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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Devo Springsteen, Grammy Award-winning Producer/Songwriter/ Entrepreneur

Having recently begun his career as a musician, Grammy Award-winning Producer/Songwriter/ Entrepreneur, Devo Springsteen has already had an immediate impact on popular music. Starting out as a club DJ while attending the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, Devo quickly learned what kind of melodies and beats moved the crowd. In 2000, he made the move to New York City, where he began DJing for his then roommate, singer John Legend and collaborating with super-producer Kanye West. Recognizing talent, Devo subsequently signed Legend to West’s burgeoning record label, G.O.O.D. Music and produced and co-wrote three songs on Legend’s critically acclaimed debut album “Get Lifted.” Devo followed this up by producing Kanye West’s smash single and 2006 Best Rap Song Grammy-winning “Diamonds (from Sierra Leone)”. Since then, Devo has been busy behind the boards producing music for a diverse group of artists ranging from hip-hop icon Nas to music legend Ms. Aretha Franklin to international superstar Britney Spears to rap artists such as The Last Poets, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Common.

From working with the world’s top artists to keeping it hot in the clubs, people are peeping the technique. Commonly mentioned in Page Six and featured in 2007 Blender Magazine’s Hot List (Hot List #46), the magazine noted Devo’s rapid hip-hop ascension and signature sound. You can still find Devo in the clubs, manning the turntables at special events from Nairobi, Africa to New York City to Tokyo and all points in between. In keeping with his Wharton background, Devo’s also recently spearheaded two urban promotional campaigns with powerhouse brand Bacardi Flavors and continues to develop and offer innovative marketing tools through his multi-media company, Astor Place Media.

With his distinct versatility you’ve surely heard the fruit of Devo’s work. Remember his name because you’ll be hearing more of it in the near future! Whom You Know is pleased to present him as a Mover and Shaker.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Devo Springsteen for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first musical memory?
Devo Springsteen: Well I was in a bunch of choirs growing up so that’s some of the first memories. The first thing I really remember commercially is going to a Jaime Foxx half comedy/half music show in Kansas City. That was when he was first poppin’ in the early 1990’s.

How did you like being a DJ?
I’m still a DJ mainly for international events or charity stuff. I enjoy it and the places where it takes me...But I’m trying to listen to pop music or whatever less so it doesn’t influence what I’m making. So it makes it harder for me to keep up with all the new relevant music like that.

What did Wharton teach you that has been the most helpful in your music career?
There’s some negotiation stuff... Some branding concepts. Some ways of thinking that have helped me in reviewing contracts... Never leaving money on the table.. The main benefit has been the relationships though.

What have you learned most through career experience?
I learned the critical things that make a successful pop music artist. Hard work (I repeat hard work.. like for years), a unique perspective or voice, willingness to listen, social abilities... I learned that dealing with art and artists is a different ballgame than dealing with straight up business decisions/decision-makers who care about the bottom line. There’s a lot more emotional hand holding/ego-checking/kissing ass etc. I’m still learning how to make hit records. You gotta develop urgency and emotional connection in the songs.

What song(s) are you proudest of and why?
“Diamonds (from Sierra Leone)” was great. It’s always cool hearing a song you made in the club from the big speakers but I think “If You’re Out There’” the song I did last year with John Legend for Obama’s Presidential campaign will be the one I can look back on with the most pride and stunt-asticness!!

What was John Legend like as a roommate?
When we were in college John was the responsible roommate who collected everyone’s prorated utility bills and all. He never really partied with us and it just didn’t really cross your mind to invite him out like that because he always was focused on work or his singing group. But when we moved to NY he let loose a little and began to become John “Legend.”

How would he answer that question about you?
Hmmm...I was always kinda a party animal.. But I always got the work that needed to be done done and maintained my obligations too.. I was a pretty good roommate I think. I always provide a good time but if your parents/co-workers come they’ll think you live a respectable life.

What direction do you see the music industry going towards?
Circling back towards “artists” who do music for the love of it (because the money will be limited). I think there will be more artists who can make a living doing music but less mega rich stars. Decentralization back to indie “labels” with good music and marketing strategies.. Then some conglomerate will come along and buy a few up/reduce overhead… That is how we’ll start rebuilding the major label system.

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
My loft in the village.. Or Happy Ending on Broome..

What is your favorite shop?
Man, I have a bunch.. Blue & Cream, Yojhi Yamamoto, Nom de Guerre, Memes, Barneys, Loehmann’s

What is your favorite drink?
Vodka gimlet – not too much lime – and long island ice tea

What is your favorite restaurant?
I’m a very simple guy.. I like Sea Thai and Maroon. Dallas BBQ when I’m in a hood mood..

What is your favorite NYC book?
NYC book? Im not too familiar with books about NYC but I try to read The New Yorker when I can.

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Go out at 2 am. Any time you are out there is unlimited potential around any corner. I’ve went out to bars with my boys and we’ve met a group I eventually signed, hook-ups, an eventual wife, even the person who helped situate this interview. You just never know...

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated – Tribeca Film Festival, Chinatown and trips to Brooklyn
Overrated – Clubs on weekends and trips to Brooklyn

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
That I’m very excited about a group I’m working with now, The Black Fridays.. and if you see me around and you’ve read this – Say Something!

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
I’m on myspace at or on twitter at springsteezy!! Holla at ya boy!

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