Jainil Devani is an 18-year old songwriter-producer from India, and he’s about to release his debut record, “Club Sunset” - a heartbreak adventure, front and centre.
Q1. What drives you as a songwriter?
A1. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to tell stories. Fascinating, weird, tragic, funny, whatever it may be, I’ve wanted to tell stories. I was a 10-year old dreaming up posters and plots for shows, a 12-year old with a Camera, making DVD movies of the most absurd things, a 14-year old writing novels about ghosts and ninjas in an island just off the coast of England.
Over the last few years, I fell in love with music, its power, how beautifully you could just wrap up a feeling, a memory, a story in a song and send it out into the world hoping someone would hum along and perhaps find their own stories, their own heart in it. I realised I wanted music to be the way I told my stories. In all of my songs, each and every one, I wanted lyrics to be my focus. Of course, all the other elements are important, and beautiful just as much — but for me, it would be the lyrics.
That is what drives me as a songwriter, to tell stories, of heartbreak and love and the alarming, fleeting, yet awfully wondrous feeling that comes with it. For me, writing songs is like packaging my stories, my thoughts into tiny, melodious entities. It is my escape, songwriting is my happy place. I think of these songs as Snow Globes, each one a frozen still of that feeling I could just pick up and relive. And that’s incredibly fascinating.
Q2. The album that you’re putting out — “Club Sunset,” Tell us more about that.
A2. “Club Sunset” is a story about thinking you’ve found love, falling and falling hard — all the way to rock bottom. Each song looks at this from a different perspective, a different time, a different emotion. One thing that I focused on while making the record, was that Love is never just one thing. It’s never just one feeling, just one colour, just one layer; it has multitudes upon multitudes, and “Club Sunset” goes through those layers, one by one.
The story doesn’t revolve around a particular character, it’s not my story exactly, it’s everywhere and everything from 1940’s Hollywood, to a dystopian dark future. Yet, in my head, all of it takes place at Club Sunset. It’s the perfect environment to fall hard for someone, knowing it’s not going to end well: waves crashing at the ocean shore, glasses clinking, evening breeze, sun setting on the horizon.
The best way to describe the record is like looking at Love from eight sides and trapping each one in a Snow Globe. It could be greedy and ruthless and manipulative, fierce and cunning and scary. It could be pretend and masquerading and delicate, or it could be beautiful and allencompassing and soaring. Love could be freedom and finding yourself, but it could also be losing yourself in someone’s ego, blinded by their glare, second guessing everything. It could be waking up and wondering who you are, or sometimes, it’s just simply longing, yearning. Love is a hundred different colours, a hundred different things, and this record is just going through all those facets — whilst swaying to the music under purple California skies.
Q3. What was the process like, making this album?
A3. This album was at least thirteen different albums before it was this one. You only make your first album once, and I was very aware of that. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been in the process of writing this album for about four years now. It started with random, nonsensical lyrics that slowly evolved into something concrete. A little over two years ago, I consciously started writing songs in a particular direction: a project called “So Much To Love.” Since then, it has been the same story: Love and all it’s layers. Until about February of this year, I hadn’t even changed the name to what it is now. I wrote about 70 legitimate songs for the record, and countless blurbs and verses and choruses. I ended up blending, reducing, and cherry-picking them into these eight. And I’m very happy to say I wrote seven of these songs alone.
The album started solidifying with the first track, “Balcony Stories” with Carly Rose Hoffman & Kalee Stutzman. We put out an acoustic version last year, and now it will be appearing on the album as a proper mix. The actual production of the album took about a year, and I was writing and changing things throughout. As a matter of fact, the song, “Expensive Strawberry Jams” wasn’t even going to be on the record till as late as April! I’d scrapped it, and then I came across this completely new idea and inspiration and rewrote it and it ended up being the opener. “Blood” was completely re-invented by Kaede., she took it in a whole new direction. “So Much To Love” was rewritten so many times I’ve lost count. And strangely enough, the track with my favourite lyrics, “All of Your Songs” was written in its entirety in twenty minutes.
Writing, producing this album was a breathtaking process. As a songwriter, it is fascinating, thrilling to see this thought in your head mould into something real and breathing. I’ve seen it a lot of times and I’ll never not be amazed. All these songs were once just tiny bits of words flying around in my mind. You put them together on a page, start with a beat, a piano, a guitar… it’s always a different process with each song, but all of it is an adventure.
I’m beyond grateful to the people who helped shape this album. All the vocalists, co-producers, it was amazing to work with all of these brilliant, powerhouses of people who brought it to life. I would write something, produce it, send them a demo, give them the entire backstory, and we would work together and it was an enthralling process. “Club Sunset” was made with people all across the globe, Australia, South Africa, Norway, England, China… the record is built with people from six continents across several countries — music and stories just bring people together, regardless of anything, and I think that’s an incredibly important message especially in these times. Writing and producing “Club Sunset” taught me so much, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Q4. What are your biggest musical inspirations on the album?
A4. Several people influenced this album, there’s so much going on. My storytelling songwriting style takes on from Taylor Swift, she essentially made me into a songwriter. Lana Del Rey, one of the best songwriters of our generation; Jack Antonoff, one of the finest, most creative producers I’ve always looked up to; Adele, Lorde, Maggie Rogers, Halsey, Clairo, Troye Sivan, Florence + The Machine, Foxes, Allie X, Banks… they were the people I listened to a lot during the album process and they definitely influenced the record. If you dig a little beneath the surface, you’ll find “Expensive Strawberry Jams” is actually inspired by “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, hands down one of the best books I’ve read. The track is a blend of that and another idea, which all comes together to form a two-song “Strawberry” arc on the album.
Q5. What would you say, is the essence of this album? If you had to pick One Track, One Lyric.
A5. This entire album, for me, is deeply special. I don’t think I’d ever be able to pick a favourite song — but the essence of this album, would be the track, “All of Your Songs.” The song is the heart of the record, there’s a hundred things going on, and yet it’s so simple: just sitting at the piano, and letting it all out. Finding yourself effortlessly enamoured by a person you know isn’t meant for you, wouldn’t take you as you are: so you morph yourself into what they want to see, mould a facade for them. My favourite lyric is the opening of that song: “Speedin’ through on my red 1940’s Cadillac, Drive slow over the bumps there’s a body in the back.” You know exactly how it’s going to end, and yet you find yourself front seat, your true self locked up in the trunk, while you’re dressed up, hiding all your flaws, ready for the ride.
Listen to the record on headphones, and you’ll really see all the stuff that’s going on. Creating “Club Sunset” was an enchanting, exhilarating process. I hope you find your story, your heart in it too.
Listen to Jainil Devani on all platforms, and his album coming May 24: