Former X Factor star Janet Devlin’s forthcoming album took four years and is such a personal concept album she has named it Confessional. David Hennessy will hear her confession now.
Janet Devlin was only 16 years old when she took to the X Factor stage and stunned all four judges with her hauntingly beautiful rendition of Elton John’s Your Song. Capturing the hearts of the nation, Janet was an early favourite to win the prized recording contract. The Tyrone singer would eventually finish fifth in the competition but still get her recording contract with her debut album Hide and Seek coming in 2013.
Now aged 25, Janet is about to release her extremely personal third album that has been four years in the making. Entitled The Confessional, it is a concept album that goes back to before she travelled to London to sing for four judges in a move that would change her life.
Janet told The Irish World: “A lot of people were like, ‘Why would an album take you four years?’ And that’s why I’m trying to hammer home ‘it’s a concept album’ because it is and because every song is a chapter of my life.”
Like the title suggests, the album is honest and even accompanied by a book where Janet tells all including about some unpleasant things that have happened to her.
“I suppose this book is going to blow a few people’s preconceived ideas about me out of the water. But I’m excited for that.
“I wanted to make sure the album was listenable start to finish like a regular album. It had to have a journey, it had to have varying moods but that meant it just took a long time.
“Then obviously I had to write a book and I think people know that I have the attention span of a small rodent so that was quite the task. I only found out afterwards that some people get other people to write their books for them, didn’t really know that was an option really. I actually wrote the whole thing myself so I’m always alarmed now when people go, ‘Oh, you wrote a book. Did you write the book?’
“I wrote the book writing about all the horrible stuff I’ve been through. It was a lot but it was amazing. It was a long thing but it was definitely worth it. For what it is, I’m very proud of it now.”
With the album out in May, the singles Confessional, Saints of the Sinners and Honest Men have gone down well.
This has been a pleasant surprise especially in the case of the latest one that Janet thought may have been too sexualised for some people: “I always expected more hate just because it was such a miserable song and it was January, I thought people would be like, ‘Way to go, bum us out’. But no, it was all really positive and then I was expecting more backlash to the music video because we went for that whole arty naked vibe and I thought I would get more hate but I didn’t. So far, so great.
“I got a wee bit (of hate) but not enough to think that’s the general consensus. I think it’s because I’ve got quite a big following in the states, they’re quite religious folk which is not a bother. However, there’s also nothing wrong with stripping and painting yourself in gold.”
Baring all seems to be the concept behind Confessional. As the project is so personal, did Janet get cold feet at any stage when it came to actually putting it out there? “The week before I put out the first song I was like, ‘No, I can’t do it’.
“For three days I was genuinely sure that I wasn’t going to put this album out. That was a wild ride. I got to the end of the three days and I couldn’t not put it out. I said to myself, ‘Don’t be such a baby. You worked this hard on it, you can’t just back away now’. I just needed a really good pep talk basically.”
Nine years on since Janet sang for Gary Barlow, Louis Walsh, Tulisa and Kelly Rowland, how does she look back on the whole X Factor experience? “I look back on it nicely. I was 16, what a great excuse to not go to school. It taught me you have to work hard if you want to do this.
“I still have some fans who were fans of me on the show and still are. I think that’s lovely.
“It took five years, maybe six years before people would stop making their first question always, ‘Tell us about X Factor’ and start going, ‘How does it feel to be a success story?’
“It was six years of, (patronising tone) ‘You’re giving it a go anyway, lovely stuff’. And even now some people don’t see me as a credible artist. I accept that. There will always be some people who can’t see past the fact that I did TV as a kid. That’s grand. That’s not my problem. That’s theirs.
“It would be very easy to come off a show like X Factor and expect everything to be handed to you because that’s what you get on the show. It’s so easy to think that, because you weren’t a pop star before, this is what it’s like. And it’s like, ‘No, I’m so sorry, my friend…’
“There is a big jump between playing Wembley Arena to then being not able to sell out a small capacity venue and have to work your way up. It wheedles the boys from the men. You have to be able to put your ego in check.”
Courtney Love has stated in the past that she believes Janet is distantly related to the deceased Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain: “Apparently so. I just remember her telling me what it is. Apparently Devlin married into Cobain before moving to America and then when they got to America, they changed the surname from Cobane to Cobain. She has all the documents and all so I don’t know, whatever she says. I’m not going to look into it. I’ll take her as an auntie. Adopt me, Courtney Love.”
Janet has said that this album has saved her, does she hope it can help other people also? “Honest to God, If this album could help one person, my job is done in that regard but for me, it was my own therapy. I’ve always found that writing for music, I almost get my subconscious feelings out.
“I’m a human being. I have feelings. I’m guessing that by law of probability that somebody might relate to my experiences. Some of the topics are very heavy but you can turn the negative into positive by creating beautiful art.”
The album Confessional is out in May. The singles Confessional, Saint of the Sinners and Honest Men are out now. Janetdevlin.com.