Listening to Maryanna Devlin’s haunting “Gary Indiana” makes me wistful for the days when Townes Van Zandt, Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris were having their greatest success.
You can’t copyright a title – and this “Gary Indiana” bears no resemblance to the cute little song that a young Ron Howard sang in the movie The Music Man. It’s a pensive memoir that lures you in deeper with every line.
Like Bowie and The Beatles, Devlin has drawn inspiration from living in Germany. She’s been there half a decade now, but you can still hear echoes of New England and Nashville in her songs.
Pop music would be in far better shape today if there were more artists like Maryanna Devlin. Literature and meditation are central to her life, not the copycat glitches and gimmicks heard in most songs these days. Hats off to a real artist!
Your LP title comes from Louisa May Alcott. Who are some of your other favorite prose writers?
My music is often inspired by what I read. I gravitate toward lyrics more than anything, and I enjoy reading poetry, short stories, and a lot of fiction. I really love classics; East Of Eden is my favorite book, and John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers. I receive inspiration from his works continuously. Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse-Five inspired quite a bit on the album, specifically the song “Timeline,” and I would say he’s becoming one of my favorite writers. I love David Sedaris, but mostly for a laugh, and the occasional cry. For poetry, it’s Robert Frost.
What song on your new album is the biggest departure from your previous work?
I would say my song “Wild Dogs” is the biggest departure. I wrote it about my life before moving to Germany, and my life kind of after. The wild dogs reference comes from living in east Nashville; I used to literally live with wild dogs roaming all around my street and would have to go really fast into the house, so the 5-8 dogs that were roaming around at any given time wouldn’t get too close. Anyway, this song is very different because it features a lot of electric guitar and drums, and there is maniacal laughter, which was fun. The laughter was inspired by the song “She’s Gone Away” by Nine Inch Nails.
Is your song “Manchester By The Sea” inspired by the movie or vice versa? Or neither?
Neither. I am from New England and have been to Manchester-By-The-Sea a few times. I wrote the song after doing transcendental meditation, and the lyric “I’ve been going up to old Manchester By The Sea since I was very young” just came out. It’s a great movie, though.
You’ve been living in Frankfurt, Germany for five years now. What’s your favorite thing about Germany…and what do you miss most about the U.S.?
My favorite thing about Germany is that I don’t ever have to walk around worrying about things like someone shooting me. Of course, people have guns here, but the gun laws are very strict, and living in places like NYC and Nashville, and visiting cities like Providence and Boston often, I have had to have that in my head that it probably won’t happen, but it could happen that if someone wants your money, or wants to mug you or something, they might have a gun, or in the much rarer case, maybe someone just wants to shoot you for no reason. It’s not like that in Germany. Again, not like it never happens, it’s just extremely rare. School shootings are virtually non-existent in Germany.
That being said, I miss so much about living in The U.S. Mostly my sense of autonomy and being on an even playing field regarding the language. A lot is taken from you when you aren’t a native speaker, but it has helped me to understand the plights of others, and also to recognize my privilege.