Being recognized as a top singer for two years running by American Idol seems like it should be a high point in a vocalist's career. For Auroran Devan Blake Jones, the experience was more painful than if he had never tried in the first place. But he credits his time there for his knowledge of how to market himself, and now he's using the experience to put together a mixtape that enlists the help of a bevy of local rappers, including Bianca Mikahn and Air Dubai's Jon Shockness. He invited us to a small listening party for his recently finished project, titled Let's Drink, Let's Smoke. Jones may not be the American Idol, but he is well on his way to becoming a Colorado treasure.
Jones laughs at the unlikely fact that he's made a mixtape, admitting that he's never been into hip-hop and that he always resisted the urges of his best friend to make one. "I was like, 'Dude, I don't want to do a mixtape. I'm doing American Idol. I'm gonna get there because I'm a star!'" Then American Idol ended, and as it does for so many who taste fame so briefly, the fantasy came crashing down.
"I came home, and I was fucking pissed and I hated the world, and I was like, "Fuck all of this shit." I wrote songs because I was hurt. I was really fucking upset, and I felt alone, and I felt abandoned, and I felt fucking misused and abused. You have people coming up to you saying they're your friend, and you get on TV, and when you're not on TV anymore, they're not your friend anymore.... [My best friend] was like, "Maybe we should do this mixtape." I was like, "You know what? Maybe you're right."
"This mixtape is really a diary of the last four months of my life," says Jones. "One of the first songs that I wrote was 'Extravagant.' That's a video we're doing with Blurred Pictures.... This is a party track. We're talking about music. We're talking about smoking weed and popping pills, and life is easy and breezy.
"The first thing I said is, 'Let's drink, let's smoke,'" Jones goes on. "We're going to title the mixtape that. We're going to work off that. And ["Extravagant"] was so much fun, but I went through a lot of personal pain at that time with failed friendships, failed relationships, family relationships going astray.
"At the end of the day," he continues, "I think I realized, Let's Drink, Let's Smoke -- you can really take that so many ways. At that point, when I realized that, I realized that I had forgotten what the title was about. I was just writing what I felt. But after the mixtape was done, I said, 'You know what? A lot of the things that are really hitting me to my core, that make me want to cry -- that stuff is like let me smoke, let me sit back and think about my life and be an introspective human being; let me breathe life and think and live and make mistakes and move on.' And the 'let's drink' part was like, 'You know what? Fuck it.'
"It's about the now, and it's about how you feel," Jones explains. "I have some tracks on the mixtape that I feel like some people would be like, 'That doesn't sound like him!' They've only heard me do American Idol or do jazz shit, where I'm, like, belting it out, but they haven't heard me do some of the things I'm doing, and some people have never heard me be emotional in person or on a track...
"There's a lot of songs that I have on the mixtape that are really kind of vulnerable, and I think I was afraid to share that, but I realized that people will connect to that, and if they don't, you don't want to fake it.... If I was going to die tomorrow and I had to write about my life up until this point, what would I write about? I wrote about everything."
As promised, the mixtape does have a bit of everything, including solid rapping, some surprises, and, of course, Jones's golden voice. One of the reasons Jones decided to go with the mixtape format was that it is relatively free of guidelines. Accordingly, he samples, imports some tracks, and chances to break ground previously unbroken by him.
The project, which is mixed and hosted by KS-107.5's DJ Chonz is currently up on Soundcloud and will be available for download for free today. To celebrate, Jones is performing at the Larimer Lounge on Wednesday, March 12.
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