Devon Gilfillian on finding his peace

By Sabrina Li

Image courtesy of Devon Gilfillian.

The day after his first therapy appointment, Devon Gilfillian’s image peers out from his webcam, is sent through a series of Zoom servers, and reappears in the pixels behind my beat-up laptop screen.

Gilfillian, like the rest of us, has been trapped in his home with nowhere to go for the past few months. Quarantine for Gilfillian interrupts a series of tours and shows he had lined up for this summer following the early 2020 release of his debut album, Black Hole Rainbow.

The Summer 2020 Devon Gilfillian line-up included major festivals like Bonnaroo and Firefly, and touring with Fitz & the Tantrums, but the thought of a corona-less timeline doesn’t seem to weigh heavily on his shoulders.

“I think that this time is so precious, we’re never gonna get a moment like this again to sit and reflect.” After playing 186 shows last year, Gilfillian’s finally able to take a moment of rest “before everything gets cooking again—‘cause it is gonna get cooking again.”

But for now, he’s taking this time to cook for himself, delve into production, and better himself through therapy and self-reflection. A psych major in college, Gilfillian confesses this is the first he’s sought mental health services, “I’m like, alright. It’s time. I’m thirty now. I gotta get some therapy, be a healthy human, and deal with my problems.”

Gilfillian admits that, for a long time, music acted as his therapy. Throughout Black Hole Rainbow, Gilfillian’s clear voice carries a somber and hopeful tone, almost as if he’s singing to himself rather than 309,000 Spotify listeners.

“I want people to feel empowered within themselves, to say, ‘yes, I am in a dark place, but it’s okay.’” The album name itself even alludes to finding peace amidst a difficult time.

“I broke up with my girlfriend at the time and kind of had to learn how to love myself,” Gilfillian’s voice softens as he explains, “That was a huge thing… in knowing that you’re in a relationship that’s not working and you have to go your separate ways.” Gilfillian’s personal favorite off the record, “Thank Me Later” (inspired by a four-hour long conversation with a friend), explores this same idea.

Gilfillian’s recent discography speaks in direct conversation with the current political climate, “For me,” he starts, “it all leaks into my music.” To date, Gilfillian has marched and played in multiple protests and has formally spoken out on his platform against the Trump administration.

“I feel more empowered in this moment than I have—as a Black artist—than any time, really.” For Gilfillian, a Black artist with a fan base he understands is 90% white, speaking out as he did was no easy feat. There’s a risk being run of alienating those that support him, but as he puts it with the change of the times, “I’m not scared anymore.”

Stream Black Hole Rainbow on all streaming services and read the full press conference here