[Photo by: Amy Fleisher Madden]

DE’WAYNE poured his whole life experience into his debut record ‘Stains’

DE’WAYNE can’t help but smile every time he answers a question, no matter how serious the topic is. His personality and spirit are just infectious that way.

For a young man on the verge of releasing his debut full-length, DE’WAYNE is almost surprisingly calm while talking about the record. Where there would be nerves, instead he’s energized to finally be releasing a collection of music that is 100% authentic to him and his life.

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Stains, out now via Hopeless Records, is the amalgamation of a lifetime of experience and hardship. At just 25 years old, but wise beyond his youth, DE’WAYNE has gained a worldview perspective on survival, family, how to be authentic to himself and so much more. While his 11-track debut serves an assemblage of guitar-heavy tracks and upbeat rhythms fueled by brutal honesty, Stains also offers a manifesto of maturity and dialogue that has helped him to create a sense of community and plainly announces his intentions as an artist.

It’s clear from the album opener “National Anthem” to the closing track “Me Vs You” that DE’WAYNE has poured his entire existence and lifeblood into creating Stains. Across each track and intertwined between every lyric, DE’WAYNE is unafraid to expose unhealed wounds and drench himself in his experiences.

But despite putting his scars on full display, he’s taken the liberty to use his creative freedom to flourish amid his struggles versus letting them define him and hold him back. And even when DE’WAYNE candidly discusses sleeping on a roach-infested floor or the consciousness he has when spending money, he still always begins and ends each sentence with a smile on his face.

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In an exclusive interview with Alternative Press, DE’WAYNE basked in the creation of his forthcoming album, revealed how he connects his family to his music and more. You can read an excerpt from the interview and watch a clip from DE’WAYNE’s interview below.

While I was listening to Stains, it felt to me like there was no way you could just slap a label or a genre on it. And it was like, “This is what it is, and that’s it.” Because it’s such a mixed bag of genres. It’s like a smorgasbord of genre and thoughts and emotion and style and attitude. Your leading single and opener on the album “National Anthem,” you put out in 2020. I feel like that song could have set a tone for the album, but it didn’t. What was your thought process and throughline? Because no song is like each other. They all create a story that tells your story.

Yeah, I just wanted to tell my story over these songs. I really was like, “OK, this is my debut album.” Not to be like, “I want to be different,” but I wanted to make a project that was innovative and forward-thinking and not just of the time—something that I can listen to in a few years or five years and still be proud of it, because I know what’s hot right now and what’s good right now, but I want it to be also important in a few years. So I just want to take every story that I had 25 years leading up to making one album.

I just try to take every story and every inspiration, put it all into here but still have you able to sing along to it. But I don’t want it to be so much of a mixed bag to where people couldn’t put it in a place. But I think as we grow, people understand what I’m doing is genreless. This is just really about the story, really about the attitude and really just about what I’m doing on the track.

Stains is your reality—it’s your life. Was it hard for you to put it all out there? 

No, I don’t think it was hard. The hardest thing was just balancing putting my whole life onto a record. That was the toughest way because I want to be so cutting edge. But I also want to have this pop sensibility to be able to have people sing along to it. It was just more like, “How can I do this in the most forward, innovative way and still have people just accept me as who I am? As this artist guy who just wants to write these big songs and be so confident and just have the attitude.” It wasn’t really that tough, though. It flowed naturally for me, so once I got the opportunity to have a debut, I was just like, “I have to go hard and believe in myself.” And that’s not really hard for me to do sometimes. I want to be the best, so I just put that energy forward. 

I really put my life on it. From songs like “Money” talking about working at Taco Bell and working at Sherwin-Williams and just having to do all these things I really put my soul into the record. Every song is so real and so pure to me because I was just constantly fighting to put out the best record and just fighting to be heard. And I think you can generally hear that on the track.

I feel like when most artists talk about money, they’re talking about it in a way of wanting to have so much money that they can live this crazy, luxurious life. They talk about, “I want to be able to buy lots of cars and buy lots of houses and have beautiful clothes and diamonds and jewelry and all that shit.” But the way that you talk about it on “Money,” it comes off as desperation to have a real conversation on having just enough money to simply survive, to be able to live and breathe and eat and have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in. There’s something really melancholy about it, even though it’s a really upbeat song. 

That song, man, is so important to me, just like walking down Hollywood Boulevard [and] looking at billboards. I grew up poor, and I think you can hear it in the album and just my energy, period. But on that song, I grew up poor. I came to L.A. and had to be poor, dirt poor, for four more years to be able to survive. And that’s what I think is so good about that song because I’m not talking about money in this shallow way. It’s only to attain it so I can achieve my dream and I can survive because that’s all I’ve ever been able to just do—barely make it, barely have enough food, to have enough money.

And I still treat money in the same way because I’m like, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get another contract soon. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get another deal soon or get any other money soon.” So that’s why I think you can feel that energy on the album, too, because I’m like, “This may be my last thing. Let me go fucking hard.” So I think with “Money,” that’s a true, genuine story of my life that I had to go through because it’s always been a weird situation for me [and] my family. I just need enough to live. I just need enough to survive. And I hope people understand that. I’m not talking about it in [a] shallow or weird way. 

That’s the thing: People don’t talk about money the way that you do. It’s always this luxury. People want to paint this idea of a fake reality. Nobody wants to have the uncomfortable conversation of like, “I don’t have enough money to survive. I’m working at Taco Bell, and I’m sleeping on an air mattress, and there are roaches on the floor.” People don’t talk about that shit because it doesn’t sound pretty—the harsh reality is what’s real. 

And that’s the thing I like about this album and about my journey in my life. I’m glad people are starting to connect. I literally came from Texas to do the thing that people talk about and people dream about. You don’t get told to do it. You don’t get told to go out and dream and try things and go for it. You don’t get told to do these things. I’ve got to put my soul into this. I got to put my best foot forward.

What is the biggest thing that you hope fans will take away from Stains

The biggest thing I want [them] to take from Stains [is] don’t listen to anyone. Believe in yourself. Don’t listen to anyone, even if it’s your family, your friends. Take it in but go on a journey that you want to go on because if you don’t, you’re not going to be fulfilled. I stand behind this 100%. I think people can feel my energy on the album. That’s what I’ve had to go through, and that’s who I am. I just want them to do that. I want them to be themselves. Just do it. Just go for it. And I really hope they take that from it so they can be happy.