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Janet Devlin’s Confessional: Getting Real About New Music, Alcoholism, and Mental Health

After a stint on The X Factor catapulted her into the spotlight at 16, Janet Devlin’s life was forever changed. Ever since, she’s been captivating fans with her soulful voice and unabashedly honest lyrics. On the heels of three successful singles, “Confessional,” “Saint of the Sinners,” and “Honest Men,” Janet is back with “Away with the Fairies,” which attempts to recapture the carefree joys of teenage drinking. But perpetually turning to alcohol for escapism took a hidden toll on the singer – she recently revealed she’s an alcoholic and has been in recovery the past 5 years. It’s one of the subjects of her upcoming autobiography, My Confessional, which is scheduled to be jointly released with her album, Confessional, on June 5th. You can check out “Away with the Fairies” below and pre-order Janet’s album and book HERE. And don’t miss your chance to keep up with Janet on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

Cliché: Who were your musical influences growing up?

Janet Devlin: Oh there were so many! It was a mixture of everything that everyone around me was listening to. I got into Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Hal Ketchum because of my parents love for country. But on the flip side, I loved The Foo Fighters, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Smashing Pumpkins because of my babysitters!

How did your life change after The X Factor?

Everything and nothing changed. My family and friends all treated me the same but my career and opportunities were totally different. It was like I went to bed as a schoolgirl and woke up a singer. It definitely changed for the best though, because I was able to get into the industry at such a young age and it meant I had a few years that I could experiment, work hard and even make a few mistakes along the way. The show gave me the confidence to pursue a career in music.

What was it like suddenly having all that fame and exposure as a teenager? How did you adjust to that?

It was very weird, I have to admit. Considering I wasn’t a popular kid who had a lot of friends, suddenly having people know who you are is a bit bonkers! I ended up just socialising less. I would avoid going out and about for the sake of it because frequently people would yell things at me and they were more often than not, quite mean. So I just became even more of a recluse really!

Talk about your new single, “Away with the Fairies.”

I wrote this song about the rose-tinted glasses of youth, or more accurately – the beer goggles. I wanted the track to embody the happy-go-lucky spirit of drinking in your teenage years. How you can purchase a cheap elixir from the local corner shop that’ll remove all social anxiety and inhibitions, and in those days, all seemingly without consequence. So the song is one massive double entendre for drinking. For example: “…I’m in ribbons again…”, “…two sheets to the wind…” and “…a bottle of ghosts…” were all things I would’ve heard my uncles or cousins say. There’s a few references that only I could get like “…grant me wings…”. This is in reference to the copious amounts of red bull and vodka I’d drink in my teenage years – so essentially it’s me just asking to get drunk. A “moon-beam” child is the combination of moon from “moonshine” and Beam from “Jim Beam”. However, I knew that not everyone would be able to relate and I still wanted the listener to enjoy the track, so I created this almost mystical, fairy-tale feel for the song.

Why did you decide to go public with your struggle with (and ongoing recovery from) alcoholism?

Mainly because I felt ready to. I would hate to think about what might have happened if I opened up about it before I was ready. I knew when making the decision to talk about it, that I’d be met with hate. Dangerous hate though, such as “you’re not really an alcoholic” or the “your drinking wasn’t even that bad!” comments. Because they sound just like my justifications for me starting to drink again because these people didn’t see me at my worst. I wanted to let people know about the true meaning of the song. Otherwise I’d have to dance around the truth as to what the song is actually about, and when the book comes out there would be nowhere to hide.
“Away with the Fairies” contains a lot of references to heavy drinking and escapism. Did you have to get to a place where you felt you were far enough along in your recovery to be able to relive some of those emotions and experiences?

I would say that I’m finally confident in my recovery but not cocky. For me, even when I was in the middle of my worst days, I would use the pain of what I was going through to make art. It felt like the only way for me to truly understand exactly how I was feeling. Sometimes I wouldn’t know my true emotions or hurt until I went to write them down. So it served a purpose during and after my drinking.

With everyone in quarantine and self isolating, it’s a dangerous time for relapsing. What advice do you have or what coping mechanisms have you yourself developed to keep your mind occupied?

This is a tough one because everyone is so different. For me, I’m trying to treat myself with kindness. In these strange days it would be ever so easy to turn to the bottle in secret and pretend like nothing happened. But I can’t do that, the pain and the consequences would be too much. For me, I’ve been calling my therapist every week. Zoom meetings have been a blessing. I’ve also been calling therapist friends of mine and a bunch of folks from the rooms too. I’ve dedicated Friday evenings to my recovery because I’m well aware as to the pressure this current situation is having on my recovery. But it always comes down to: one day at a time. So I would advise people to keep in contact with the fellowship and maybe seek out help if they are in the position to.

Mental health is another subject close to your heart. How did you overcome your mental health struggles? What words of comfort do you have for those who might currently be in a bad place?

It is indeed, it’s very important to me because though I feel we’ve come a long way, there’s still a lot of stigma. I don’t know if ‘overcome’ would be the word I’d use however. Probably more like ‘manage’ because a lot of my issues are ones that will be there for life, I just had to figure out a safe way to live with them. What I’d have to say to someone going through it, is that the pain is only temporary. We convince ourselves that the pain is comfortable but it is merely familiar. One day you’ll wake up and not curse the day and mourn over the fact you woke up. You’ll welcome it with open arms. I promise.

We also want to hear all about your new upcoming album and autobiography!

Gosh, where do I even start! The album is a concept album, going back over the last ten years of my life. The book is necessary in delving deeper into the concept – if the listener so wishes. I wanted the album to be accessible and relatable to the listener so the songs are bathed in metaphor. It means if people want to enjoy the listen, they’re more than welcome to, but if another wants to know the meanings behind the songs, then the book explains them.
Why did you decide to release the two together?

I just always wanted both of them to come out at the same time. I liked the notion that someone could listen to a song and then read the chapter too, without having to wait to discover it in a month or so’s time. I also didn’t want to spoil the meanings of the tracks by releasing the book before the album either. This way, people have a choice.

In addition to writing music, you also write a lot of original spoken word! How does expressing yourself through poetry compare to expressing yourself through music?

Poetry comes easier to me than music in some ways. I know that both have no rules but I just feel as though spoken word can be such an effective and easy way to get my feelings out there. I don’t have to try and follow a rhyme scheme or anything like that, I can just speak from the heart. A lot of my songs start as poems too, which is handy as I have a page of lyric suggestions for songs. Like a songwriters cheat sheet!
Pride month is coming up! You identify as bisexual. What do you wish more people understood about bisexuality?

I would just wish that they would see that it’s real.  Be that in the LGBTQA+ community or in public. Some see it as a way to not say that you’re fully gay and others see it as a way to make yourself seem “quirky”. Also, that just because someone is bi, they’re not automatically promiscuous.

How would you respond to people feeling pressured about preferences or “picking a side?”

I would have to say ignore those who are commentating on your sexuality as if it were a sport. “You’ve slept with more women then men, you’re gay” etc. I didn’t realise people would be keeping score! Even if you’ve never been with someone of the same sex, your sexuality is still valid! We don’t look to virgins and say “Oh, you’re not straight as you’ve never been with the opposite sex”. Just do your best to ignore the ignorant.

Who’s your favorite bicon (bisexual icon?)

Got to be James Dean! I know that it was never confirmed but holy cow bells, what an icon! And his quotes on sex and quality are brilliant!

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Janet Devlin’s Confessions: Getting Real About New Music, Alcoholism, and Mental Health. Photo Credit: Emma Jane Lewis (@ejlewis).