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    Cover photo: Devon Gilfillian at this year's Forecastle Festival. // John Miller

    On June 29, Devon Gilfillian’s tour van was struck head-on by a drunk driver on a Georgia highway, less than a mile from what was supposed to be the very first stop of his summer tour. The vehicle was totaled, and a fair amount of equipment was destroyed. Though shaken, Gilfillian and manager Jonathan Smalt were fine. But their friend and driver, Jesse, remained pinned in the driver’s seat until help arrived. He was rushed to the hospital with a broken ankle and several broken ribs.

    Devon and his touring mates managed to compose themselves and resume touring within a day of the accident. Though the first couple stops were wrought with aches and injuries both mental and physical, they’ve persevered. They performed at Forecastle on Friday.

    We spoke with Gilfillian about touring, being a working musician in Nashville and the inspiration for his flexible fusion of rock, blues and soul.

     

    Have you toured on this large a scale before?

    Yeah, we just toured (with R&B artist) Anderson East and (Brooklyn-based musical group) The Lone Bellow earlier this year.

     

    How do you pass the time on those long drives?

    Reading and listening to podcasts. Podcasts more so, because nausea sets in if I read too much.

     

    What’s your favorite place you’ve visited so far that you hadn’t before?

    I really love Toronto. We were just there recently. It’s a very cool city. It’s like a clean New York, a melting pot of a lot of different kinds of people. The favorite venue so far is definitely Red Rocks (an amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado), where we opened for The Fray.

     

    You’re originally from Pennsylvania, but moved to Nashville recently, right? What made you decide to move?

    Right! I’ve been in Nashville for five years. I had just finished college, and wanted to move to a musical city. I love it. It’s honestly perfect for being a broke musician; you only have to work about 30 hours a week to make rent, and you can use the rest of your time to hustle and play. I think it’s one of the top three musical cities, easily.

     

    Have you visited Louisville much?

    Not as much as I’d like to, though we’ve played a couple of very small venues that I can’t remember the names of there in the last couple years. 

     

    Have you played at a fest like Forecastle before? Do you have anybody you’re excited to see on Friday?

    Yeah, we played Pilgrimage in Franklin, Tennessee last year, which was off the hook. We played Austin City Limits too. I’m really hoping I get to hang with Father John Misty. We have another date set for Saturday, though, so we won’t get to hang around very long.

     

    You cover a lot of genres from soul to blues. Where does the bulk of your inspiration stem from?

    Definitely would say the bulk of my inspiration comes from rhythm and blues. I would say my biggest inspirational figure would be Jimi Hendrix. He covers all those genres —  rock, funk, soul, etc. He covers all the different emotions too. (His music) will make you feel like crying, and then you’ll get a funk song that’ll make people get up and move. Hendrix was the launching point into my classic rock and rhythm and blues lifestyle. Music nowadays is less focused on genre and more on mood.

     

    How do you go about writing your songs?

    Usually, very randomly. I’ll get melodies or hooks that pop into my head, and I’ll record them in voice memos and build around those. Very rarely will it start out lyrically. Whatever emotions I’m feeling, I’ll pull melodies out of, and then use lyrics to fill in the blanks.

     

    You released the single “Troublemaker” earlier this year. Should we expect a debut LP soon?

    We had “Troublemaker” as a demo, and Capitol records was interested in having it re-recorded for the NFL draft coverage. We weren’t sure if they would take it for sure, or not, but we said fuck it and recorded the thing anyway. They did love it and ended up using it. I think it we’ll remain a standalone single, though. We’re working with Shawn Everett, who’s worked with The War on Drugs and Alabama Shakes on a record that will probably release early next year. It’s very exciting. I couldn’t have dreamt of recording and touring around the United States at this point in time.

     

    Learn more about Gilfillian at his website, and you can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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    About Aaron Hartley

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