Deyaz logs in to our Zoom chat a few minutes late, having just wrapped up another call to discuss the shoot for his upcoming music video for the stirring single ‘Bones’. The music video will be his first ever, so, understandably, he’s feeling anxious. “We held off [making a music video] for the last couple of years because I’ve always expressed to my team that when I do a full-length visual, I really want it to be executed right and at the right time”, he explains. “And so I think I’ve definitely made myself more anxious by building up that anticipation.”
This point in Deyaz’s career finds him at the precipice of stardom. He has an ever-growing base of half a million monthly listeners on Spotify – each one clearly a fan of Deyaz’s ability to craft a beautiful melancholy with his sound and lyrics. But the road leading the 23-year-old east Londoner to this point has taken him through unexpected places. He first discovered the peace that music offered him when, aged 12, his brother brought home a guitar, having traded a tenner and some food from McDonald’s for it. Learning from YouTube tutorials, Deyaz came to master the guitar, the drums and piano, and as such, he was granted a scholarship to study at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music.
Between then and now, he’s done everything from busking to drumming in Camden’s punk scene, to engineering grime recording sessions. “I’m looking to dwell back into the grime scene. I’ve recently started speaking to Jammer again, he’s a really close family friend”, Deyaz says today. The one and only constant in Deyaz’s journey: music has been his salve and sole focus both personally and professionally.
In his three years of releasing solo music, Deyaz has crafted a soft, vulnerable sound and style. 2022’s ‘Why Not’ EP proved his ability to confront the most difficult and personal topics – love, mental illness, addiction issues – with a delicate intimacy. The project is at points intense, at points calming, and often both simultaneously – this expert balancing act has led ‘Why Not’ to over 16 million collective spins on Spotify alone. With a second project scheduled for release this summer, the singer-songwriter is gearing up to fulfil the promise of his potential.
NME: What is it about the textures of acoustic music that you feel best marries with the content of your lyrics?
“It’s a good question. I am massively inspired by folk music. I think with folk music, in general, you have this really minimalistic instrumentation going on. And you know, the songwriting and the message of the song is at the forefront, which isn’t the case in a lot of other genres today. So for this new EP that’s folk-centred – hopefully, it will allow fans to understand the context of the songs a lot more without any other sort of sonic distractions going on.
“I just want to make a really stripped-back project and give more insight into what I’ve been going through and certain life experiences etc. And I feel folk music sort of goes hand in hand with that.”
How did you discover the world of folk music?
“I think when I was 16 – everything happened around that age, didn’t it? I sort of started listening to John Martyn, he was a massive inspiration. He’s incredible. From songwriting to his acoustic play, and he does like this really cool percussive sort of finger style stuff. And I guess from there, it just sort of expanded your Janis Joplin, of course.”
As a teenager, you earned a scholarship at the prestigious Guildhall School for Music, but ended up leaving. How was your experience there?
“It was great at first. I had access to instruments I could have never dreamed of at the time, and the tutors were connecting the dots of a lot of the stuff I learned at home on YouTube, and then I actually got real knowledge. So it was really good for that part of it, I guess. But on a social aspect, there were other musicians who grew up in different backgrounds – they’d maybe been tutored since they were young, they had the knowledge of sight reading et cetera. I guess there was a slight stigma attached to me from certain pupils because I couldn’t do the homework. I couldn’t sight read, and in the end, other kids feel you’re not putting in enough effort.
“I just pulled myself from the situation because I think anything that pulls away from your passion or makes you feel like you have to confine yourself – you have to get away from it as fast as possible. I think that’s the first instance where I took music for my own personal self first rather than what it looked like for my family or to a conservator.”
Following that, you spent some time in Camden’s punk scene, playing the drums for different bands. Was there anyone that you credit for bringing you into the fold?
“Camden came into play when I was 15. As I was busking, musicians would come up to me and I think that’s how I initially met one of the band members of a band that I was in when I was younger. I was involved in at least three to five bands going on there and it all just felt really interlinked. So there wasn’t anyone that brought me up in that scene – I sort of found my own way. Again, just going out there for myself, enjoying music and that’s the beauty of it; you find similar people who speak the same language and Camden’s a good place for that.”
You’ve said before that music is your therapy and that you don’t have another outlet. when did you discover that music could offer healing?
“I guess it stemmed from when I was about 13. Music was just always the thing that I could fall back onto. You know, I went through quite a lot of mental health issues as a kid, as a lot of us do. And music just seems to be the thing that sort of calmed me down, it sort of allowed me to reason with things and I guess as I’ve just gotten older, it’s almost just become second nature to myself now. Yeah, I just haven’t found that peace with anything else so far.”
Just three years ago, you were introducing yourself to fans via Soundcloud, yet now you’ve sitting on millions of streams as you prepare for your first-ever video. How has it been acclimatising to the music industry?
“I think everyone has obviously their own opinion on the industry, but I think for me, so far, it hasn’t been bad at all. My team is really understanding that I have to have the balance on lock. And I think if the balance isn’t there, the industry can be a horrible place for an artist if you’re not vocal and you’re not conscious of your integrity at all, but I feel like I’m in a good place.”
How have you managed to strike that balance?
“It’s been a journey, it hasn’t always been perfect. I think when I first started getting into the industry, I was drinking a lot. I was taking a lot of stuff. I didn’t really know how to deal with the pressures. So I definitely struggled with that side of it for a while, but over the last year, I’ve spent equal time on music and getting myself straight and narrow. So it’s definitely started to go hand in hand. I’ve started to have a bit more of a voice in what I’m doing rather than it being navigated by people around, so yeah, it’s positive.”
Your second project is due for release in June. Can you tell us how it compares to your debut EP, ‘Why Not’?
“Hopefully, it’s a leap forward. The first EP… there wasn’t much conscious effort into interlinking all the songs together cohesively. This project has a bit more intent involved in it. I think how I wanted to differ from the first project was to have a bit more of a story involved. So it’s all within the acoustic realm. But I would like to think on the songwriting side of things, there’s context from hip-hop, there’s some context from a lot of other genres. And there’s hopefully a couple features on there that tie in from completely different genres into the folk world of what I’m doing.”
Deyaz’s new single ‘Bones’ is out now