Deyaz talks new music, his journey so far, navigating social media as an introvert, and finding purpose after his talent led him into the spotlight.
Speaking to the multi-instrumentalist Deyaz over Zoom, I have a realisation. You can have talent and self-assurance in spades without being the loudest in the room. A self-confessed introvert, I get a sense that although an interview might not be the situation where the artist feels most at ease, his passion, gentle determination, and honesty speak for themselves.
Still only 22, taking a dive into Deyaz’s bio and it seems he’s already lived more lives than most. Raised in East Ham, London, his musical journey begun at 12 after the discovery of guitar. It became the first instrument he self-taught with videos on YouTube, as piano, bass and drums soon followed. A scholarship to Guildhall at 15 marked another chapter, before making the decision to find other opportunities. He then played drums in Camden’s punk circuit despite being a good decade junior to his peers, also counting a stint as a sound engineer in the world of UK rap as part of his story.
Arriving at his current sound with these experiences having shaped him musically, and personally, Deyaz is open about his past struggles with mental health, addiction and homelessness. Music is his outlet, and unsurprisingly considering the breadth of his influences, the concept of being un-confined musically is important to him. Deyaz’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, picking up streams in the multimillions and recently performing on Jools Holland. Having been to a Deyaz gig at The Courtyard Theatre last year, the rapport he describes between himself and his fans was evident. Across our conversation he stresses the two-way nature of their relationship, reiterating that they’re helping him just as much as he’s helping them.
New track “Bones” out today is quintessential Deyaz, the emotive lyrics underpinned by a soaring topline melody and ear-pleasing harmonies. His core instrument is acoustic guitar, and it sings in this new release. Currently wrapping up his second EP, he promises lots of new music this year alongside ventures into fashion and beyond. Discussing his new music, we rundown his journey so far, navigating social media as an introvert, and finding his purpose after his talen led him into the spotlight.
Let’s start right at the beginning. Have you always known that music was what you wanted to do?
When I was about 12 or 13, I was heavily into sports, as most kids are. My brother left his guitar at home when he went to university, and I picked it up one summer holiday and it went from there. Very quickly, within that year, I was very tunnel-visioned with music. It’s been like that ever since.
You started studying it at Guildhall then stopped. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I got the scholarship when I was about 14 or 15. It was the junior department where you would do three to four years and have a direct route into the conservatoire. My family were over the moon about that; throughout me doing music they’ve always wanted me to have some form of educational stability. It was great at first, I was there for a year, but once I got to a place where I felt that all the loose ends were tied, regarding what I taught myself and learning the theory behind it, it became more of a social challenge than an educational tool for me.
The other kids were from different musical backgrounds where it was more formally taught, and I just couldn’t adapt to it, and I felt a slight pressure from the tutors there. I just thought it was the best thing for me to leave it where it was. It was still a great experience, but it just wasn’t for me. Straight off the bat, I got into a bunch of rock bands and started playing drums, bass, guitar around Camden sort of circuits.
Did you learn anything about yourself or about where you wanted to be musically from that decision?
Yeah, I think that was the first experience where I knew I wanted to design my world of music rather than do it strictly as a job. When I was younger, I was happy to just be a session guitarist, I’d have happily just worked in a guitar shop. It made me realise I’d rather go into music without any confinement.
Being a drummer in Camden at 15 must’ve an experience…
Yeah, it was cool. I was really young. At the time, I was just grateful to be playing music, even if it was on the weekends or after school. I was 15 and everyone else was in their mid 20s, so was a good learning experience.
Did instruments always come naturally to you?
The first instrument was guitar – that was just learnt through YouTube – sort-of self-taught. Then I got a little keyboard and I think that was when I saw the dots connecting with music. Whether it’s drums, piano or guitar, they all interlink in some way. If you’re learning some of them at the same time, it gives you other perspectives on the instrument you’re learning. That became a fascination for me too.
Do you feel like your relationship to these instruments is different because you’re self-taught?
Yeah, I think it works for me. I’ve been by myself during the whole experience, and I can keep up with my ear musically, even if I can’t sight read. I don’t mind that I haven’t learned in the traditional ways.
Do you think growing up in London has influenced your music?
Maybe more subconsciously, when I was younger, I wasn’t aware of it. London has a really thriving music scene, especially for the younger generation which definitely opened me up to a lot of the stuff.
How do you navigate the emotional aspects and balance putting your emotions into songwriting whilst also not giving everything away?
I think I’m still struggling with the balance, a lot of my family ask me what the songs are about. I think writing-wise for me, I’ll have a feeling and then from there it’s an unconscious process. Sometimes if I write one sentence of a verse, I’ll write the three next lines that come to mind – and just keep it. I try to keep it very feelings based.
Do you feel like songwriting’s helped you through difficult periods?
Yeah, completely. I think genuinely if I didn’t have music as an outlet, I would have a lot more difficulties going on in life. You know, consistently from a teenager to now. It’s been a massive outlet for me, mental health-wise. Even social-wise. You know, it’s just, it’s genuinely given me a purpose, as cliche as it sounds.
I mean, it’s a cliche for a reason. I found it refreshing how open you are about anxiety and mental health on social media. Do you feel that being open with your listeners and your fans is important?
If it wasn’t for the prospect that my music could be helping people, my drive for doing this would be a lot smaller. Even doing interviews, for instance, is socially challenging thing for me. I’m an introvert.
Once I put that first EP out, I was very shaky on the concept of doing this as a career, but the response and the fans saying that it’s helping them through stuff feels like my obligation as a creative to keep going. It definitely helps me mutually along the way and I’m growing through the experience as well. It’s a mutual relationship between the fans and myself.
Where do you usually find the inspiration when you’re writing? Is it emotions, or life experiences?
It’s so subjective to where I’m at. With what I’m doing right now, I’m basing my inspiration around different genre influences. This project coming out now is my own version of folk. I wouldn’t say it’s traditional folk, but it’s massively influenced by that John Martyn, he’s one of my favourite songwriters.
Your latest single, “Bones”, has gone down really well. Were you expecting that reaction?
I’m really surprised by the reaction. TikTok’s been a massive, helping hand at getting the music out. If I’m proud of the work and the team as a collective, we feel really passionately about putting it out into the world. It’s icing on the cake when people react really well and resonate. I’m really grateful.
How is it as a more introverted person navigating platforms like TikTok and Instagram?
It’s horrible, let me tell you. I am grateful – it’s definitely where the majority of my fan base has come from – and I’ve met some amazing fans through it. I think for me personally, if I’m being brutally honest, it’s definitely hard to maintain. Prior to doing music, I never really maintained socials, I was very a private person. It goes back to me growing through the experience. I’m having to let go of a lot of stuff and be a bit less reserved and a bit more lighthearted. I’m grateful for it, and I’m happy I can connect with fans through it, but it’s definitely hard to maintain for sure.
Can you tell me a bit about the themes in “Bones”?
I wrote it about two years ago in a session with a producer and writer, we were in there for eight hours. “Bones” came out of it and we all felt really strongly about it. The lyrical content for me was really close to my heart. I was working on a lot of music at the time so it got swept under the carpet. Then in the last few months, we started working on it again. It’s definitely one of my favourite songs from the project and I hope it connects with a lot of people.
Congratulations on the Jools Holland performance! Do you feel like that was a highlight of your career so far?
Yeah, definitely. Watching back, I was definitely bricking it. It was all very surreal. It was a show that growing up with my mum, so she was pressuring me before to definitely do it! It’s one of the best things that I’ve done in the last couple of years. I’m really grateful to even have had the opportunity so early.
How do your parents feel about where you’re at now?
They’re really supportive. My mum’s one of my biggest fans, I think. I think of differences we had in the past were from how any parent wants to ensure safety and stability for their child. There can be a negative stigma attached to a career in music but I think now they can see it connecting, finally.
How about you? If the 15 year old Deyaz playing in bands in Camden was looking at your current self, how would he feel? Is this where you expected to be?
Completely the opposite. I thought I was designing my life to be a behind-the-scenes musician. Even with the first project, that was written as a ghostwriting and publishing venture. I never intended to put myself in a spotlight position, but it’s really mutually beneficial helping fans out. That became our purpose with it all. I’m looking forward to the future.
What can we look forward to from Deyaz this year?
I’m working with Dr. Martens currently for a campaign, I’m definitely trying to venture more into fashion linked with music because I’m passionate about that. Some live shows coming up as well, and hopefully a headline tour towards the end of the year, fingers crossed.