Read the interview through Voyage Magazine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Devin Riggins.

Devin, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hey, thanks for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to share my story with Voyage.

I grew up in a small town of less than 10,000 in North Baltimore County. I was first exposed to electronic music early on around age 11 through pop electronic & Eurodance artists like Basshunter and DJ Manian. In my teenage years, I began experimenting with writing music myself. I was captivated by cinematic music that complemented visual storylines. Hans Zimmer, the German film composer, was someone I’d taken a strong liking to. In films such as Inception and Interstellar, Zimmer dramatically influenced the narrative and emotional impact of the film through his scores. It felt like listening to a story through music, and that was precisely what I wanted to integrate into an electronic music medium.

I knew I wanted to write music that emotionally impacted the listener. It was this concept of escapism and storytelling through music that propelled me to become better and take music more seriously. It’s ultimately what gave electronic music such immense meaning to me.

 After wrapping up high school, I convinced my parents to allow me to take a gap year before enrolling in college. Luckily, they accepted. While the electronic music sphere was an entirely foreign subject to my parents, they’ve been some of my biggest supporters and gave me the room to figure out what I wanted for myself and supported that decision. At the beginning of this year, I was just starting to write mildly cohesive pieces and took a class in Poughkeepsie New York, taught by Derek VanScoten who goes by Cloudchord. This class taught at Alex Grey’s CoSM (Chapel of Sacred Mirrors) inspired me to dive deeper into the sound design process. Since taking his course, Derek has become an incredible friend and invaluable mentor of mine.

Having a mentor and guide I could reach out to for industry advice was pivotal in my career. This year of focusing on music allowed me to really improve my skill set which led to the creation of my first EP – Timeless. Toward the end of the year, one of the songs on the EP, Reality, got picked up by Gravitas Records, an independent electronic music record label based out of Austin, Texas. This was my first label release and made me realize that perhaps a career in music wasn’t so far-fetched.

In 2017, I enrolled at the University of Colorado – Boulder and moved out West. I’ll be graduating summer of 2020 with a major in economics and a minor in atmospheric science. Earlier I mentioned how I always wanted there to be a storyline behind my music – nature has always played a huge role in this. Anthropogenic climate change and humans’ impact on the planet is something I’m incredibly passionate about. In 2017, I got to join the Nexus Working Group on Energy, Innovation, and Environment in Reykjavik, Iceland at the annual Arctic Circle conference.

The Nexus Working Group is a group of young social entrepreneurs pushing for clean energy and technological innovation. Immersing myself in natural resource & environmental economics, and meeting entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders in this field has put in perspective the impacts of climate change and has provided me with a story I want to speak too much more in my journey forward with music.

The past couple of years in Colorado have been my most productive musically. I’ve had a few significant releases such as Feeding Fires (feat. Anica), Signals (feat. Sunnie Williams), and Embers (feat. KOO). Feeding Fires and Signals were released through Artist Intelligence Agency, a North American electronic music record label run through I similarly released a remix EP though them featuring Prismatic, BARDZ, and Alien, each of whom put their own twist on my original – Signals. It’s been during these past couple years that I began writing far more cohesive pieces of music, crafting my own story, and developing a fan base which has been heartwarming to see.

Right now, I’m living in Denver with two other music artists, Prismatic and Au5, and a graphic designer/animator, XNK Designs. Surrounding myself with these prolific creatives inspires me daily, and we keep each other in check and focused on the big picture goals. I’m working now on a few singles for the upcoming release, as well as my next long-form project, which I’m incredibly optimistic about. The music I’m writing now I consider my best yet and I’m ecstatic to see the response.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not. I don’t think it would be satisfying if it were an easy path. I didn’t really start taking music very seriously as a potential career until I was maybe 18 or 19. I’m 22 now and it’s my primary focus. I’ve faced a few struggles, one notable one is being spread thin across varying interests. While growing this music project, I’ve also explored a few social entrepreneurial ventures. Balancing growing startups with full-time education and music has been an arduous task but all three are things I’m quite passionate about. For me, there’s an appeal in the things that are difficult, and I find that I naturally gravitate toward projects where the success is solely dependent on myself. If I fail, I can’t point fingers or allocate blame, I enjoy knowing the journey is going to be difficult and that inspires me. It forces me to do the hard work and avoid excuses.

Another struggle I’ve overcome has been what I consider a form of imposter syndrome. It was a feeling that I was inherently undeserving of listeners, fans, or any form of success. This headspace limited my ability to push my music project forward in meaningful ways or take action on the things I deep down knew had to be done. I was busy, sure, but I wasn’t productive. Reading authors like Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink, and other self-development and productivity thought leaders has immensely helped my progress. I absolutely despised making internal excuses for myself. Nobody was going to care if I didn’t. I began reading, listening to podcasts, and practicing self-improvement skills wherever I could because I wanted to take full responsibility for my life and its direction. No more living as if things were going to magically fall into place.

A quote from Tim Ferriss I love is: “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

One large takeaway I’ve implemented is to force myself into uncomfortable positions. Whether that’s doing a speech, pitching music, or anything else that gets me out of my comfort zone, I want to experience that feeling of being uncomfortable, often. The more you push that boundary, the more accustomed you become to taking risks. I don’t ever want to find myself comfortable or settled. As crazy as that sounds, it’s the constant drive toward something bigger and the uncertain chase toward it that excites me the most. I’m of the opinion that there’s always room to better yourself and that’s a philosophy I hope to carry throughout life.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
When most people think of electronic music, they generally think of some combination of strobe lights, beeps & boops, and four-on-the-floor beats. While they’re not necessarily wrong (I do like my beeps and boops), there’s huge swaths of electronic music that are purely meant for listening as opposed to being made for dancing. I sit somewhere in between these two places. My genre can best be described as melodic bass music. I’ll compose songs that are dark, aggressive, and tonic, but intertwined with vibrant chords, string quartets, and melodies that pull on the heart. It’s this gentle balance between these opposing poles of darkness and light that creates a very raw and emotive story. I write music about what I’m feeling and experiencing. Whether that’s love or loss, I find that people can relate to that messaging.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
For me, the most meaningful times I can recall have been when people have reached out to me through various social platforms and told me how one or more of my songs have prevented them from suicide or brought them out of a dark place. Some of my songs in the past were written from these dark places, and I think electronic music provides the perfect medium to illustrate them.

When people listen, I think they connect with it on a visceral level knowing that others have been in the exact same place they are. Getting these messages online is not something I ever imagined happening, but I can’t think of anything I’m more grateful for. I’m incredibly lucky to have the fans I do. There was a time when nobody was listening to my music, having people reach out to explain the impact my music has had on their lives is something I’ll never take for granted.

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