Alternative pop singer/songwriter DEMAR may be a newcomer, but she can write a break- up album like no other. From the pages of her notebook to the strings of her guitar, DEMAR’s debut EP is about as personal as it gets. Rebels takes you on a musical journey of the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the hellos and goodbyes of relationships. From “Wild Ride” to “Games,” each lyric is like a page in her story and each track a chapter of her life. And it leaves you with the hope that when one chapter ends, another one is destined to begin.
Between rehearsals and shows, DEMAR took some time to talk about what it took to write this album, her love of music, and her plans for the (very near) future. Rebels is due out October 20th, but you won’t have to wait that long to hear the highly- anticipated debut album from pop’s newest songstress. Inspirer has teamed up with the very talented DEMAR for the exclusive premiere of Rebels.
Your cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)” reached over 1.5 million plays on Spotify. What inspired you to cover that song?
I was trying to think of songs that I liked and songs that I thought my friends would like to hear me play because my friends can be tough critics sometimes. I wanted to just pick a song that I felt would be cool to do, that people would enjoy. I’m a huge Kendrick Lamar fan so I thought it would be fun to do. And as I started to figure out the way I wanted to play it and arrange it, it’s like it was something different that had a groove to it. So I ended up just kind of recording it and putting it out there. And it was kind of crazy how it turned into something people really liked and a lot of people were listening to.
Was music something you felt you were always meant to do?
Yeah. I think from a young age, I really loved the idea of performing and singing for people and sort of like putting on a show. I always really loved music; I always gravitated to music, and as I started to get a little older I realized that maybe I had something there that I could actually do professionally. And it kinda started when I was like 8 with a friend of mine. We would try and write songs together and pretend we were in a band and all that kind of stuff. And then as I got older, like into my teen years, I taught myself how to play guitar. And that’s when I really started to take it more seriously, because once I did that then I was able to start writing songs for real. I was also able to accompany myself so I could actually play for people.
Who are your inspirations musically?
There’s so many. I love so many different genres of music that I feel like I pull a little bit from all of them. I mean, I grew up on Steely Dan, and Tom Petty. Those are my dad’s favorite artists so I grew up on that. The artists that really inspired me to want to sing when I was younger were probably Shania Twain, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez. But I’d say one of my bigger influences is probably Joy Williams, who is a female singer from the Civil Wars. Her voice..it’s like butter basically. And she can make you feel so much emotion in just the way she sings the lyrics. Her voice actually kinda like pulls you into the song, pushes you back out. So I pull a lot of inspiration from her for sure.
It’s so interesting how a lot of the music we grow up appreciating is a direct result of the music our parents listened to.
It’s so true! I’m lucky that my dad had pretty good taste in music. I was exposed to a lot of great stuff when I was young. He’s kind of like me where it didn’t even matter if the whole family was in the car, once we got in the car he would blast the music so loud and just jam out. And my mom would be like, “Steve, can you turn it down a little bit?” And he would say no, I’m the exact same way. When I get in the car I just wanna blast my music. So that was instilled in me at a very young age.
Rebels beautifully captures the highs, lows, and everything else in between of relationships. Did you write the entire album?
I wrote all the songs. They all started out with me writing on acoustic guitar or piano. And when I write, even though I’m writing acoustically, I can hear sonically in my head how I want the song to sound. I would kind of just write in my room late at night, and then after that, I was really lucky to be able to work with some great producers that helped me bring to life the sound that I had in my head. They just kind of got me and we were able to make the songs sound the way I really wanted them to sound.
How would you describe your sound to anyone who hasn’t heard your music yet?
I would say the sound is kind of like a darker pop and alternative pop sound. I think there are some hints of R&B throughout, definitely a lot of pop, but it still has some of that singer/songwriter element to it. It’s kind of a mix. But I would say it lives in the darker alternative pop world.
With writing the entire album, was there a song that had the most meaning for you?
The song “Not Afraid” is probably one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. Every song is personal because they’re based on things that happened to me, but with this song, I was really open about just how much I was allowing this person to affect me and the effect that they had on me. The fact that just something so small like them calling or not calling cloud throw me off for an entire week basically, and I felt a little bit of embarrassment in my real life that I allowed this person to have so much control over my emotions. So it was hard for me to put that into a song and allow people to hear that. I think also in the song I admit that sometimes I kind of feel comfortable in a place that’s darker, in a place that’s sad if it means that person is still in my life. And that’s also a tough thing to admit to. So I would say “Not Afraid” is definitely the most personal to me and probably one of the harder ones to release into the world. But that makes it more exciting too.
I’m a sucker for a great ballad, and “Games” is most definitely a great ballad. What was the meaning behind that song?
So “Games” is in the evolution of the relationship. “Games” is kind of like the rock bottom. Which is kind of why I wanted the production to be so simple, just vocal and a little bit of electric guitar. It is really that most vulnerable part where you’re starting to have that realization of like, “What are we doing here? What am I doing here? All you do is mess with my head. This isn’t going anywhere. I gave you everything. You’re giving me nothing in return.” So to me, it’s the turning point because “Games” is what ended up leading me to “Rebels.” It was the point where I was just kind of resigned because I was done with all the games.
What do you want people to know about you through this album?
I guess I just want people to know that this is my way of processing and healing through a tough situation in a relationship that I went through. I think that it’s just something that almost everyone goes through, you’re first real big heartbreak or not really being able to let go of someone or hoping it’ll work out and having to come to the realization that it’s not going to. And it’ s just real life stuff and some people process things by going to a workout class, but I process them by writing music. I just hope people can learn a little bit about me and also find a way to relate to the songs themselves. I think the coolest thing about music is when you hear a lyric and you’re like, “Oh my God, that’s exactly how I feel, but I didn’t know how to say it.” And you really latch onto the song. So I hope that people can do that with my music.
It’s amazing to me that despite all the songs about love and heartbreak, no two songs are exactly the same.
Everyone experiences it in their own way so then the way it comes out is unique to them. Even though Rebels is kind of this roller coaster and it tells the story of this sort of tumultuous relationship, the ending is still hopeful and positive. The last song, “Rebels,” is really the song where I felt strong again and had the strength to walk away and do what was right for me. So I like that even though there are elements of sadness to it, and a little bit of darkness, it ends on a strong positive note.
Where do you hope to see your career go?
Right now, I’m focusing on just trying to build the audience and the fans and people who like the music and hoping to tour in the near future. I’m working on that right now. I really wanna start getting out there, meeting people, being able to play live. Cause I think what really keeps people stuck on you, stuck on the music, is when they see you live.
What does music mean to you?
Music means everything to me. It means connection. It means understanding. It means releasing emotion. It means finding comfort in songs that express what you may feel inside and not be able to express yourself. It helps you feel whole again and less alone in what you might be feeling. And I think music is one of the most universal ways that we have of connecting as human beings. So to me, I think music is just one of the best things ever. Anything creative is important because it allows an outlet, but to me, music is really, really special. It’s amazing how if there was a certain song or certain band that got you through something, it’s like that song or that band is forever connected to that moment. One of my favorite bands in high school was Acceptance and their album Phantoms…when I listen to any song on that record now, it immediately brings up those feelings that I had in high school and whatever situation I was going through.