Canadian singer-songwriter Graham Ereaux, who goes by the stage name Devarrow, says he gave himself a year to focus on seriously pursuing his music – to take a shot at making a name for himself. One year later, with a new LP and an entire tour under his belt, Ereaux has decided to stick with it. The Daily sat down with Ereaux to discuss his musical journey and the release of his latest LP, The Great Escape. His amicable, down-to-earth vibes made for a conversation that might hit home for many young aspiring artists, who could learn a thing or two from Devarrow’s patience and optimism in the pursuit of his passion.
The McGill Daily (MD): What are your biggest musical influences?
Graham Ereaux (GE): I’d say my biggest influence would’ve been Neil Young. I absolutely loved Neil Young – he’s still one of my favorite musicians and songwriters. I definitely tried to play a lot of music like [he does]. I don’t have much of a Pink Floyd kind of sound, but [they were also] definitely a big influence. But since high school, I feel like it’s really changed. It was nice going to university and then [being exposed to] all of these amazing [new] albums, like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver.
MD: Is there anything else that has been a significant factor in shaping you as an artist?
GE: I wish I had something that was very concrete, but I feel like it’s the stuff you can’t really explain. It’s the everyday things. One thing I’ve always found inspiring is the natural environment – just being outdoors. [And] having a space to be playing music where no one’s around. I really like to be solitary.
MD: Could you describe your style in one word?
GE: I’ll use the words of Pat LePoidevin. […] I played a couple shows with him. Just recently he said what I guess would be my one sentence: I sound grungy, bluesy, [and] folky. I guess I’d [also] say [I’m] trying to be captivating and intimate.
MD: I’ve noticed you dabble in other areas of art as well.
GE: I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts at [Mount Allison University]. I found that with photography andart,I had to wake up in the morning and tell myself I needed to do it [because] it didn’t happen naturally. While I was doing that, pursuing music was the one thing I never had to tell myself I needed to do – it never ever feels like work.
MD: As a recent university graduate, do you have any advice for young aspiring artists?
GE: I would say that doing a Bachelor of Fine Arts is really undervalued. I feel like what I’m doing now [with music] is largely influenced by my degree. Going to university, especially in a small town like where I went, is amazing – not just for going to classes; class is maybe the least important thing of my university education. It’s all of the experiences that come with being independent, surrounded by likeminded people.
MD: It’s sad that McGill doesn’t have a Fine Arts program. We have an incredible Faculty of Music, but I miss that communal aspect of creating visual art.
GE: I feel like a lot of my musical inspiration [was] largely influenced by that experience of being surrounded by other artists and musicians. […] That’s really important as an [artist].
MD: Tell me about your LP.
GE: It’s a collection of songs I’ve written over the last six years or so. […] A big catalyst for making this album was the idea of regret and thinking that I would really regret not putting these things down and not recording them. If I were to [turn] fifty, I think that would be a big regret of mine. In the process of sitting down and hashing through all of those old songs, I ended up writing a lot of newsongs – it was kind of a whirlwind experience.
MD: How was touring for this LP?
GE: I get the sense that being a folk musician in Canada is a bit more of a linear process – it takes a lot more time. I feel proud of what I’ve made, but it’s definitely an album that hasn’t gained any kind of recognition. I’ve learned a lot about patience in the last six months or so.
MD: Where do you see yourself heading from here on out?
GE: I’d promised myself that I’d give myself a year […] and it’s been a really fun year and I definitely don’t feel like slowing down. I really want to give it my all. […] I guess my goal with music is selfish and personal – it’s really fun to travel and to meet new people.
On the other hand, I feel that music is such a powerful art form and it’s amazing […] how there are so many different types of music we can listen to that will influence how we feel, and our memories.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.