Devon Welsh flies solo

An interview with the Montreal singer-songwriter about his new record Dream Songs.

Photo credit: Christopher Honeywell

It can be easy to get lost in the numbers: units shipped, tickets sold, Spotify streams etc.

With Devon Welsh’s new album Dream Songs, his first full-length release following the dissolution of his previous band Majical Cloudz, a sale means a little more than just a sale.

With his old band, Welsh had Matador and Arts & Crafts backing his music. This time around, it’s an entirely self-released project, dependent on old fashioned things like word of mouth to prop up the almighty algorithms. Welsh looked at the positives and negatives of going independent and decided it was the way to go. He’s as curious as the rest of us as to how things will end up, but in a way, the mere existence of Dream Songs is a sign of success.

“Just getting to the point where it’s able to come out is a reward on its own,” Welsh says. “I feel a little more ownership over it, emotionally and financially, so there’s an added pride.

“But I do think it’ll have a harder time finding people than if I had a partnership with Apple or Spotify, or if it was backed by a big label or entity that could put marketing funds behind it. It’s a downside to self-releasing, that you have to depend on a longer term spreading of the music. I think ultimately the people decide in the long run if a piece of music is valuable to them, and with self-releasing you leave it up to people. Will they want to champion it because they like it?”

Dream Songs was recorded in Montreal in a studio run by Braids. Welsh still lives in town, and with his old label Arbutus about to celebrate 10 years with so many labelmates and pals residing elsewhere, Welsh feels like something of an outlier from that indie scene.

Welsh says he’s remained because it feels like home and he still has a number of important relationships here, but understandably the city inspires him differently than it used to. Majical Cloudz was born from the afterparty scene, while Welsh solo came to life a bit closer to regular business hours.

“It feels different to me, but maybe that was because I was young at the time and now I’m older,” he says. “There was a period where a lot of people I knew were of the same age and had the same serious approach to making music. That was inspiring, just being around other people who wanted to go for it and make things that were professional. That feeling has dispersed a little as people have moved on and made careers in music. So that feels different, but also being older and not going out and experiencing the nightlife as much is different, too. The culture of what young people do has also changed, because DJs and electronic music parties are more common now, whereas 10 years ago, there were parties but with live bands, and what I was doing could plug into that somewhat.”

While the name and sound have changed — there are strings this time around — one thing Welsh continues to be known for is being an emotional frontman. There’s a directness to his words and delivery that resonate with people perhaps looking for a close confidante when they listen to his music. Some early press for Dream Songs heralded him as a beacon of hope in trying times, which probably says more about the way people perceive the world today as opposed to what Welsh is doing.

“It sets me up to be something that I’m probably not, that I’m a truth teller in a world of lies,” Welsh says. “But the idea of making earnest music? Yeah, I’m into that. It’s something I want to do. I’m into expressing myself in a way that’s authentically true to my own life, but I think a lot of people have that hope for their music.” 

Note: In a Reddit AMA, sexual assault allegations against Welsh’s former bandmate in Majical Cloudz, Matthew Otto, were brought to light. The Reddit poster also said Otto had since appeared in the audience at Welsh solo shows. Given this information, in lieu of specifically recommending an upcoming show, check out PLURI, an organization that focuses on improving safety and inclusivity on dancefloors.

Devon Welsh’s Dream Songs is available now.