially in the career sense, well…died and moved on to other things. It’s really sad, and we need EVERYONE back.
HAPPY: What can we expect for the future of JD Lion?
JD LION: What’s in store for the future is super bright and I couldn’t be more excited. First things first, I couldn’t do any of this without my label IEMG. The team has been amazing, and the strides I make, it’s because of them. Secondly, for the next year and change, I will be releasing songs off Evolve Or Die. The title track will be my next single, and then we’ll be releasing one by one by one until the album comes out. Not to sound all telemarketer style, but wait, there’s more! In addition, to Evolve Or Die, I’m also working on the follow-up 2 part EP called Runways. I mentioned personal upheaval, and Runways is essentially the artistic journey and documentation if you will of the journey of the upheaval I went through. It’ll be personal, it’ll be raw in spots, but in the end, it’ll be a vibe. Lastly, what the future looks like is that I very much want to be friends with you, Australia. My focus is to be a part of your musical lives and to be present. I love the country, and y’all are a HUGE focus of mine. In addition to Australia, I’m focusing on Europe. It’s a great big world out there, and I want to be a part of it. For now, let’s be friends, Australia. My Dad played Cricket, I even know the rules!
HAPPY: Cheers Joe :)
JD LION: Cheers, Jazz!