On his first EP, released in 2016, Nashville-based artist Devon Gilfillian demonstrated an immense admiration for the original masters of blues, rock, and soul music. On his latest single “Unchained,” he deftly weaves those past sounds with the stylings of today’s best beatmakers.
“Unchained” opens with a few bars on the keys – that could easily open an aspiring rapper’s next mixtape – and the kick-heavy Madlib-style beat that precedes the first verse makes the silky ripple of Gilfillian’s vocal entrance a welcome surprise in an arrangement that suits hip-hop verse as well as his neo-soul stylings.
“I wrote this song to empower people to not let obstacles get in the way of being the best versions of themselves,” Gilfillian told American Songwriter.
Lyrically the song reads like a battle cry for anyone facing something they’re ready to overcome, “Wading through the water / Pushing Forward / Running through the fire / And I’m tired of looking back over my shoulder / But I’m rising up.”
The song is the latest single to be released off his forthcoming debut and was recorded with Grammy award winning producer Sean Everett (Kacey Musgraves, The War On Drugs, Alabama Shakes). The production of the studio version hisses and crackles with the feel of sampled sound, but swings and crescendos into a reverb laden climax that retains the feel of a live performance necessary to evoke soulfulness.
Unlike “Unchained,” earlier singles like dirty blues stomper “Troublemaker” and the infectiously soulful “High” feel recognizable on the first listen, but Gillfillian’s delivery keeps both tracks fresh enough that they don’t send a listener immediately drudging up easy comparisons.
Even the Tarantino-esque video for “Hurt” indicates that Gillfillian has long held an appreciation of artists with the rare ability to fuse the past and present through the filter of their own unique vision, resulting in creations that possess both a comfortable familiarity while stimulating the rush one senses when encountering something new.
The stylistic breadth of Gilfillian’s artistic voice shows that he too possesses that rare gift, and also explains how he’s wowed festival crowds at both Newport Folk and Montreal Jazz, and managed to stay so busy the last several years supporting and opening for a stylistically diverse roster of artists such as Keith Urban, Gladys Knight, Brothers Osborne, Mavis Staples, Local Natives, and KALEO.
When asked what songwriter he admires most, Gillfillian chose Kendrick Lamar, “because he says exactly what’s on his mind and shares his truth with no fear.” That sense of fearlessness comes through loud and clear on both the album cut and his latest video for “Unchained” performed live at Ocean Way Studio.
On January 10, Gilfillian’s debut album Black Hole Rainbow will be released, and he’ll be joining Grace Potter on her upcoming tour, beginning January 8.
2020 – Supporting Grace Potter
1/8 | Charleston, SC | Charleston Music Hall
1/9 | St. Petersburg, FL | Jannus Live
1/10 | Orlando, FL | House of Blues
1/11 | Ft Lauderdale, FL | Revolution Live
1/12 | Key West, FL | Sunset Grove Lawn
1/15 | Jacksonville, FL | Florida Theatre
1/16 | Raleigh, NC | The Ritz
1/17 | Charlotte, NC | The Fillmore
1/18 | Atlanta, GA | The Tabernacle
1/19 | Asheville, NC | The Orange Peel
1/22 | Cincinnati, OH | Taft Theatre
1/23 | Pittsburgh, PA | Roxian Theatre
1/24 | Philadelphia, PA | The Fillmore
1/25 | Washington, DC | The Anthem
1/28 | New Haven, CT | College Street Music Hall
1/29 | Portland, ME | State Theater
1/30 | Albany, NY | The Egg
1/31 | Boston, MA | House of Blues
2/1 | New York, NY | Beacon Theater
2/4 | Indianapolis, IN | Vogue
2/5 | Grand Rapids, MI | The Intersection
2/6 | Milwaukee, WI | Pabst Theater
2/7 | Chicago, IL | Riviera Theatre
2/8 | St. Paul, MN | Palace Theatre
2/9 | Des Moines, IA | Hoyt Sherman Place
2/12 | Tulsa, OK | Cain’s Ballroom
2/13 | Oklahoma City, OK | The Jones Assembly
2/14 | Houston, TX | House of Blues
2/15 | Austin, TX | ACL Live at the Moody Theater
2/18 | Birmingham, AL | Iron City
2/19 | Nashville, TN | Ryman Auditorium
2/20 | St. Louis, MO | The Pageant