Devin Kennedy is not exactly a replica of John Mayer, but he’s got a little bit of the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s vibe. He pens and sings slow, dreamy tracks about a wide spectrum of feelings — mostly romantic.

And so it was no surprise that, during our one-on-one Zoom chat, he mentioned Mayer as one of his major influences. In fact, the Los Angeles native, like Mayer, went to Berklee College of Music.

“My first concert was Paul McCartney, and so that was a major inspiration point for me. My second concert was John Mayer. I’d say those were pretty big inspiration points for me at an early age. I loved how they played guitar. I loved how they’re musicians and songwriters first. And so I always gravitated towards that as I grew up… I always loved that kind of singer-songwriter feeling and songs that came straight from the heart.”

Photographed by Caden Houston

Kennedy’s heart seems to be constantly overflowing with love for music, life, and stories. Emotionally attuned to himself and those around him, the artist never lacks inspiration for new songs.

“There’s so much to write about, it’s almost endless these days. I find that I have my range of love songs. And when I’m in love, I like writing about love, and that’s been really fun to write about. It’s a beautiful thing. But I think that there’s also a lot of deeper and potentially sadder topics to touch on, you know. There’s so many different emotions in this life, and I want to try to communicate as much as I can.”

Luckily, the 27-year-old producer, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist rarely experiences writer’s block.

“I’m lucky to not have too much writer’s block these days. And I think that that’s mostly because I’ve been writing every day, or I try to do something creative just about every day… I have a lot of ideas. I just kind of jump around between a million different ideas until I write a song, you know? I guess I’m lucky in that way.”

Photographed by Caden Houston

The “California Rain” singer is also a self-confessed romantic — and a hopeless romantic. 

“I am a little bit of [both]. Let’s just say half and half,” he said, laughing.

In the track “In My Imagination,” which is also the title of his brand-new album released last month, Kennedy croons about falling in love with someone he hasn’t met yet, already painting a vivid picture of domestic bliss. 

He sings: “In my imagination / We got a house on a hill somewhere / In my imagination / On our porch with our rocking chairs / And there’s kids in the yard, too / And they’re looking just like you.” 

“It’s for the hopeless romantic in all of us, you know,” Kennedy said. 

The lyrics also go: “In this coffee shop the whole world stops / So I’m here writing stories up in my head/ I might love you but we’ve never met.” 

Kennedy also described how his new album, which consists of ten tracks, is “a little bit more somber,” and that he challenged himself by “doing less.”

“I have found that less is more in my music time and time again,” he said, explaining that for “In My Imagination,” he made sure that he only highlighted the meaning of the music and the song.

Photographed by Caden Houston

“[That’s] the most important thing as opposed to adding a bunch of different guitar parts that distract everybody from the lyrics, right? I got rid of so much stuff on these songs, and I just stripped them back to what I thought were only the important elements. And I think what that allowed me to do is really highlight the lyrics and the stories of the music.”

When asked if his album is autobiographical, Kennedy said it “absolutely is.” 

“It’s coming right from my experience… I just wanna write songs about what I’ve gone through,” he said, citing a couple of other tracks from the new album.

“[There’s a] song called ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ the last song on the album, which is admitting that you still love and care for this person, but your time together has come to an end, and that’s something that I think many of us have gone through,” he said.

Another significant song in the album for Kennedy is called “What Friends Are For,” where he said he “unpacked” his “definition of the meaning of friendship.”  

“The topic of friendship is something that in my adult life has been a learning curve… When you’re growing up, you kind of think that you’re gonna have your friends forever, and some of them stick around and some of them don’t, and so the true meaning of friendship is something that is ever-evolving for me.”

Photographed by Kory Archulet

Kennedy, who won Best New Emerging Artist at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards in 2018, has two million monthly listeners around the world. His music, a blend of pop, alternative, and R&B, is obsessively streamed in various cities in Asia — a large chunk of listeners, according to streaming data, are from Quezon City.

Hopefully, his Pinoy fans will get to see him perform live. After all, playing for a crowd is what he described as his most favorite thing about being a musician.

“I love playing live so much. Playing live shows is the whole reason I wanted to even write songs or learn how to produce music. I played at a talent show in seventh grade, when I was 13 years old, and I walked off stage and was like, ‘I want to do that for the rest of my life.’ And so I will never stop wanting to play live.”

When asked how music makes a difference in people’s lives, he said it’s a “universal language.”

“[Music] is like smiling or laughing. It’s something we need, and so I’ll never stop because of that. It’s like the most beautiful thing. It’s my way of communicating with the world, like, the coolest possible thing I could ever do. I’m very lucky.”