Indy-based singer Jennie DeVoe finds success through crowdfunding
by Howard Dukes, South Bend Tribune
The exciting thing about crowdfunding efforts such as the one singer-songwriter Jennie DeVoe launched for her 2014 album, Radiator: The Bristol Sessions, is that artists appeal directly to fans and ask them to help pay the production costs of a record rather than wait to buy it at a brick and mortar store or by download.
That's also the scary thing, DeVoe, who performs Saturday at the Acorn Theater, says.
Crowdfunding efforts depend on individual fans to pony up cash used to pay for the project, and that means artists have to cultivate a relationship with fans so that a critical mass of them will donate $10 or $20 to the cause. Maybe an artist will be lucky enough to attract a major benefactor or two who will give hundreds or thousands of dollars. In a way, crowdfunding puts the fan response at the beginning of the process rather than the end because if the artist doesn't raise the pledged amount within a certain number of days, the effort fails and any money raised has to be returned to the donor, so a failed project amounts to a different kind of fan rejection, DeVoe says.
"The funny thing about Kickstarter is that it makes you a little bit nervous because even if you think that you have a big, loyal following, you have to set a goal for your records," the Muncie native and Ball State University graduate says. "And you have to do it in such a quick amount of time, and if you don't get it, you might be embarrassed and have to give money back and it's time wasted."
Fortunately, DeVoe blew past her goal and she released Radiator, her latest studio album, in 2014. She says one major benefactor — NASCAR driver and fellow Hoosier Tony Stewart — played a big role in getting Radiator past the finish line on time.DeVoe says that she and the championship driver share common interests in causes related to children with special needs and animal welfare, and that a woman who works for Stewart gave him some of the singer's music."I think she came to some of my shows when I was doing benefits for some shelters, and she went back and told him, and from there it kind of organically grew," she says. "We became aware of each other and did a couple of neat projects together."
Stewart's generosity was timely because DeVoe recorded Radiator: The Bristol Sessions in England with producer John Parish. She also recorded her 2004 album, Fireworks & Karate Supplies, and 2009's Strange Sunshine in England. DeVoe says the three albums gave her a chance to work with Parish, who produced albums for Tracy Chapman and PJ Harvey, among others. The connection with Harvey appealed to DeVoe."She sells millions of records, and she is really artistic," she says.
In fact, DeVoe wondered if Parish would be interested in working with an Indianapolis-based indie artist after working with big sellers such as Harvey and Chapman, but she reached out anyway after reading about the intimate, old-school way in which he went about producing records."He was really cool," DeVoe says about Parish. "His manager was who I first got hold of and his manager passed my information on to him and some of my recordings. He called me himself and we decided to work together, so I went over there with one guitar player in 2004 and made my first record with him, and I think that is probably still my favorite record."
Although most of the songs on DeVoe's records are original, she does the occasional cover, such as her rendition of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billy Joe." That track fuses the blues and soul that can be heard on all of DeVoe's songs with an element of the jazz that her father played when she was young.
"I have always liked that Bobbie Gentry song, and I guess she is sort of a folksy country gal," she says. "I wanted to do it in my own style, which is more eerie-like and ephemeral because I'm really listening to a lot more stuff that my dad was listening to when I was little. I think my dad imprinted the stuff that he Iiked to listen to know, like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Louie Armstrong."
She says that her father presented those songs to her as examples of great music, and they remained even as she searched for her own musical identity by exploring rock and other genres. That musical curiosity eventually manifested itself in a desire to sing, hang around the studio and work as a backing vocalist and percussionist, where she soaked up more knowledge and eventually began writing her own songs after moving to Indianapolis with the man who eventually became her husband.
DeVoe sang and played with a band before deciding to form her own group. "I guess that is what I always wanted, and nobody really encouraged me to go there because all my happiness comes when I am standing on a stage, writing or being in the studio."