It happens only rarely but Deva Mahal‘s out-of-the-blue single Stand In has swept NZ off its feet in the few days since its late August release. A quick search finds fans describing the tears in their eyes from her rare, soulful performance, and fellow artists buzzing with adoration for both song and singer. When Jesse Sheehan reposted the song he said it was “…the best thing I’ve heard in years.” Multiple award-winner Rob Ruha calls himself a “nek level fan”, describing her vocal performance as having her “heart on the sleeve and life in every breath.” Deva’s own bass-playing collaborator Marika Hodgson calls it, “One of those rare songs that is raw, honest, pure emotion and hits me with the feels every single time.” A surefire hit then? NZM asked Deva Mahal to tell us a little about the making of a song+video that has caused an instant and unusually strong reaction among peers and fans alike.
There are songs that take an arm, a leg and maybe even a kidney to write. And then there is that which comes out of the truest, rawest place in your soul and only requires that you be unafraid to hear what it reveals. One evening, in Kelburn, I was listening and Stand In is what was conjured in the night. Who says being radically honest about how you’ve allowed yourself to be treated less than you deserved, and letting your heart get smashed doesn’t have a happy ending?
LOL! What made things even more exciting is that my mildly masochistic tendencies, history of poor taste in dating and the pandemic apocalypse created the perfect opp to join forces with the incredibly talented Marika Hodgson (aka Sorrento) to build a sonic world for the tune and so we worked in our individual bubbles and sent stems back and forth, while Auntie Rona reeked havoc and the world was on lockdown.
We were lucky enough to win over the confidence and support of NZ On Air to have the track masterfully recorded by Dr Lee Prebble at The Surgery Studios joined by Michelle Velvin on harp, Leonardo Coghini on piano and magical additional backing vocals by Nate Dousand.
We got Scott Jacoby (Eusomia Studios NYC) to mix and Chris Chetland (Kog Studios) to master the track, as well as Petra Cibilich of Fish&Clips to direct the music video. And now we’re here with a piece of work that was brought to life by some pretty incredible women. (And a few great men.)
For me, Stand In is for anyone who has felt overlooked, used, discarded, unseen and undervalued. It serves to remind ourselves that we are all diamonds shining bright, glitter and gold, and deserve to be cherished. In love and in life. No matter our race, our body type or our gender.