Both as part of defunct outfit Majical Cloudz and through his own solo music, Devon Welsh has made weightless vocal pop that sounds distinctly human — radiant and strange in how unadorned and straightforward it plays, a hair-raising level of sincerity. And it's only fitting that when we first meet in person, in the rickety elevator leading to his publicist's office in midtown Manhattan, his attention is diverted completely to helping a stranger, scanning the building directory to find out what floor a hearing aid office is on. We exchange greetings simultaneously as he helps the person to the floor they're looking for, and he snaps back into conversation quite naturally.
Tucked away in a conference room a few minutes later, the recent Wisconsin transplant Welsh ruminates on his second solo album, True Love, which sees release this Friday (you can stream it for the very first time below). Specifically, he muses on the universal theme contained in the album's title itself, a perspective that he often catches himself exploring musically. "A lot of songs that I write are about love because it's interesting to write music about," he tells me. "A lot of the songs on this album are about the insecurity and darker emotions in love."
What do you like about living in Wisconsin?
It reminds me a lot of Uxbridge, where I grew up. It’s not a culture shock as much as it could be moving from being in a city for a long time.
Do you find peace in solitude?
Yeah, I feel very comfortable in that environment. I do like about cities that, whatever time it is, you’ll be in your apartment late at night and you can look out your window and there's people walking around. There’s action happening all around you. But I really enjoy living in the country because you can make as much noise as you want and do whatever you want to do. You can go out into the woods and get naked or something because there’s no one around. You can just run around and be yourself.
What does love mean to you?
All kinds of things. The idea of the album that I have — that the album probably doesn’t live up to — is that there are so many different sort of kind of loves. Love is such a slippery concept. There are so many facets to it. There's love for your parents, love that you have for a friend, romantic love that's either requited or unrequited, love that's about wanting to lift someone up. There’s so many different ways you experience love over the course of your life, and when I was young, I wasn’t aware of any of them.
As I was looking at these songs and thinking about how everything fit together, that thought occured to me — in the context of my life and starting a new relationship, but also just thinking about how time has passed. You’re able to see this context and feeling in so many different ways over the course of your life that don’t fit in the box of what I thought that it meant to love someone when I was like 18 years old.
Do you think a lot about personal growth?
Yeah, making music is the outlet for that. When I was younger, I didn’t really have a vocabulary for expressing my own emotional life to myself. I was just emotionally inarticulate. At the beginning of Majical Cloudz, making music was a breakthrough for me because I could look back on it and go, “Oh yeah, I was explaining myself to myself through these songs.” That was a nice moment in my own personal life in terms of accessing a vocabulary to understand what I was feeling, rather than just being inarticulate and depressed. It’s not as much as I'm always thinking about how I’m growing as much as that’s an emotional place I write from because it feels good to do it. But looking back on it, I’m able to put it in its context.
“Dreamers” feels really new for you lyrically and thematically.
It’s a song I made a few years ago with a bunch of other music that was also like that. It's about two people that were close to me who were artists. The most generic way I could describe the song is that it’s about being an artist and the insecurities and dreams that come along with that — the willingness to live in your dream world and try to make it real, and the pain that can come from the failure to do that. Ultimately it’s about the power of hope, or art and music to impact you in a positive way and hopefully like change the world or whatever. These two people that I knew really embodied that to me at the time. It sounds really corny, but when I was recording the vocals I was crying because something about it just hit a vein.
What’s your greatest fear as a person?
Waking up in the middle of a pitch-black ocean, where I suddenly redeem consciousness. I’m really scared of deep water, and the scariest kind of death scenario I could imagine would be stuck in the middle of the ocean at night. My real greatest fear is probably not fit to print. [Laughs] I don’t know. Probably being completely unloved and disconnected from everyone and everything that could make me feel safe and comfortable — but that's probably just a general fear.