ONE of my favourite places to visit is…
the city of New York. I have never physically been there: I have learnt a lot about the people and place through the musicians I interview. DEMAR talks to me about her E.P., Rebels, and the stories that go into it. I ask her about the song, Not Afraid – it is a standout whose background I was keen to discover. She tells me about future gig plans and whether there will be new material – and whether we can expect to see her in the U.K. soon.
DEMAR discusses her upbringing and the music she was raised on; the albums that mean the most to her; how the scene in New York differs from that in Florida (where she started life); if she was surprised by the reaction to her cover of Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools (Drank) – she provides advice for new artists emerging.
Hi, DEMAR. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! I’m doing great, thanks. This week has been incredible. I just finished my first tour supporting Howie Day. It was so fun meeting new people and playing for new ears.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! I’m DEMAR; a singer-songwriter from Miami, FL. I’ve lived in N.Y.C. for about four years and play shows around the city pretty regularly. I would describe my music as Alternative-Pop: a bit moody with some R&B flavour.
Rebels is your new E.P. Can you tell me about the subjects and inspirations that go into it?
Rebels tells the story of a relationship I experienced that was pretty intense and had a lot of ups and downs. It was really draining and definitely took a toll on me - until I finally decided to walk away. The E.P. explores the different sides of the relationship - and how messy it can be when you’re so drawn to someone but so damaged by them at the same time.
I am especially interested in the song, Not Afraid. It is one of the most emotive and touching songs on the E.P. Is there a story behind that song?
Thank you! That means a lot that you connect with the song. Not Afraid was one of the easiest songs for me to write because the lyrics kind of poured out of me - but it’s been one of the most difficult to share with people because it’s so self-reflective. The song touches on how much control this person had over my thoughts and emotions: the smallest action of his would dictate my emotional state for the next week or more.
It also talks about how in a way I feel drawn to that sadness and I’m not afraid of it. As long as living that way meant I was with him, I was ok with it. That’s a scary thing to admit to yourself, let alone other people.
Your cover of Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools (Drank) went viral last year. Were you surprised by the reaction it got?
I definitely was taken aback by the reaction. When I recorded it, I wasn’t thinking about it reaching people at all: I just did it because it was fun and I love the song. But, the love people have for it is an added bonus!
New York City is your base. What is the city like for a new artist? Are there particular venues you love to play there?
I think New York City is the best place to be if you’re a new artist and trying to find your footing in the industry. There is so much opportunity here and so many great people you can meet just by being present in the scene. Some of my favorite places to play in the city are Pianos and Rockwood.
They’re both great venues.
How does it differ from Florida – where you were raised? Is it a lot more exciting and ‘you’ in New York?
Miami and N.Y.C. are extremely different; totally different lifestyles, people and surroundings. I will always love Miami because it’s home - but New York suits my lifestyle much more. There is more opportunity here for artists and songwriters. The craziness of the city used to get to me but now I’ve become used to it.
I still escape to Miami every couple months for a weekend, though.
You spent time in London. What was the decision for moving there – and what was it that forced you back to the States?
I moved to London because I wanted to experience something out of my comfort-zone and put myself in a place I would grow as a person and an artist. I always knew I would love London - and moving to another country by myself was scary and exciting. I absolutely loved my time there and it helped shape me as a songwriter and as a person. I eventually had to move back because my Visa expired. Otherwise, I would probably still be there! It’s still my favourite place I’ve ever been to...
It still feels surreal that I was lucky enough to have that experience.
You worked with Ben Hobbs whilst you were here – and a lot of other talented folks. Do you see yourself coming back here? Do you love the music of Britain?
I’ve been so fortunate to work with Ben Hobbs. He’s really talented - and I feel like we’re always on the same page. He gets exactly what my music is about and the sound that I’m going for. I will actually be back in London for about a week in July and can’t wait! It’s been too long. I LOVE so many British artists from Rock to Hip-Hop/R&B to the poppiest of Pop - and I’m hoping to catch some of them in concert while I’m there.
Give me a sense of the artists you were raised on. Who were your early heroes and heroines?
I was raised on a wide variety of artists - which definitely shaped the range of influences I pull from in my own music. My dad’s favourite band is Steely Dan; so I grew up on them and that’s where I formed my love of harmonies and that layered sound that they so perfectly crafted. When I was young, I also loved the Spice Girls (obviously) and artists like Aaliyah and J. Lo - which influenced the confidence and sassiness I inject in some of my songs.
Adele and Joy Williams from The Civil Wars influenced the bit of soul and emotion I put into my music.
IN THIS PHOTO: The Aces
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Someone I can’t stop listening to right now is The Aces. They are great. I love their music, their look…everything. Their music is infectious and catchy but has a Rock feel to it - and they’re effortlessly cool. I also really love an artist called pronoun. She’s got Emo/Indie-Pop down to a science - and kills it on every song.
Also, check out Frances Cone. Their song, Unraveling, makes me cry every time I listen to it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Frances Cone
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
This is such a tough question…
One is Phantoms by Acceptance
They were one of my favorite bands in high-school and really influenced me regards wanting to write songs. That album is still one of my all-time favorites.
Second would be Born to Die by Lana Del Rey
I listened to that album so much before I started writing my E.P. and really connected to so many of the songs.
I think the third would be 21 by Adele
Every song on that album is perfect. When I was going through the relationship I wrote the E.P. about; I listened to 21 all the time.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I don’t know how qualified I am to give advice…but I guess I would say you really need to know yourself; who you are as an artist and a person before you get into this - because there are people who will try to impose on you what they think you should be.
It’s easy to be influenced by that.
Where can we see you play this year? What dates do you have coming up?
I just finished the Howie Day tour. I’m playing a show in N.Y.C. on Feb 8th and working on some other dates and possible tours. Stay tuned and follow my social media for those announcements! My Instagram and Twitter are @demarmusic and my Facebook is ‘Demar’.
Do you have plans for 2018 already? Is there any new material in your mind?
I’m always writing and am starting to work on new songs. I don’t know yet if that will be another E.P. or a full-length but, right now, I’m just going to work on music and see where it takes me. I have a music video coming very soon and more live videos coming!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Hmmmm…El Amante by Nicky Jam. One of my favorites!