AMERICAN IDOL CONTESTANT RELEASING CHRISTMAS SINGLE AND FIRST EP
Featured image of Devin Velez in Chicago, IL | Courtesy of Mario Castro
BRAND NEW MUSIC COMING SOON FROM TELEVISION PERFORMER
This performing artist was born and raised in Chicago. His first solo was at the age of two and a half years old. Singing in a church choir until he was five, he moved on to join the Chicago Children’s Choir before and during his adolescence.
In High School, he led the Rickover Naval Academy Advanced Jazz Band, and also had the opportunity to be the lead role in the High School production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. Growing up, this musically inspired soul listened to all different genres; from gospel to rock, pop to Spanish, R&B and show tunes.
Having a mother that sang made it easy to have the support in trying new things involving music, Devin and his mother have always had a very special bond. As time went on, he wanted to try new things, such as, competitions. He had done some showcases as a kid, and even done some local traveling with the choir and with the jazz band, but it was time for something on a greater scale. Sophomore year, he auditioned for the show “X-Factor”. Waiting nine hours in line with a dream and a song, and got turned down. Determined to only get better, he waited until Junior year to audition for the show “The Voice”; another “no”.
Finally, senior year came around and he was more eager than ever. He auditioned for “American Idol” and ended up winning 8th Place out of the country. On Idol, he confidently performed themes such as Country, Pop, R&B, ballads and even music by The Beatles. The song that truly captured the audience and America was his bilingual performance of “Somos Novios/It’s Impossible” by Luis Miguel/Perry Como. Receiving a standing ovation from Randy Jackson and making Mariah Carey cry.
After the show, he went on to be a guest and sing on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “Live! With Kelly & Michael”, “Ryan Seacrest Live”, “Entertainment Weekly with Michael Slezak”, & FOX TV News. He went on to also perform in the American Idol Summer Tour in 2013, which featured 30 domestic cities as well as two cities in Canada.
Since his time on Idol, he still lives and breathes music. He released original music last year in April, has had his first independent sold out show in New Jersey last November, and is working on a Christmas project now. He continues to succeed in his career by working on his first EP, performing at various events and leads a corporate band in Chicago.
In the words of Keith Urban, whom was a judge on Idol ‘s season, that he “was born to sing”, and this profound performer doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. He is none other than Devin Velez. We had the pleasure of sitting down with him to get deep and personal about both his professional and personal life.
NIE: Thank you for taking your time and having this interview with us. We are so happy to hear you have an upcoming single being dropped this Christmas season. What can you tell us about the song?
Devin Velez: I’m planning on releasing a song we’re working on, as a Christmas single. This project has been so much fun so far, mainly because I feel like it’s the most freedom I’ve had with a song. The previous songs that I’ve released were written and produced by other people, but this time I wrote the lyrics and melody independently.
Another sense of familiarity was in the fact that I’m working with my producer Eddie Torres for a 3rd song! This is extremely comforting as an independent artist because I’m strengthening rapport and getting to develop more of a musical relationship with him. I feel that working with a producer that already knows so much about how I work, my energy, and style of music, it just makes the building of the song when it’s just “bones” so much smoother.
The song is going to be a catchy, jingly tune, much like the vibe of Michael Bublé’s “Haven’t Met You Yet”. I didn’t listen to this specific song for inspiration, but after sitting at the piano, that’s the vibe I got after composing the melody. The whole song came to me in one night, (which is very unusual for me). I have always had a hard time writing a “complete” song, lyrically and melodically, so for this song to completely just form as I was playing, it felt like a real milestone in my singing career/journey. When we release the single, it will be released on all streaming platforms such as: Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, etc.
NIE: What does this song mean to you and how is it different than what we’ve heard before?
Devin Velez: This Christmas single is definitely going to be something new for me, being that I’ve never done an original Christmas song. I’ve also never written a complete song alone, so this is going to be a project that I’ll be very proud of.
NIE: You mentioned about working on your first EP for 2020. First of all, is this song going to be included as a single for the album? And what can we expect next year? And why now?
Devin Velez: Yes! Next year I’m looking to work on, and hopefully release my first original EP. The Christmas single coming out this year won’t be on the EP due to the fact that I don’t want to add a song that will change the aesthetic of the EP.
My goal for the EP is 5 songs, all original, and I’d love to collaborate with other writers for this project. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew by forcing myself to TRY and come up with 5 songs that are completely different but still fit cohesively into an EP.
Why now? I think it’s time. I’ve been singing “professionally” for about 5 years now, and I’ve only just released a few singles last year. I think it’s time to show people, (my fans especially) who Devin is, what I’ve gone through, who I’ve become, and what I’m capable musically. I’m excited to show them AND myself what I know I was born to do.
NIE: You originally auditioned to X-Factor and The Voice but unfortunately did not make it, what made you audition for American Idol? And how was the experience of ultimately winning 8th place in the country?
Devin Velez: So growing up, once I was about 8 years old, I knew that I wanted to sing. I was singing all of the time, in the Chicago Children’s Choir, in school, at church, home, EVERYWHERE. Getting older I had agreed with my mom that I wanted to audition for one of those singing shows. We watched American Idol every year, every episode, voted for our favorites, took notes on what we would’ve done differently.
I waited until I was in High School, due to feeling like I was more mature mentally and vocally. I auditioned for X-Factor my sophomore year, waited 9 hours and didn’t even make it to the call-back rounds. My junior year, I auditioned for The Voice, and we waited 7 hours the first day, got a callback, waited 3 hours the next day and didn’t make it past that round. Rather than being discouraged, every time I got turned down, I self-evaluated what I did, how I prepared and just worked at getting better. I wanted to learn from my mistakes and grow. My senior year, I auditioned for Idol, and ended up being 8th in the entire season.
“Save your money. Learn to read music.”
- Devin Velez
Idol was surreal. I was 18, singing in front of hundreds of people in the studio, and millions at home through the television. Singing in front of celebrities like Keith Urban, Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj & Mariah Carey! Looking back, it’s crazy that it happened so fast. I went from being a senior at a military high school worrying about graduation, prom and dating, to living in Los Angeles, with assistants, publicists, more money than I had ever had at that age, and a D class celebrity status. It was a wild ride, and one that I would do over and over again. The only thing I wish I would’ve done differently is paid more attention. I had no idea of how the music industry worked, or the pace or real work it took to have “longevity”. All I knew was what they showed us/me, which was that this was just how it was; I always had a car waiting for me, and someone with my itinerary for the day. I didn’t see the “grind”. It’s crazy to think that for the rest of my life, I’ll have the title of 8th place Idol for Season 12, but it’s one that I’m grateful for. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of amazing people and even some great opportunities because of the show, and it’s something I’ll never forget.
NIE: What vital information have you gained from being on the television show that the public is not aware about?
Devin Velez: One of the main things that I saw from being on the show that we didn’t see on the tv as a viewer is, that it’s very much Show Biz. I didn’t learn much while being on the show because no one was really teaching anything or saying, ‘hey pay attention’. Everything was done behind the scenes and I just showed up for things; and while this sounds glamorous, it’s also an inconvenience because then when the show was done, I had no idea how to go about my career, what questions to ask, who to go to, and how it was even going to happen.
I feel that the producers also knew how they wanted the show to go, who stayed, who went home, who won, and directed the show as such. Do I believe that America votes, yes, but I believe that ultimately the producers of the show got to make the final call.
NIE: What is your biggest reward about being an artist and why?
Devin Velez: The biggest reward for me as an artist is when I’m told by someone that they got through something hard in their life because of my songs or performances. I’ve had this happen on multiple occasions, one of them being just last week! I was singing at a wedding with my band at the Botanic Gardens. One of the sound engineers named Casey (whom I’ve never met before that night) came up to me during our intermission and hugged me and said “I’ve been going through some stuff and I just wanted to thank you, because after hearing you sing, I feel like it’s going to be ok.” I live to do this. I strive to be a person that can make a difference even if just one person at a time every time I sing.
NIE: What are some of your techniques that have helped hone your skills?
Devin Velez: Some of the best techniques I’ve found, include listening to instrumentals of jazz and blues and imitating some of the horn licks/runs or bass lines. In doing this, Ive found that my ear has gotten better at riffing in and out of scales, and it’s also grown my love for REAL instruments.
Another group of things that have resulted in better technique is visiting an ENT for my vocal health, changing my diet, seeing a speech pathologist, and finally meeting with a vocal coach. These all have contributed greatly to bettering my technique.
NIE: Where did the desire to be a singer stem from?
Devin Velez: Growing up seeing my mother singing is really what made me want to sing. For a large chunk of my childhood, it was just my mother and I, and I grew up being not just a “church kid” but also a “studio kid”. I remember being just a little stinker sitting in the vocal booth with my mother, promising to be quiet and just being mesmerized by watching her be in a different element. I also loved watching mom sing at church, this was often and I remember just wanting to follow in those footsteps.
As I got older, Mom became my biggest supporter and we did things like signed me up for talent shows, mom was at all of my church and choir performances, high school plays, etc. I couldn’t NOT sing, I only began to sing more and more.
Singing was and is still the only thing that I felt as an escape. It’s the only thing that I couldn’t live without, that I truly get true fulfillment doing, and something that I’d do for free.
NIE: What has been the most challenging for you in your career, and why?
Devin Velez: I have a love/hate relationship with this question. I love it because I get to make people a little more aware of certain things, but I hate it because I feel silly for sounding so uninformed. The most challenging thing has been trying to keep up the image of being someone who has made it to a higher level or caliber of the music industry, except I still have no real idea of what I’m doing. Haha. I have some experience, but again not much of the details.
When I was on the show Idol, there wasn’t a course or someone saying, “Hey, this isn’t really how the Show Biz works when you haven’t paid your dues”, there was really just someone telling me where to be and at what time. While this sounds like the “life”, it’s quite inconvenient for someone who is trying to make it, with nothing but false ideas and examples of what is to come, and the REAL work that goes into it.
NIE: What obstacles do you face as an artist and what do you do to overcome and achieve your goals?
Devin Velez: I feel like every artist has his own obstacles, but one UNIVERSAL obstacle for every artist is vulnerability. As a songwriter, exercising how to give much but not be too blunt, or too open, or show too much emotion but just enough is quite difficult. One wants to be transparent for the sake of sharing likeness with the audience, empathetic even, but too much and there’s nothing left to write about or keep for yourself.
What I do to overcome overthinking, is I listen to more music by other amazing artists, and then I sing a little louder.
NIE: What would you say is the biggest asset for anyone in the entertainment industry to achieve?
Devin Velez: I think consistency, and relevancy is most important for anyone to survive in this music industry today. We have to be constantly posting and doing covers of songs or messaging fans back to keep our fanbase growing or leveled at the very least. Social media has been both the best and worst thing to happen to music. It’s great because its free marketing (to an extent) but the worst because now, “anyone” whether they’re good or not can make themselves famous.
“Go all in. Ask all of the questions you have, and use the “less, equal, higher” mentality.”
- Devin Velez
NIE: What are some of your secret tips that help you in this industry to keep grounded and focused?
Devin Velez: It’s not much of a secret, but my faith in God is something that I treasure. Another hugely important thing is my mother & partner, no matter how “famous” I get, they remind me that I’m still JUST Devin and treat me so. All of these things, as well as a good close circle of people truly help in keeping me grounded. I haven’t changed who my friends were from before I was in the spotlight, so they’ve seen it all.
I thank God that I have the people that He’s placed in my life, they’re truly great.
NIE: Who inspires you to be a better at your profession?
Devin Velez: Honestly, there are SO many talented people out there, and I don’t look at anyone as if they were competition, I look at them as inspiration. I’ve been sining with a Corporate Band for the last 4 years and I’ve had the most fun and have matured vocally in singing with them.
People like Sarah Marie Young, Lalah Hathaway, Kim Burrell, Stevie Wonder, Smokie Norful, Tori Kelly, Jonathan McReynolds, Jonathan Butler, and so many more!
NIE: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in the field?
Devin Velez: If I were to give advice to someone wanting to become an established singer, I’d say… Go all in. Ask all of the questions you have, and use the “less, equal, higher” mentality; Keep yourself humble by hanging around people who maybe haven’t achieved what you have, keep yourself sharp by hanging around people that are on your same level, and finally, hang around people who are more advanced than you for the sake of not being a “know-it-all”, and having goals to work towards.
Another piece of advice I’d give would be: Remember that there’s always going to be someone better than you, so instead of trying to be THE best, just be YOUR best. (I live by these words).
NIE: What are the most impactful words of wisdom someone told you and who was it?
Devin Velez: The most impactful words of wisdom I’ve heard are, “The Lord will fight for you, You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14. (Moses speaking to the Israelites as they were getting ready to walk across the Red Sea).
NIE: What are three things you would say to your younger self that you know now?
Devin Velez: If I could tell my younger self 3 things that I know now, I would say…
- You’re not in love.
- Save your money.
- Learn to read music.
NIE: So what else is next for you besides the new music? Any upcoming shows?
Devin Velez: Besides this new Christmas single & the planning for my first original EP in 2020, what’s next is I want to do more shows locally. I haven’t been doing a lot of public shows, but I want to get more Chicago fans being able to see me so that they can see more of what good music is happening in our hometown.
NIE: Thank you for having this interview with us. Is there anyone you would like to thank at this time?
Devin Velez: Thanks so much for having me, I’ve had an amazing time with you all here at News In Entertainment. I’d also like to thank my producer Eddie Torres, I’d like to thank my mother Liz for always keeping me grounded, my partner Brian for being the best. And finally, I’d love to personally thank all of the fans and supporters that have not left my side. I am grateful for all of the wishes, prayers and love. Stay tuned, we’re only getting started.