Artist Spotlight: Reid Devereaux ’25 on producing during gap year

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Like many others, Reid Devereaux ’25 deferred his enrollment at Stanford for the 2020-21 academic year. But Devereaux is staying busy with what he loves: recording and producing music. With well over 25,000 listens on Spotify in just a few months, sleauxreid has amassed a sizable following during quarantine. Devereaux released his debut album, “Indecision,” in mid-July, and his latest release, “Trifecta,” followed shortly after. Devereaux describes his style as alternative, but the range of his sound covers much more. Hip-hop, lo-fi, jazz and different world styles all seem to mix in his work, a combination representing Devereaux’s experiences, emotions and ideas in an expressive and creative way. I talked with Devereaux over Zoom about his process, his inspirations and his plans for the next year.

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): When did you start producing music?

Reid Devereaux (RD): I’d been writing songs throughout all of high school, maybe even the end of middle school, but I really started producing and taking it seriously at the beginning of my junior year. At that point I’d say it was more of a hobby, but it became a real deal, almost like a second job other than school, starting my senior year.

TSD: One thing I noticed listening to your music is your use of external samples, audio clips from TV shows or old records, or stuff like that. How do you decide to include one, or what inspires you to include those?

RD: It all starts from what I listen to a lot. I listen to so many different things, but one of my favorite genres is late-1990s, early-2000s boom bap rap style of music. Even extending into more recent times, sampling has become such a big thing, and for a lot of my musical idols, it’s a huge part of their music. It’s like its own instrument. So that was definitely something on that first project and something I still do all the time: listening to different records, getting vinyl. I also like to sample from YouTube — it’s something that I feel adds a nice texture, so I’m always looking for them. In terms of selecting [samples], it’s just kind of what I like, whether or not I feel like I could do something with it. I have a bunch of songs on [“Indecision”]: one is “ALLICAREABOUTISYOU,” which is probably one of my favorite songs on the album, where it’s literally just one sample but chopped up quite a bit. There’s a very specific character to the song, you know? When I heard that sample I instantly heard that. I have a lot to learn in terms of sampling, but I feel like when you hear it you’re like, “Oh! I can use this. This could totally become this type of song.”

TSD: You’re talking about your album “Indecision”: Is there another track that you’re really proud of on that album?

RD: Well, the title track, “Indecision,” is definitely my favorite song. I know it’s not the most appealing to a large group of people, but production on that song is, in my opinion, the best. Having to mix, master, write and record everything myself, I’m not necessarily 100% happy with the mixes and everything on the album, especially on that song, but I will say it was really cool. That was the first time I really ever collaborated with some random person who I’d never met before. My friend Robbie has one part on the album; there’s one verse on the first song, and he did some samples on “Sesuj,” I think. But “Indecision” was the only one where I really played guitar. I played on a lot of the tracks, but it was more just some simple stuff. On [“Indecision”], the song ends with a guitar solo, and there’s a really cool saxophone solo before that. I think it was a really good mixture of the music that I listen to; there were elements of jazz, even a vaguely trap section. But that’s definitely the one I’m most proud of for that reason — that there’s so many different things coming together. And I’ve never really heard anything like it; I thought it was a little innovative.

TSD: So one of my favorite tracks on “Indecision” is “Djesse’s Goodbye.” Is that a reference to Jacob Collier? And, if so, how has he influenced your music?

RD: So I remember making that song in a really short period of time, and I sang the melody and wrote some lyrics to it, but afterward I felt that it wasn’t about anyone. It wasn’t about someone I knew. I wanted to pick a name of someone who it sounds like it’s about, and so I used that; the first lyric is “Djesse, you’re breaking my heart.” And I thought, not only did it sound good in the context of the music, but it was a good name to use. If I said some other name it might not have rung as well. But then I was like, “Okay, I could spell it this way, but instead I’ll spell it with the ‘D’ like Jacob Collier does.”

And I think although my music definitely sounds nothing like his, I’ve been a big fan ever since his first album, “In My Room,” came out. And he’s a crazy inspiration, as you know — he’s a savant. He can do everything at a level higher than people who claim something as their main and only thing. You play piano? He’s probably better than you. He’s also probably better at arranging orchestral music than you, which is just crazy because he didn’t have any formal music education. And he does everything by himself: I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t be making music all by myself without him, but I think him doing that and showing that it’s possible to do all that stuff by yourself in your bedroom definitely made me feel like I could do anything… But then again, he’s also got a little more talent going on there.

TSD: Okay, walk me through your recording process for a song, from start to finish. How do you come with an idea, write, record, mix?

RD: I’d say it varies, obviously, but there are two main ways I write. There are times where I’ll hear something in my head and say, “Oh, I need to get this idea out into my computer,” and often what I do is take a voice memo of me beatboxing, or if I have a guitar next to me, playing some chords, or even just singing something. And I’ve done this quite a few times, where I take the voice memo and put it into my DAW (digital audio workspace), whatever I’m using, and from there build up the track.

But I’d say that’s a method that I use a little bit less, actually. I think the main method I use starts with me writing a chord progression, or more just starting with one element. And from there it causes some inspiration, like I play one thing, and I’m like, “I need to add a bassline over this” — then I hear that bassline and now I hear something else coming in, then something else. It’s very all-over-the-place at the beginning when I’m just adding a bunch of things, making a quick arrangement, just trying to get all my ideas out quickly to keep the momentum going. I mix a little when I’m recording, in the sense that I’m trying to get it to sound as good as it can in a short period of time, not perfecting it. Then, once I have all the parts laid out — I’ve recorded all the vocals, I’ve written every single part, gotten takes that I like — that’s when I start making a final arrangement: moving things around, deciding if I want another chorus at the end of the song. And even after that it goes to a very intense mixing stage where I’m content with all the parts and takes I have, and from that point forward it’s just making it sound the best it can and trying to get everything to fit perfectly together.

TSD: Your latest release is “Trifecta,” which is a single, but it’s split over three different tracks. What’s your message with this new release, and what are your inspirations? 

RD: I’ll start with the inspiration. I’d say the last song is 100% inspired by the late Capital STEEZ. He was a part of this group called Pro Era, where Joey Badass got his name from. And you can definitely hear that in the style, kind of that style that I was talking about earlier — that sample bass, boom bap rap. The second song is very inspired by the Avalanches, who’s a very interesting group in that they’re very sample-based. If they have one song that I really took the idea from, it might be “Frankie Sinatra,” but the whole melody is derived from samples of talking, so I use that in my second song. And the first one is more Tyler, the Creator-esque; there’s a mixture of samples, live instruments, and a really low-frequency, heavy 808, which is something I tend not to use as much.

I think across there’s quite a few messages. Even tying to “Indecision,” it has to do a little with anxiety. I was facing some big decisions at the time, and I felt like expressing those ideas through music was a good way to not necessarily let anyone know about it, but for me to work through it. The last song helped the most — not lyrically dense, but the lyrics are much more obvious in what they’re talking about: the state of the U.S., and how, especially at the time, in July or beginning of August with all the unrest, I felt it was a good way for me to get my opinion out there. And I’m someone who is fortunate enough to not have been affected by these things too much. I think I can look at it from a perspective that shows empathy, and I think that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to show how angry I am about what was going on, and how I think that, even in my community, people take their privilege for granted. And they say they support it, and they say all these things — but their actions and words don’t really align. I have another song coming out on the joint project on which I definitely develop those ideas quite a bit more.

TSD: That’s a great segue: You’re taking a gap year this year. What are your plans music-wise for the next year? And if you have any ongoing projects you want to tell us a little bit more about, that would be awesome.

RD: My plan for this next year is, as a very general statement, to make as much music as I can, and to try new things and learn. Because if I want to get to wherever I want to get musically, I think the best way forward is just to get my 10,000 hours in and put in the work necessary to be able to do whatever I want to do with music. And by “whatever I want,” I mean making whatever type of music I want, because I feel that a lot of the time I have an idea but don’t have the skills yet to execute it in a way that I’m happy with. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve had an idea that I really liked and tried for a long time, and I just realized at the end of the day that this is something I’ll maybe come back to in the future and try again. 

My friend Robbie built a little studio in his garage; nothing fancy — it’s just a really small room with some monitors. It’s basically a bedroom studio but not in the bedroom. I find it’s really nice to have a space that isn’t where you sleep — it’s almost a workplace, like going to work. And though it doesn’t necessarily breed creativity, it’s easier to focus and easier to get things done. So we’ve been going there almost every single day, and I’ve been working on one project, but we just kind of make whatever we’re feeling like making, with no end goal of what it’s gonna be about. At least, it started that way, and then as we saw a theme going we picked up on that. At this point, we’re pretty much done with the songwriting process and we have basically the entire tracklist. This is definitely more of a pop-based, singing-based album, which I think will appeal more to a lot of different people. I’m excited to see how people receive it. After that, we might be going in an instrumental direction, more of an acoustic sound. 

TSD: Well, great! Is there a drop date for your current project?

RD: I think the joint project will be coming out early December. And Robbie might be going back to school in January, so that may leave me with more time for myself. It definitely needs a lot of work, but I’m about halfway done with the tracks for another project, and I’m hoping that before, by September of next year, that it’ll be a lot more than just one or two projects that come out. And I think it currently seems to be going on that track. 

Contact Peyton M. Lee at peytonl7 ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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