If anyone deserves to take this year's crown, it's De'Wayne. Impeccably ambitious and delivering enough walking power to suit all that high-energy talking he does, he's the very essence of what it is to be an artist in 2021.
Since leaving Houston, Texas, a few years ago for LA, De'Wayne has focused on achieving his dream. When Upset first spoke to him last September, after the release of 'National Anthem', his thunderous rock/hip-hop combo debut single, the world was slightly different. Continue forward to June, and he was coming up to bat with his debut album 'Stains'.
It turns out, not only was he smashing it out of the park, but this was his dream becoming fully realised. Now, he's finally back on the road too: with that mighty record in tow.
Given he's just finished up Willow's mammoth US tour and is mere days from starting the whole slog again with Chase Atlantic, that trademark De'Wayne spirit is all present and correct when we catch up to celebrate his year. After all, this is someone who embraces life; what else would you expect?
De'Wayne! How are things going?
Everything's really good! First of all, it's good to be talking to you again, man. I feel like we always have good conversations. But it's been really good, bro, like we did the Willow tour; we just finished that yesterday. Man, it's good to be playing shows again and crushing it and just connecting with people. My spirit feels good right now, and I'm very excited and feeling very thankful. We had to try to soak all this energy in and keep it going for this next one we got in a couple of days.
How is your world now 'Stains' has been unleashed for a while?
I saw fans Tweeting it's been five months the other day, and I was like, that's amazing. To be able to play the songs now, it's cool to see them received so well. We start the set with 'National Anthem', and we end it with 'Me Vs You', just like the record, and it connects with these kids who hadn't heard of me until before the show or checking me out before and then by the end of 'National Anthem' I got them all yelling that record. It's been cool, and it just makes me more proud of what I did on that album.
What's it been like reflecting on it now it's both out in the world, and you're playing the songs live?
It feels good. When I talked to other people, I was like: "I'm gonna be proud of this record," and I'm still fucking proud of it. The thing is that before the tour, I'd made new demos because I'm kind of getting to the vibe of the next record, but I'm still so proud of it. I was texting with Willow last night, and she was like, "I just ran 'Stains' through all the way; it's one of my favourite records I've ever heard." That makes me feel really good because I get to play it every night, but then people connect with it. I got these new songs, but I don't feel like it's old or anything like that. I want to be playing for some years, hopefully. It's my first one, it's my baby, and I'm getting to perform it all over the world.
How do you think you've grown now you've completed this massive step?
I feel like I've grown in knowing to trust my gut, how I trust my music. Like, yeah, "This is the hook, this is what I'm gonna say." I'm starting to trust that all-around just with me as a human and with me as an artist. I have such a great team, but I don't want to lean on people for ideas or expect people… I feel like I would do that, and I don't do that anymore. Over the past month, now I believe in my intentions with everything that I'm doing, more so than ever. That's something I've noticed. If it's what I'm wearing, if it's what I'm telling my band to do - respectfully! Not being like, "this is my shit", but I have a vision for it so let's execute that. I don't think I would have been able to do that at the top of the year or be able to make the songs that I made before the tour.
What other moments have stuck out for you this year?
I mean, putting out the album with the label… it'd be my first one. Getting the billboard in Times Square was huge. This tour. When we got the okay from Willow, and when her post went up about the tour, it felt like I was becoming a part of popular culture. That's something that means a lot to me, especially with what I'm trying to do with this new music and just with my career as a whole. Not trying to get on the scene, or anything like that, just bringing rock to everybody, which I think Willow is doing so for her to bring me along that felt really great. For her to respect what I was doing and love what I was doing, we were fanning out for each other. I feel like I'm stepping into my own, those are some big moments for me. Now I've got a house and stuff like that. Being able to be in a home and take care of myself and… I bought my mom a purse! I know that's silly, but that's a big moment for me, you know? Silly shit like that.
It must be nice to see the career you envisioned coming to fruition given how much faith you put into it?
That was huge for me, bro. When I talk to my dad and when he sees me and Willow together, it makes him freak out. Those are moments for me too, you know? It's crazy.
Have your parents caught a show?
Man, they haven't! But we're playing in Houston on this little festival run in December, and they're definitely pulling up. They haven't seen us in two years. The show is way better, they love the new album, but it'll be experienced in December.
When you released 'Stains', did you feel how you expected?
Man, that's a really great question. I think I felt that way for about two weeks; I was on cloud nine. I was doing parties for the album, I was celebrating with my girl, I was just so happy to have a record out. I think for two weeks, I felt untouchable, incredible. I felt really good, and then I was like, "Oh, yeah, I got to do this again for 10 more years if I want to have the career that I want to have!" The songs have got to be better. But it was two weeks of straight nirvana. I was very blissful, very excited about everything. It didn't last that long I'll be honest, and I don't mean that to be a downer or anything like that!
Was it the closing of one chapter, and the opening of another?
That was 25 years of living to make things, and then we were in quarantine and all that; I'm like damn, where can I grab all this new inspiration? Then I went into straight, steady mode, and it's cool to also see what the new music is about and to see what I'm grabbing from, and what I'm learning from, and what I'm inspired by and all that stuff. I went through, to be honest, a month of straight searching, making demos. I was like I have to exceed myself fully for this next record, and I've found my groove everywhere in my life at the moment.
What does new inspiration look like, given you mentioned you were processing 25 years of living before?
What's around me, touring, I did about eight amazing fucking demos, you know, before I left, and I want to cut about 10 more when I get back, but I think I mentioned my shorty - I have a girl that I really love, and I was starting to see that seep into the music. I always talk about my dad in a way on my records, and during quarantine, we had a father-son breakthrough. I always thought he could have done better, and I know he just wasn't a good father, to be honest. I love that man, but he really came through during quarantine, and we became close in a fun way. For so long, I didn't understand that was trauma for me. Now I get to brag on him and talk about him in a different way. Yeah, those two things, and just where I want to take it next, and that's to be the goat! Conversations like that, and then a lot of coming for everyone's head once again but in a different way. I think we're gonna be working a lot, and that's kind of what I'm looking towards now.
You've always toted that hip-hop, rock, punk and everything in between sound - is the new stuff going in the same direction?
I'm exploring. I'm trying to tell people it's like Ramones, The Strokes if they had like a little baby Kendrick Lamar. Just very punk, with great guitar tones, and then me just talking all the shit! And also singing all the shit, you know, kind of putting it in a way to it feels like confident, but there's definitely more melody. I want the sound to be heard around the globe. I'm still saying everything from my heart, but the sound is a bit more locked in. That feels great to me.
It feels like alternative music that's borrowing from everywhere is having this huge moment.
Right? It's in the best place. I was talking to Tyler [Cole], who produces for Willow, you know, they got the song going crazy right now, 'Meet Me At Our Spot', and he was like, man, it's cool that we're building each other now. We see each other out, and we see each other on Instagram like we fuck with each other, like white, Black, everybody, it's love. It's cool to be building each other up instead of trying to tear each other down and instead have way more Black artists in this game making great music. I'm happy to be a part of it.
Find Upset's Top 50 Albums of 2021 in the December 2021 / January 2022 issue, out now.
Featuring Måneskin, Mayday Parade, Yard Act, Volumes and more.