[The Uncommon Creatives] Interview with Devin Shacklett

I met Devin through a close friend of mine and I dont regret that we crossed paths. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been this vibrant ball of energy. Not only is Devin a great friend, but he exudes jubilant energy and creates positive energy and light for those around him. Devin is a master of movement and song. I am grateful to have sat down with him to find out a little more about his creative process.

Interview with Devin Shacklett and Shae McCoy

S: Ok, so your name, your age, and where you’re from?
D: Yes, I’m Devin Shacklett, I’m from Maryland and I currently live in the city. Is that good enough? (laughs).

S: Yes (laughs) What is it that you do creatively?
D: I currently do a lot creatively. My main love would definitely be singing and writing songs, but I also dance and do theater with my students. I teach at Mary Ann Winterling Elementary School and we do a lot of creative things.

S: Is that your passion, like everything that you just stated?
D: Absolutely.

S: Cool. Can you elaborate?
D: Umm, well, as far as music, I’ve been doing music literally all my life. I know that’s a cliché answer, but I always watched my mom singing, my older sister, my grandmother…so many people in my life are very musically inclined so I naturally picked that up. I fell in love with it instantly. While all my friends and everyone was outside playing football or basketball or whatever they were doing, I was in the house on my little piano teaching myself how to play on YouTube. The same with dancing really. I watched so many people on tv growing up, on awards shows, like Usher, Chris Brown, Beyoncé, and I just fell in love with the ability to captivate an audience. I was like ‘I know how to sing, let me learn how to dance too.’ So, I started dancing and really fell in love with it. I don’t have any actual, like technical, training in dancing. I’m currently in a dance company and I’m learning as much as I can at the age that I am. It’s been a very natural creative journey for me if you will. I joined a dance team and we did the little talent shows in middle school and we did one in freshman year of high school. In regard to acting and stuff, I was in school plays. I played Aladdin (chuckles) and I was the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. I enjoy performing, essentially, and I enjoy giving great vibes, expressing myself, and getting great feedback. Sometimes it’s bad feedback, but you got to get the people talking or whatever, you know (laughs).

S: (laughs) Ok, so how did you discover that any of these things were your passion, like what were the determining factors? What was the moment where you were like ‘ahh, I want to do this for like?’
D: So, it’s crazy. I was probably seven or eight years old and I was laying on my back staring at the ceiling as if I was in a music video and a camera was panning out above me if you will. And I was just looking up like dancing as I was on the ground, singing, looking up, and my sister walked and was like “What the hell are you doing?” (laughs) and I’m just sitting there and I’m like “yeah, I’m just doing a music video” and I feel like at that moment I was like I definitely want to do this. Obviously, there were other moments but that’s one right now that stuck on to me to share but there are so many different moments and I feel like on my journey I’m learning more and more about how much I’m in love with it. There was a certain time where I was like oh my god why is it not happening for me, I’m doing so much…and I’ve grown to like really fall in love with this process. I’m just excited because I know where we’re going. I’m falling in love with it every day. That’s my answer (laughs).

S: (laughs) Alright. What are some hardships that you’ve experienced so far as a creative?
D: Umm, hardships…pertaining to just like being–

S: To everything that you do creatively.
D: Right. You know, the typical…I tried out for The Voice and did not make it. But it’s okay. I did it twice. When I was younger, I tried out for the Baltimore School for the Arts and I did not make it, but that’s okay. I feel like that was political because I wasn’t a part of the TWIG program, but it’s fine. I feel like we all go through hardships, especially as artists and everyone is not going to accept your art and that’s okay. You do it for the people that will accept it. Yeah, and life, in general, really has affected my artistic journey, like the stresses of money and making time for my loved ones and all of that. Yeah.

S: What did those things teach you?
D: It really taught me to be persistent because I don’t feel like I’m hearing too many no’s these days. When all you were hearing are no’s, to hear yes, all the time, it’s a fulfilling feeling but at the same time, I also am learning that it doesn’t matter if I get a yes or a no. I’m gonna still do my art. I’m gonna still be myself. So, I guess that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from it. Don’t put too much energy behind the results.

S: Cool. How do you help others with what you do?
D: Umm, I find myself helping people in ways where they might not know that I’m helping them, like my friends and just people who hit me up. I try to be very supportive of whatever other people are doing and they see what I’m doing, and I feel like a lot of people around me are inspired by my growth and where I am. That alone is kind of helpful because people have told me, they thank me for being so free because it makes them feel like they can be free as well. Not only that, even direct conversations that I have with people like my friends and family every day and I try to see where they are in their journey and just try to get rid of as much negative energy as possible so that they can flourish. That’s one of my main goals really, to be inspiring and lead a life by example.

S: Aww, Imma cry (laughs). Alright so, in your creative field, what makes you stand out from other people? What is that unique thing that will make someone say, ‘that’s Devin work’?
D: That’s a good question. I’ll say, pertaining to my band WAV, that’s an acronym for What A Vibe–

S: Tell us about that,
D: So, I’m in a band. I’m the singer and I write the majority of the songs. Eli is the guitarist, Bari is the bassist, Arnette plays the drums, and we have a few people that we work with, extended family. WAV is literally that, it’s a wave of music and I feel like our sound is very unique to us and it’s definitely a vibe that you cannot get from anyone else. That’s not to say that other people’s work isn’t amazing because I listen to other people all the time, but I definitely hear the difference in the music. People tell me all the time that it’s a totally different vibe and that our name definitely stands for our sound. There’s a lot of people out there who have a unique sound. Besides just being artistic, I have a mission in life and that is, like I said, to inspire and to be inspired by others. Not to get too deep but I am a very big advocate for people who have been through abuse and are currently dealing with abuse. As a child, I was molested from the age of 6 until 9 and I feel like that really affected me in a way, but I’ve grown past that and I think that, ultimately, we all have to get passed being too scared and if I can be an advocate for being fearless, that’s my mission and it’s more important than the music.

S: Thank you for that, thank you. If you could do anything else other than what you’re currently doing, what would it be?
D: I definitely would be at someone’s university getting my master’s in psychology, minoring in music. I still plan to do that, it’s just a process. I probably would be a music teacher somewhere, still inspiring but on a smaller scale…well I’m on a small scale now but you know what I’m saying (laughs). I said I would be doing that instead, but I still plan to do that. When I’m like 80, well not 80 (laughs) but like when I’m 50 or 55, I will have an after-school music program where there are studios upstairs and dance studios in the basement. Just a very creative space and the main floor is a bunch of computers where people can edit for photography, gaming, programming, whatever your art is. I want to create a home base for the community in Baltimore to come to, eventually.

S: Cool. Who are your creative inspirations? Or what are your creative inspirations?
D: Oooh, or what is my creative inspiration?

S: You can combine the other question. You can tell me if you’ve met anybody who inspires you.
D: Well, I’ll say really everyone in my circle of friends and family is inspiring to me, even down to my own personal stories are inspiring to me or what’s going on in the culture is inspiring. I feel like it’s really important to talk about what’s actually happening to people, whether it be love or heartbreak or feeling captive or free, whatever it is, I feel like that’s what inspires me, stories. I’ll have the inspiration out of nowhere, I could be anywhere. I could be on the bus just sitting there and a melody will literally come in my head. Most of the time it’s the melody that will come to me first and then from there it’s really about the feeling that it gives me, or I feel that it expresses. Based off of that I might just come up with one line. If I’m there, the universe will just open up its doors of creativity and the whole song is on the paper.

S: That’s dedication boy, that’s dedication (laughs) umm, what has been the most rewarding thing to happen in your career so far?
D: Most rewarding for sure is just the amount of support around me, that even people who don’t know me have been giving me, I appreciate it so much because me and my band have been working so hard. We’ve been working for like a year and some change without even releasing anything, just really trying to find our sound and really believing in ourselves first and so it’s very rewarding to see so many people believing in us as well.

S: Alright and what do you think you can do a better job at as a creative?
D: Honestly, just be a better leader in what I’m doing or the different little artistic goals I have, I can manage my time and energy better. I think that’s very important, like if you’re going to be steering a boat then you need to be focused the whole time. Yeah, everyone has a moment where they can relax and chill but it’s like I’m driving this boat and I need to stay the fuck focused.

S: Right.
D: I’m not saying that I’m lacking but I definitely know…it’s funny, I always ask myself, in this situation or whatever it is, whether it is responding to someone’s negativity or just working, it’s like what would Beyoncé do? She’s such a great example of perfection to me. Like, what would Beyoncé do at this moment? Majority of the time, I feel like I’m aligned with what she would do even though I don’t know her personally but there are moments where I’m like she wouldn’t have responded to that, she wouldn’t have said fuck you bitch. She wouldn’t have said anything and just dropped a whole fucking album. Period. And she would have been able to do that because she wasn’t worried about what everyone else is doing, she was focused on herself.

S: Cool, and what do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
D: I see every creative avenue that I am a part of currently just being at a totally different level and not just being in Baltimore but everywhere, internationally. In five years, I see us winning some type of Grammys, and not just for the Grammys, but that level of success, I see us being there. As long as we stay focused and steering this in the right direction, I think we definitely have the potential to be legendary, iconic. I’m just excited, I’ve been excited. This process is amazing. Five years from now, who knows? I don’t know where I’ll be and I’m not gonna put a ceiling on that shit. Five years from now, I’m where ever God and the Universe thinks that I should be. Let’s do that. Let’s say that!

S: Alright, and to wrap this up, you can give everybody your socials and tell them where to find your band, you, everything.
D: So, my Instagram handle is @Devnthe1 and my bands Instagram is @watavibe, WAV is the acronym for that. My twitter handle is @dvnshacklet. And yeah, I think that’s it.

S: You spell your last name with one T?
D: Well my last name is with two t’s but for some reason, every time I try to add it on Twitter, it won’t let me add two T’s. It’s crazy but whatever. With those handles, you’ll be able to find everything that you need to know about me and the band. Our EP is in both my bio and the band’s bio. Probably around the time this interview is available, the EP will available for streaming on Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, and all that shit.

S: Thank you for sitting with me.
D: Thank you for asking me to do this interview, the fuck. I didn’t even know I was at that point in my life (laughs)

S: (laughs)