visionary producer turning TikTok attention into a major chart hit

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D4vd became a musician by accident. In the truest career aspirations of Generation Z, he grew up wanting to be a professional video gamer and spent his early teens uploading short clips of himself playing Fortnite to YouTube under the moniker Limit Ant, with his videos spanning over 15 years Millions of views accumulated in total. It was here that he started releasing his own tracks and filled the need for non-copyright music in his Fortnite montages by creating his own tracks on the BandLab social music platform and that completely changed his mindset.

Over the past year, d4vd (born David Burke) has continued to upload quiet music to Soundcloud. The beachy indie sound of his earlier tracks “Here With Me”, “You and I” and “Take Me To The Sun” suits Wallows and Rex Orange County more than the floating, detailed emo of his latest single, ‘Romantic Homicide’ ‘. The track was a breakthrough for d4vd: it debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100, has surpassed 75 million streams and is quickly becoming a trending hit on TikTok.

But despite his recent success, d4vd admits it’s only been a few months since he started seriously considering music. “I didn’t even think about how far it could actually take me in terms of the numbers and everything,” he says via Zoom from his Texas home.

At just 17 years old, not much has changed in the life of d4vd since the smash hit of Romantic Homicide, but it feels like it’s about to happen. Over the summer, he hit the Los Angeles studio with musician Jim-E Stack, who has previously written and produced for Caroline Polachek, Dominic Fike and Gracie Abrams. Having recently signed to Darkroom Records – home of Billie Eilish and Holly Humberstone – d4vd’s distinctive bedroom pop with a nightmarish edge perfectly complements the sounds of his new labelmates.

As “Romantic Homicide” continues to storm the charts, NME meets d4vd for his first-ever interview — which takes place in the middle of homeschooling, in a place that would normally be reserved for spending time making new music in his closet — to talk about his breakthrough single, his unique upbringing and his big Plans for the future.

‘Romantic Homicide’ is having a real moment online. How did you navigate all that newfound attention?

“Actually, it was amazing. I’ve had little moments like this before with songs on SoundCloud, but letting a song take off the way it did and be as natural as it did without putting it in anyone’s face for a whole week pressed is really amazing. And the fact that people resonated with the music…it kind of promoted itself.”

What do you think resonated with people about “Romantic Homicide”?

“I think it’s that simple. [The song] is relatable in some way; It’s not crazy with the vocals, it just has two layers of backing vocals for harmonization. It’s just a track that you don’t have to think too much about to listen to, you can easily connect to what’s being said because I don’t oversaturate the sound, and it just feels like everyone could have this song can do .

“I mean, you listen to music that’s mainstream now, and it’s like, ‘Man, I have to have this Voice to do this” or “I really wish I could sing like that”. But honestly, you could jump in your closet and literally just make one [song like] ‘Romantic Homicide’ and it goes straight into the minds of over 40 million people.”

You used BandLab to make music at home. How is your relationship with the platform?

“My relationship with BandLab has been great in that I can literally make music out of my closet. The CEO came forward a couple of weeks ago and said he’s amazed that someone who’s used the platform he’s created has managed to get on the billboard [200 singles] Diagram.

“[BandLab] literally changed my life. I couldn’t ask for more – it has allowed me to make music from home without a professional microphone since I literally only use Apple earbuds and the app on my phone. I can make the music I like without compromise.”

Photo credit: Hope Obadan

Did you teach yourself how to make music?

“I haven’t even watched a YouTube tutorial, BandLab really has everything set up for you – kudos to the developers for the user interface being so user-friendly. I could just go with a standard preset, dabble in EQ and reverb, and start making my own music. But I just dabbled with it myself and created a whole bunch of presets that I can use myself.”

You have been homeschooled since you were 13 years old. How has your upbringing impacted the way you built your career?

“I think if I was still in public school I wouldn’t have had time to play video games and then I wouldn’t have had time to focus on making music [my videos]. I don’t think I would have made music otherwise. Now I can learn what is not taught in regular school curriculum and extracurricular activities; I can learn more about what I’m interested in instead of someone telling me what I need to know.”

Were there certain influences for you to make music? There are many different genres that flow through each of your songs.

“I grew up in a very Christian household and we’ve only listened to gospel music for most of my life. Lately I’ve started listening to secular music [non-religious] Music. I used to have the perception that all music outside of gospel is just rap, and when I found this music with instrumental production, I realized that you don’t even have to sing to be able to make music anymore. I make the sounds that mix what I’ve heard before and new things that interest me: I mix them and put my own spin on them.”

“You could go into your closet, make one [song like] ‘Romantic Homicide,’ and it’s going straight into the minds of over 40 million people.”

What was going on in your life while you were making Romantic Homicide?

“It wasn’t the song [called] ‘Romantic Homicide’ until about two days before release. There were three other versions of the song because I found the instrumental by scrolling through YouTube and had an idea for it as soon as I heard it. It didn’t work and I didn’t like it. And then the second time I tried to put a hip hop verse on it.

“I got really bored one day and I hopped back in the closet and that’s when the first ‘I’m scared’ moment came. I thought I had to keep doing this [music], and it just kept rolling that way. I didn’t even think about what was said in my lyrics until ‘in the back of my mind. As soon as I said that, it was like, ‘What emotion do I want to bring back?’ And I realized that it was a feeling of losing someone and having feelings of resentment towards that person, then they go out of the back of my mind. I don’t really know what made me want to do this kind of music that day, because the early version of the song was very happy.”

They recently posted on Instagram that “‘Romantic Homicide’ 2, 3 and 4 done then I’ll be retired”. Is there any truth to this statement?

“Yes, that’s a lie. I never want to remake a song. If you look at my discography, I don’t have two songs that sound the same. But there is more music to come that also puts the previous music into context. You can expect more from both sides: new releases and old releases, new visuals for old releases and new visuals for new releases.”

d4vd artist
Photo credit: Hope Obadan

As a black artist moving in the indie sphere, is it important to you to go your own way and make music on your own terms?

“I love it. The amount of DMs I get from people saying, ‘I thought you were white’… it’s so funny to me! And I like it because it’s like I’m breaking the stigma about what the music of African American creators should be, how it should be perceived and what they should be making It now feels like you can make any music you want to make, you don’t have to be in one Being pigeonholed. You can be successful in your own lane, depending on who you are and staying true to yourself and just doing what you love to do.”

Does the success of “Romantic Homicide” influence how you want to make music in the future?

“Not really. I went into the studio twice when I was in LA, I did three songs in the studio in May, and then I came back home and it was like I never left BandLab. So that [app] is my goal – I quite like making music in the closet. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, I’ve experienced the studio, now I have to go there all the time’. I have a studio when I’m in LA and when I get home I have my phone.”

What else can we expect from you soon?

“It’s all I can think of at the moment. I’ve been making much happier music lately because my mom says, ‘Why do you keep doing all these sad songs?’ So whatever the instrumental tells me that needs to be said, I say that on it. We are still collecting ideas for a first live show in the near future, the first show will be an experience. It’s going to be incredible.”

The new single “Romantic Homicide” by d4vd is available now

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