With a hyperspeed rise to acclaim, d4vd is a bit of a new kid on the block... to the point where the first concert he ever attended was his own. Now with a debut album full of promise under his belt, it's only a matter of time before the thrilling up-and-comer becomes a household name.
Photography by Aidan Cullen
Written by Oli Spencer
The 18-year-old, Houston-based artist had his mind originally set on gaming, playing Fortnite and posting gaming videos to his YouTube channel. He was gaining a following, but also faced a couple of copyright strikes for the music used in his videos, encouraging him to create his own songs. Leveraging this newfound fan base, he taught himself how to use BandLab - and with a little motivation from his mother and his sister’s closet, d4vd would soon have the world at his fingertips. His raw and gritty breakup anthem ‘Romantic Homicide’ blew up on TikTok, shining the spotlight directly on the teenager. Fast forward just one year to 560 million streams and counting on ‘Romantic Homicide’, a record deal, the chart topping ‘Here With Me’ - and his beautiful yet haunting debut album, ‘Petals to Thorns’. If one thing has remained the same as life a year ago, it’s that d4vd is still making music in his sister’s closet. “There’s a form of intimacy in the closet with my own thoughts, and not having people in the room to combat my creative process…” he tells me, “It’s all me, it’s all raw.”
The nine-track project (which he claims came together by accident) only solidifies his place as one of the most promising talents to emerge of late. A highlight on the project is the fairytale duet ‘This Is How It Feels’ with the incredible Icelandic artist Laufey, the pair intertwining voices effortlessly over shimmering piano keys. It’s songs like this paired with the moodier indie rock song ‘You And I’, or the almost 2004 Green Day-reminiscent ‘Backstreet Girl’ that prove d4vd is never ever constrained by genre - truly carving a path and ushering in a new era of bedroom-artist success.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with the breakthrough artist, and talked about creating his debut album essentially by accident, collaborating with Laufey, and which video game would be a dream to create the soundtrack for.
What does a day in your life look like right now? Is it very different from a year ago?
When I’m back in Texas, in Houston - it’s pretty much the same as usual with a couple of interviews sprinkled here and there, some TikToks being made and a lot of music being made. But yeah a year ago before even getting signed it was just me making music and that’s what I’m still doing, making music in my sisters closet. So not much has changed!
I’d love to know what your grandparents think of your music? To me your music has an old soul feel to it.
It’s so interesting, because last year my grandmas didn’t know I was making music, and we took a trip to New York which is where they're based. My grandmother on my mum’s side is super out of touch with everything to do with music, she doesn't watch TV, doesn't watch movies, nothing bro. So I didn’t know what she was going to think, my mum said she was going to freak out and tell me to stop doing it! We pulled up to her apartment and played ‘Here With Me’, and she LOVED it! She started singing along to the lyrics and I was like “What! No way! There is no way you’re vibing to this!” But yeah, she loved it. My grandmother on my dads side is super proud as well, she calls me all the time and tells me she’s proud of me, and that she’s watching the music videos. Every time I drop a new song she’s like “Oh! Don’t forget about me! Music video is so good!”
You were recently visiting our neighbours, Australia - how was that?
It was amazing man, I went to Sydney and Melbourne - the vibes from the concert were immaculate, they knew every lyric! I don't know how they knew more songs than the US… the energy was crazy, the cities themselves are amazing too. I went on a ferry while I was in Sydney, just listening to music and letting the wind hit my face.
We’ve got to get you here in New Zealand soon!
Cmon yes! I gotta get out there, I gotta get out there.
I’d love to talk about ‘Petals to Thorns’ - what kind of headspace were you in while making the project?
It was interesting because I’d been really focusing on one song at a time through 2022. I wasn’t thinking about a project, but when it came time to put something together it was like I had created a cohesive project by accident. I wasn’t thinking about the topic or the themes, none of that, it just fell into place. I started thinking about the roses and the ‘Romantic Homicide’ aesthetic, with that very gory, raw gritty noir film vibe… and the heartbreak elements of it - and contrast that with the feel of ‘here with me’, and love.
So I was like okay, maybe I could not make it one emotion, but have you travel through two contrasting emotions in one project. Petals to thorns, it’s like looking at the rose, and then looking at those thorns and grabbing it and getting stabbed by the same thing you thought was beautiful. I knew I had to make the love songs first, and then the heartbreak songs… you fall into it.
You can take what you need from every song, it’s not specific. Whatever situation you’re going through, there is something for you in this project. It takes you through a delusional relationship - there are themes of things not being real, dreams… I say the word dream A LOT! It’s basically what everybody goes through when they get heart broken at one point or another. So I tried to encapsulate different walks through a situation like this, and to encapsulate as many different aspects and views as I could - without it being just mine. It has to be a hive mind, I think that’s what resonates with people, it’s relatable and not just listenable. I think we captured that very well with this.
I also read that Laufey inspires you a lot, and your song with her was a standout on the project for sure. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Up until I was thirteen I was strictly listening to classical, jazz and gospel. And after getting exposed to the other kinds of music out there I kind of had a break from what I was brought up on. I heard Laufey’s ‘Everything I Know About Love’ project in October of 2022, and I listened to the entire thing. It was a jazz classical based project and I had never heard anything like that in six years, and I was like bro what is going on, this is modern jazz? I hit her up on Instagram and said your music feels like a warm hug, and I left it at that. Then two months later she found out about ‘Romantic Homicide’, liked the song, and she DM’d me back saying “oh I was going to say the same thing to you!” We started working with the same producer Spencer Stuart down the line, and he was like why don’t you just make a song together? Say less. We were in Spencer’s house, she was on the piano, I was recording everything on the vocals side, and she just played this little riff, I was spitting out lyrics just like that. She sang “So this is how it feels…”, and boom, the hook was straight there! We grabbed it out of the air and into the computer, it happened so quickly. The song was literally made that night. Then it went through the process of mixing and blah blah blah… I don’t really like mixing. I'm not gonna lie to you, me being the DIY bandlab kid, I don’t really mix my music… but you know, you gotta! We got it done. The song is so great.
If you could write the soundtrack to any video game - which game would you pick? And how would the music sound?
The Last Of Us, The Last Of Us, The Last Of Us!!! 1 or 2 oh my goodness, I would just absolutely bring everything Deftones, everything Paramore, everything Pierce The Veil, everything Evanescence, like bro… I would make the most polarising rock track for that song. I don't wanna spoil it for anybody, but especially when… [ spoiler ] …in the Last Of Us 2, I love that they made it an emotional moment, but I would have gone stupid! It would have been the loudest part of the game bro.
What is inspiring you the most, outside of music right now?
A lot of film! I’ve been watching a lot of A24 films. I just watched ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Midsommar’, and I gotta go see ‘Beau Is Afraid’. I just watched Beef as well, I’m doing a lot of movie watching. That’s where I get most of my music inspiration from honestly, I made ‘Here With Me’ right after I watched Up! So, me and films are very tapped in.
To close it off, what is the best advice you ever received?
Best advice I ever received is to be yourself! Just be unapologetically you and people will see your authenticity, people will see the organic star power that you have with whatever you're doing. People will always judge you on the actions that you make, but they will never see the options that you had - so just make sure that whatever you do, you do it for you and nobody else. Be unapologetic about it and you will go far.