It’s always my mission to move people through my music

By Maria Winter

With a career as vibrant and eclectic as her music, Canadian-born singer and songwriter Charmian Devi has carved a unique path through the diverse landscapes of punk, alternative rock, and soulful pop. From igniting stages across the Northwest with her cutting-edge punk band, to captivating audiences in London’s vibrant music scene, Devi’s journey is a testament to her boundless creativity and unwavering passion for storytelling through song.

Emerging from the bustling music scene of Montreal, Devi quickly made her mark as the lead singer and songwriter of a pioneering Canadian punk band. Sharing stages with iconic acts like 7 Year Bitch and No Means No, Devi’s raw energy and undeniable talent earned her comparisons to legends such as The Dead Kennedys and The Stooges.

But Devi’s musical evolution didn’t stop there; she fearlessly ventured across the pond to London, where she formed the alternative rock outfit L.I.A.R, showcasing her versatility and knack for pushing boundaries. Her music has landed her a spot on some of the biggest charts including the top 10 of Submodern Radio Charts in 2023. I was lucky enough to get a deeper insight into her musical world – and what a fascinating world it is.

What inspired your transition from leading a Canadian punk band to forming L.I.A.R. in London and later delving into soulful alternative pop?

“As an artist, one is always looking to develop and expand one’s vision, so moving to other countries and working with new collaborators is one way to keep the creative vision fresh and evolving. Each phase of my career allowed me to move through all the different layers of my own soul growth.”

How did your collaboration with John Lok influence the direction of your music during the duo phase of your career?

“My work with John Lok allowed me to focus more on my own songwriting process as a solo artist and he was brilliant at picking up on where I was at with my music and adding a dynamic and equally strong emotive force to the sound at that time.”

Can you share some insights into your experience recording your alternative rock album in NYC with such esteemed musicians as Lenny Kaye, Tony Garnier, Steve Shelley, and Brian Marsella?

“It was an absolutely wonderful experience to be recording in the same room as these musical icons. Although I was naturally very nervous at first! but I connected so well with all of them, especially Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan), whom I have since worked with recently on my last EP. I am so honoured that they all agreed to work with me, I am very lucky and feel very blessed to have had this incredible opportunity.’

‘In the Week of Love’ received widespread acclaim and international recognition. What was the inspiration behind this single, and how did it feel to see it resonate with listeners worldwide?

“This track was written one week before Russia invaded Ukraine, during the week of Valentine’s Day. I was so disturbed by what was taking place with the buildup of 150,000 troops on the Ukraine border. It was and still is so horrifying.  Hence the title of the track as the world believed they would actually invade during the “week of love”. It really moved me that so many listeners responded to this track and  I am very happy they did as it’s always my mission to move people through my music.”

Your latest single, ‘It Took You by Surprise,’ features renowned musicians like Tony Garnier and Dan Hickey. How did their contributions shape the sound and vibe of the track? 

“They both had a huge impact on the sound of this track. Tony Garnier created his bass lines based on my lyrics and his lines have an incredible groove and drive that creates an enormous infectious energy in the song. The song is about the oppression of women in Iran and around the world suffering under tyrannical regimes. Dan Hickey is a very powerful drummer who understood right away the need for an intense strong rhythm pattern that matched Tony’s bass beautifully.”

Recording in your home studio for “In the Week of Love” versus recording in Kerhonkson, NY for “It Took You by Surprise” – what were the main differences in the creative process and atmosphere? 

“I recorded “In the Week of Love” completely on my own and played ALL the instruments. So, although I got the exact sound I wanted, there is a beauty and magic that can happen when collaborating with others, especially musical giants like Tony Garnier and Dan Hickey. Mysterious elements can occur and not in the same way as when working on your own.”

With your diverse musical background, how do you approach songwriting now compared to your earlier punk days?

“I have always approached music with the same openness to a creative muse that arrives with sudden spontaneity and ‘in the moment’ inspiration. Lately, the spark has been even more like running with streams of consciousness in the lyrics and letting the song speak more about what it is about rather than imposing a theme.”

Charmian Devi is also in the process of finishing her new album, which she hopes to release by the end of 2024. Working with the renowned producer and engineer John Ravenhall who has collaborated with the likes of Sting and Paul McCartney, this album is expected to go above and beyond.

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Photography by Ryan Persinger