Kevin Devine Finds Success in Music After Fordham


Kevin Devine, FCLC ’01, has gone on to have a successful career in music after attending Fordham. (Courtesy of Kevin Devine)

Standing behind the merchandise table at Best Buy Theatre in Times Square after his set, Kevin Devine happily greets a line of eager fans stretching across the room.  One fan mentions Fordham and Devine’s eyes instantly light up as he is flooded with feelings of nostalgia.  He is taken back to cherished years of his life, a time before his sold out shows and months on the road, to the place where his days as a solo indie rock artist began.

Devine, now a 32-year-old songwriter and musician, graduated from Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) in 2001 as a communication and media studies and English double major.  Since then, he’s gone on to share the stage with the likes of Bright Eyes, The Get Up Kids, Nada Surf, his friends Manchester Orchestra and Brand New, and most recently with Say Anything.

Before he was headlining tours and performing at music festivals as big as Bonnaroo, Devine was trying out his new solo material on his FCLC friends and classmates, performing regularly at open mic nights on campus. Devine was gained recognition throughout New York City during college, playing venues like CBGB and Mercury Lounge. Prior to this time, Devine had been playing in band called Miracle of 86. He credits FCLC as the place where he was able to stretch his legs as a solo artist.

“That’s the first place I gained a certain breed of confidence in playing as me and not just in Miracle [of 86],” Devine said. “That was really one of the first instances when I got to gain some sort of traction as a songwriter and as a performer.”

Devine was born in Brooklyn and grew up both there and in Staten Island.  As a teenager, he was actively involved in the Staten Island punk rock and hardcore scenes, frequently playing and attending local shows. A major result of his urban upbringing is his multiform sound.  His music doesn’t seem to embody characteristics of only one particular genre, which enables Devine to tour with bands of different sorts.

“I don’t necessarily like being pigeon-holed into any specific genre or presentational style.  I like to be able to switch up what I do as I see fit,” he explained. “I think that kind of comes from being in such an eclectic culture in general, like a place like New York, and not really feeling like I want to be any one thing all the time.”

In his latest album, “Between the Concrete and Clouds,” Devine’s openness and musical freedom allowed him to try out different methods of songwriting.

“There was a concept to try to be as expressive, but in fewer words, or to be as communicative, but not as specific,” Devine said . “Finding a way to lean to something that was more imagistic—it would almost be that it was vague, but on purpose—as a way to kind of let the songs be more open.”

Devine’s careful attention to words is nothing new to him.  He honed in on his writing skills at Fordham, not only through songwriting, but also through his involvement with The Fordham Observer.  Elizabeth Stone, faculty advisor to the newspaper and friend of Devine’s, remembered him as a skilled writer.

“He’s a smart guy and he’s always been a smart guy, and he’s always had a real sensitivity to language,” Stone recalled.

Looking back, he now sees the way he spent his free time at FCLC as a kind of “research” for him as a songwriter.  He remembers walking up the block to see Sonic Youth play at Avery Fisher Hall in his freshman year. He remembers walking past Lincoln Center to the Tower Records that was once there to buy concert tickets. He remembers listening to “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album in his McMahon Hall dorm room and feeling inspired—Dylan, whose songs Devine had previously thought of as his “mom’s music,” became another one of his musical influences after this dorm room revelation. It was also in McMahon Hall that Devine fell in love for the first time, and it was there where he learned of the heartache that can come with it.

Stone remembered a conversation with Devine at the end of his senior year when she had asked him what he was going to do after graduation.

“He said, ‘I have to give this music thing a shot.  I’ll probably do something else in a year, but I’ve got to do this music thing.  I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t,’” Stone recalled.  “And he did.”

Nearly 11 years later, he still is.  His days on the road began when he was fresh out of Fordham. He hasn’t seemed to slow down since, touring extensively and stopping briefly to record.

“At some point it, it feels more normal than not. It’s about marrying the two lives,” Devine explained. “I try to keep in contact with the important people in my life. People in my life have to be both really understanding and really supportive.”

Devine just finished his U.S. tour with Say Anything on May 3 and he already has plans for a UK tour with Cursive, a band from Omaha, this June. On top of that, he’ll be playing a few summer music festivals, including the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati in July, and Lollapalooza in August.  He also expects the second album of his side project, Bad Books, with friend and front man of Atlanta-based band Manchester Orchestra, to be finished by the end of this year or the beginning of next.