Devon Thompson

In some cities, feeling like an outsider is a lonely, isolating experience, but growing up in Los Angeles, it was almost an inevitability for Devon Thompson. More interested in immersing herself in classic rock and similar lone wolf activities like skateboarding and snowboarding, Thompson struggled with bullying, trying to fit in, and moving schools multiple times, before finally finding solid ground as a musician. Very few young female musicians come out of the gate with a legacy guitar brand like Gibson in their corner, not to mention a cohort of early songs soundtracking skate videos—but Devon is phenomena unto herself.


At just 21, she’s already managed to shed the layers of early, formative high school bands, bitter bullying from former classmates, and find her sound as a devout rock musician unfettered by the recent prevalence of pop and hip-hop. With a fiery yet controlled powerhouse vocal style that evokes legends like PJ Harvey, Blondie, or Lucy Dacus, and a knack for gothic storytelling, Devon is a throwback in all the best ways. Not just a vocalist, she always performs both singing and playing guitar, and writes all her own songs to boot.


Graduating right out of high school into those long lockdown months during the pandemic, she further honed her nascent teenage sound by collaborating with producer James Salter (The Raveonettes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club). Now, she’s drilled down into her strongest work as a solo star, expertly showcased in her newest singles like “Soft Like Water,” with plenty of other new material waiting in the wings. Thompson’s sound is unapologetically rock, with nods to the greats from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s given her own contemporary twist. And she’s comfortable in this rock-leaning lane—whether the genre is ever as popular as it once was in the mainstream or not.


“I started playing rock music at a very young age,” she remembered. “I sometimes sang pop songs, but I taught myself to play guitar when I was 12 because I liked rock. I’ve always played the guitar my whole life, I was never just a singer. I liked Fleetwood Mac and Blondie, and the music my parents were listening to. My mom would listen to music from the ‘80s, and that decade is one of my bigger influences, but the type of music that inspires me the most now didn’t click for a long time.” Thompson now cites artists like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cramps, Nancy Sinatra, Lana Del Rey, My Bloody Valentine and Jack White as newer touchstones that round out her sound.


Born and raised in Toluca Lake, from the earliest days of her childhood Thompson’s parents noticed her singing around the house. Her mother responded in kind, quickly enrolling her in singing lessons, and by fourth grade, Devon was landing starring roles in the middle school musicals, often beating out much older students for the lead spot. From musical theater and singing groups, she remembers summer camps like Burbank Music Academy, where she was able to dig into a rock sound on her own terms. Struggling with a few years away from playing music at all during the early days of high school, she ended up right back in bands again after falling in love with local players who made dreamy garage rock and post-punk surf music.


Before her teenage years, Thompson was all about classic rock, but her first real bands were influenced by a more modern sound. “In high school around age 16 I found a love for indie rock,” she said. “I started going to shows and I was really big on local music like surf indie rock. I remember going to smaller venues like The Smell and it inspired me to get back into music on my own. I found people to play with and started a band called Tempo Infidelity, then we later changed our name to Plush—there were five members and three of us played guitar. As we progressed, other older references came back in like New Order, Depeche Mode, and Talking Heads.”


Finishing up her senior year in 2020, the onset of the pandemic severely limited Thompson’s ability to play with her band, Plush, and she began recording songs at home. Along with rock, Devon’s other passion has always been skateboarding and snowboarding, so when she began to release early music under her own name, friends in the community picked up the tracks and used them in skate videos, including a placement of the song “Split Ends” with Thrasher. Around this time, a friend of a friend introduced DJ and manager Christopher “The Minister” to Thompson’s music, and he quickly came on board to manage what he considered to be one of the most promising emerging rockers in LA.


“The first time I heard ‘You Oughta Know’ from Alanis Morissette, I instinctively knew it would be a No. 1 hit,” Christopher remembered. “And the first time I saw the curtain open at a No Doubt show, and Gwen Stefani started performing, I told the other Industry people around me that night that she was going to be a rockstar. So I knew after my first meeting with Devon—and she showed up wearing Doc Martens and a Siouxsie Sioux t-shirt—that I was all in on working together. I always felt there was this electroclash and dark wave sound waiting to come out, and her latest material has gone exactly in that direction.”


Shortly after coming onboard, Christopher introduced Thompson to Salter, and the pair hit it off so well that what was intended to be a couple of brief sessions turned into a years-long partnership. Bonding over a shared love for the band Lush, and a penchant for intently studying music, their relationship has been incredibly fruitful. “We were just going to do six songs together and part ways, but we had something going,” Devon said. “As people, our views of things, our temperament, and the way we see things was so aligned. He’s influenced a lot of my music taste and we sat down and listened to a lot of music together and studied it. I’ve always been drawn to the dark and sexy, and my music does have a darker tone, which I like. ”


As this new era of Salter-produced songs from Thompson emerged, another major player, Gibson, was waiting in the wings to get involved. “We went to visit the Gibson showroom on Sunset,” she said. ‘They hadn’t heard any music, nothing. I just went in there, I grabbed a guitar and started playing it, and they wanted me to be one of their artists.” The partnership kicked off with Gibson spotlighting Thompson’s latest and strongest single, “Soft Like Water,” a bluesy reflection on past timidity that builds to a snarling tidal wave of a chorus, promising those days of passivity are gone forever. The track is the first of several collaborations with Salter that Thompson plans to release throughout 2023.


Now that she’s just starting to hit her stride, Thompson is more confident than ever that this is the right direction for her life; the outsider has finally found a place that feels like home, in her music. “I might be young, but music has been my life for eleven or twelve years now,” she said. “It’s been my life forever. I eventually realized I can’t do anything else, dropped out of college, and decided to do this. I work my ass off to make my songs original, to get better at guitar, and on my songwriting. I want to make a life for myself as an artist, following up some of the female musicians that really made a difference.”

Tour dates

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