Janet Devlin: ‘I wanted an album I wouldn’t regret. I’ve got to live with it for the rest of my life’

Janet Devlin
Janet Devlin
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In the world according to Simon Cowell, budding singers appear on The X Factor and then release a record a year later, just in time to publicise it on the next series of Syco’s money-making media machine.

But Janet Devlin, who was a big star in X Factor 2011, isn’t releasing her debut album until this autumn.

The rumours are that the petite 18-year-old redhead from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland turned down a record deal with Cowell.

‘I wanted to go off and write an album I’d be really proud of and know that, when it did come out, I wouldn’t regret it. I’ll have to live with it for the rest of my life,’ she explains.

‘There were a couple of major labels that tried to sign me but I didn’t agree with the vibe they were going for, so I thought I could just go ahead and do it myself.’

Instead, Janet chose the increasingly popular method of crowdfunding her debut. This is where people pledge money online or buy copies of the album in advance and other items like posters, tour tickets, personal items of Janet’s and even shows in their own homes.

Says Janet: ‘I obviously wanted it to go well, but it really exceeded my expectations. It got to 163 per cent of the money we needed.

‘It’s just astonishing. The reaction has been great.

‘It’s also been good to reward the people who have pledged. I’ve decided to do an acoustic EP, just for them. It will include Your Song (which people were surprised wasn’t on the album), a couple of originals and maybe one other cover.’

Elton John’s Your Song was what Janet sang in her X Factor audition. She also memorably put her own spin on Coldplay’s Fix You, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under The Bridge and Florence and the Machine’s Cosmic Love on the show.

But Janet reckons that, despite finding fame singing other people’s songs on the ITV show, people won’t be expecting an album full of covers from her.

‘There’s enough followers on Twitter and people know I’ve worked with Newton Faulkner, so they know I’ve written loads of songs of my own.

‘There’s a lot of people that shouldn’t be expecting covers.’

Faulkner’s punchy and catchy acoustic guitar style can be heard all over her track Wonderful, while Things We Lost In The Fire is a perfect example of the current trend in folk-pop ballads and should be a chart big hitter.

Janet’s written with an array of other big names including singer-songwriters Joshua Radin and Jack Savoretti.

But, while she finds inspiration in working with other musicians, Janet admits that having other people’s songs foisted on her for The X Factor was tough.

‘It wasn’t easy but I knew, in the long run, it would help me to do what I wanted to do,’ she says.

Janet was just 16 when she took part in The X Factor.

Although she came fifth – behind Little Mix, Marcus Collins, Amelia Lily and Misha B – she received the highest consecutive public vote out of all the 2011 contestants.

‘I think the week that I left was brilliant,’ Janet explains. ‘I had enough time to get my name out and it was a great platform. But it also meant that I might not always be associated with The X Factor, that I can get my music across and people can appreciate it without thinking of the association with a TV show.

‘Hopefully, people will think of me as my own person,’ she adds.

One unexpected development arose from her time in The X Factor was Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love getting in touch to tell Janet that she was related to the Nirvana frontman.

‘I’ve never traced my family bloodline, but apparently his family came from the same part of the world as mine does,’ explains Janet.

‘There was a Cobane side of the family and the story goes – as I was told by Courtney Love – that it used to be Cobane, but when they moved to America they changed the spelling to Cobain.

‘It was awesome to hear from her because I’m a fan of her band Hole.

‘She called the NME and my make-up artist is getting married to the editor, so the contact came that way which is a bit of a coincidence.

‘It was pretty awesome to be offered some Nirvana songs. I loved them, I had posters on my wall of Nirvana. I’ve never recorded their songs but I did a couple of live broadcasts for fans and played a couple then.’

So, she’s had a pretty amazing couple of years. But, Janet refuses to name a highlight. ‘That sounds like putting your life in a competition and I won’t do that,’ she says.

Somewhere at the top of her list must be playing for the Dalai Lama.

‘It was in April as part of the Culture of Compassion event in Derry for [Irish charity] Children in Crossfire.

‘It was definitely one of the most surprising things I’ve done. I got to walk him to his car afterwards and he seemed lovely.’

She’s also played to 80,000 people at half-time in the All Ireland Gaelic Football Final.

‘That was great,’ says Janet. ‘I was obviously a bit nervous about such a big crowd but I got to play all my original songs there.

‘Playing to big audiences is great in a situation like that. Wherever I get to play my own songs I love it. It’s great to let people see what I’ve spent my time doing.’

It may not be as big a crowd as 80,000 and the Dalai Lama may not be among them, but there will be plenty of other big names at Janet’s next performance at Victorious Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard this weekend.

She says: ‘The festival in Portsmouth will be different again because I’m bringing my band, so it should be fun. I’m sure there will be a bit of banter.’

Janet is on stage in the Starboard Arena at the Victorious Festival in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard at 5pm tomorrow.