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In this round of interviews with your favorite local musicians, I talked to two musicians who are equally passionate about what they do on and off the stage.

They also share the name Devin which means one who recites poetry with harp or lyre — a name that couldn’t be more fitting for the lives they live.

Read on to get behind the poetry and sound of Grow and Twine and the Y Axes. Enjoy round two of this ongoing series.

Ryan Devens: Grow & Twine // Owner of Tailors’ KeepRyan Devens

1. In what way does your job inspire your music?

Music, in my mind, should always reflect an ideal. It should never be contrived, forced, or heartless. When I write music, I try my best to be as real as possible and allow others to have a wide open window into my soul. Being a musician, I’ve grown up never feeling quite right about doing things the way other people want them done (at least, if I feel there’s a better or more interesting way to do them). Sure, you learn the fundamentals in the beginning, but one mustn’t make the mistake of living within those confines forever. The basics give you a spring board to create things that may not have had the dexterity or foundation to create. Music and song-writing came first in my life, which is why I think in my work, I’ve ended up being quite the idealist as well. Fair labor, recognition for hard work, preserving the humanity of business, never producing overseas, maintaining work-life balance for all involved, and ultimately developing a business model that other new businesses would want to adopt… in essence – making the world a better place, I suppose. So I guess I’ve answered your question in the opposite manner – I feel that my music influences my work most of the time.

2. How did you decide on your job?

I’ve been asked this question a number of times now, and I think my response has evolved into an honest “my work chose me” type of response.  I grew up in a home where my dad worked around the clock as a doctor and my mom stayed at home with my sister and I.  Both my parents are creatives, but in completely different ways.  Dad has always been brilliant in navigating incredibly tough social situations regarding crises, loss, families, misfortune, with a small dose of brilliant success from time to time.  Mom was always creating something, whether inventing new Italian pasta recipes, helping my sister and I with school projects, or sitting next to me while I practiced for my piano recitals.  My mom was always a clothing person, always taking us shopping with her, and then later, giving us new school-year allowances to buy new clothes.  Being turned loose in the mall (which sounds like a nightmare to me now) was this magical experience for me, in which there was so much to do and see and so little time – so we had to make the best of it.  I couldn’t drive then, so time was of the essence before mom came back and scooped us up in the mini-van.  Long story short, I caught the retail bug and began working holidays for a big-box mall store one year after college.  I was put through the ringer, working 5am shifts one day and 10pm shifts the next.  It was through the next few years working for corporate companies, that I began to see the problems that I wanted so desperately to solve some time in the future – i.e. why is clothing only sold in 5 sizes? how is this clothing being sold for so cheap? why are employees being paid minimum wage? why do the numbers matter so much? Where in the world is Cambodia and why are these shirts being made there? I started Tailors’ Keep to answer these questions for myself and to try my best to create a company built upon ideals that are sustainable and ethical.

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3. What did you want to be as a kid?

I definitely wanted to be a musician. I’ve been in bands ever since I was in middle school. My first gig was the middle school talent show where we played Green Day’s “Brain Stew”. The first performance was for the younger half of the school, which things went perfectly. The second performance for the older half of the school…not so much. My string broke half way through the song, and I kept forgetting the words. I don’t think anyone cared though. We were cool because we were playing Green Day songs in middle school. Those two performances gave me a small taste of what being on stage was really like – having the balls to put myself out there for the whole world to see and hearing the affirmative applause for going through with it. Its just something you get addicted to. I think that’s why there’s so many bands out there in the world even though being a musician isn’t the music financially stable way-of-life.

4. Do you hope to make music a full time gig?

It’s something I definitely talk through with myself from time to time. Music is definitely my passion, but so is my work. And I know that I would have to give one up to fully pursue the other. That’s always the downside of creating your own work environment, is that it can be whatever you want it to be – so its not something I come home night after night wishing it was different or that I had a different job. Music is certainly a form of escapism for me at this point, which is incredibly affective when I have to have my game face on every single day in front of clients and random passersby. Making music a full time gig may kill it for me – and I’d be letting too many other people down if I shut my company down because of it.


5. Share a random/interesting story from your job.
The most interesting stories usually happen when my reputation as a musician and business-owner coincide. Sometimes I’ll be working with clients and I’ll make a comment about being a musician, and when they ask me what I play and I tell them what my band is, they actually know us. Its always this look of confused satisfaction – like, oh, this guy is more than just a dude in a suit. I’ve actually played music in some of my client’s weddings, which is truly a beautiful cross-pollination of creative ideas. To be at a wedding knowing that I’ve had part in helping the groom look his best and also sonically setting the stage for the wedding and reception is a really special feeling – very intimidating, but very rewarding in the end.

Ryan and his band Grow & Twine are working on their third album to be released 2016. You can listen to their dreamy sounds until then here
Devin Nelson: The Y Axes // High School Chemistry TeacherIMG_1073 (1)

1.In what way does your job inspire your music?

Honestly it doesn’t. My job and my music are separate passions but I am interested in them for similar reasons. I enjoy constructing and deconstructing things and analyzing how everything is put together. I like how you can approach a scientific problem by writing a formula and analyzing the logic of its component parts and their relations to each other. This is a strategy I also find myself using when composing music. I see music in codes, shapes, and patterns that fit together in different ways, and while I do feel a strong emotional connection to pieces I have composed, there is also an academic sort of connection. While science and art are distilled into different parts of my life, they definitely exist synergistically.

2. How did you decide on your job?

I love science. Curiosity is a major driving force in my life and I’ve always been eager to know how/why things work. The scientist/educator Carl Sagan had a huge influence on me when I was younger. His original cosmos series helped me see the wonderment in science and the value of curiosity and his book Pale Blue Dot taught me the importance of science literacy and education. I ended up studying chemistry and meteorology in college and became a lab teacher when I started grad school. This was when I realized I was a better science teacher than scientist and I eventually pursued a credential. I also enjoy working with teenagers. They are incredibly tumultuous and emotional but also have a tendency to be less jaded and more open-minded than adults. They are just starting to put the pieces together and form opinions and aspirations and it is very fulfilling to be a part of that process.

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3. What did you want to be as a kid?

I can’t really remember what I wanted to be when I was a kid but I was always fond of science and performance arts. In high school I half-joked about studying meteorology and Japanese so I could move to Japan and be a token eccentric white weatherman. I did end up studying those things in college but ended up taking a less ridiculous path (for better or for worse).

4. Do you hope to make music a full time gig?

Ideally I’d love to. Though science education is a major passion of mine, music has always been number one. My job is very demanding of my time but I am happy that I am able to support myself off of my (somewhat meager) salary. I am hoping that having a little of money will allow me to make investments like quality recordings or PR that can advance the cause of having a music career. I am also incredibly fortunate that I have an amazing crew of musicians around me who are eager for success and can take some of the load off when it comes to promotion, networking, and all the million other things a band has to do to survive.


5. Share a random/interesting story from your job.

I’ve told my students that I am in a band and some have actually come out to shows. My band came up at a prom committee meeting and a student asked if we could play prom. Nothing is set in stone yet but we might get the opportunity to play at a high school prom, which could be a cool albeit bizarre experience.

You can catch Devin and his band The Y Axes this Friday at Hotel Utah

The Real Numbers, The Honey Wilders (closing set), The Corner Laughers, The Y Axes
Hotel Utah
December 4, 2015
9pm, $10