In the quiet suburbs of Houston, a young David Anthony Burke was subconsciously crafting the footprint of his musicality, forging the path to him becoming d4vd, the artist. In 2020, d4vd quickly emerged in corners of TikTok, resulting in the runaway success of breakout hit “Romantic Homicide” connecting with hundreds of thousands of listeners. His eclectic taste in music from internet wormholes—despite only listening to gospel until the age of 13—, an affinity for Japanese graphic novels and manga, and attunement to “real and grounded” narratives that utilize fantastical imagery became a blueprint for the rise of his visionary virtuosity.
Inspired by his adjustment to homeschooling, he realized he had secrets and deep feelings of isolation he could channel into artistic means of release. “My parents wanted me to be in control of what I learned. I found a lot of creative outlets through that, and not being stuck in [a routine] of going to school and [doing] homework, I could really learn what I wanted when I wanted to,” he tells me, crediting this transition as the genesis of what would inevitably become his career in music. d4vd was already a seasoned social media expert, with over fifty thousand subscribers on his gaming channel as a result of being an avid Fortnite player. When songs in his gaming montages began getting flagged for copyright, his supportive mother suggested he should write his own music as a solution. He discovered a music-making app called BandLab, which he’d take into his sister’s closet on his iPhone, along with his natural aptitude for poetry and lyricism, and the rest is history.
I sat down with d4vd and was quickly amazed by his tranquil confidence, all at his young age and navigating rapid popularity in a landscape of hyper-visibility, no less. Needless to say, he would have given my 17-year-old self a run for her money. He is well acquainted with his values and vision and is building imaginative worlds around his artistry to outlive even himself for teens to find solace in. Below, d4vd openly discusses his creative processes from the closet to the studio, the difference between nurturing online relationships and connecting with fans irl, and what he wants to be remembered for.
Congratulations on all of your runaway successes. Your rise to fame happened fast, what has this experience been like for you?
It’s been an absolute blessing so far—the team I have around me, the experiences, and the people I’ve met. The music [and] visuals have evolved. Everything is going beyond expectations. I love it.
Not long ago you were making music on your iPhone in your sister’s closet, has the creative process changed?
I’m still making music in my sister’s closet. I have gone to the studio a couple of times and worked with engineers and producers. Getting other people in the room—I’ve had to acclimate to it. At first, I could not do it. I’d get into the studio and get my phone out. Now, collaborating with people and making music with other people’s ideas and input, I’m trying to find the middle ground between the intimate music I make by myself and if I want to have something a little more elaborate with crazy production.
How would you describe your visual identity?
I don’t even know yet, I’m still figuring it out! That’s why I’m [exploring] through so many different avenues. I can’t really put a pin in it yet. But when it is, it will be the Apple effect, as I call it. It’s like everyone sees a tablet, they say iPad. You know what I’m saying? So, [I’m] still trying to figure it out but when I do, it’s going to be iconic.
What are you most looking forward to right now?
The storytelling. I’m trying to build an entire world around this thing. That’s why my [stage] name has a 4 in it, [to reflect] the four different characters of worlds. To see the progression of the story behind it and the lore—getting people interested in the broader scheme of things rather than just music and music video.
Are you more lyrics or melody driven?
They work in tandem with each other but lyrics cut through more than just a vibe. People that really care about music itself will pay attention to the lyrics. I think I cater [to] those listeners.
You’re a very eloquent lyricist. Has that always come naturally to you?
Most definitely. I’ve been writing poetry since the fifth grade. Being able to bring that into songwriting instead of making it on the spot is very important to me. I’m not singing, I’m speaking, in a way. I’m speaking with melodies, is what I call it. To tell a story, whether, from other people’s perspective or my perspective, it’s super important to have those lyrics as the foundation instead of melody-first.
How do you genre-bend in a way that preserves your sound as unique and true to you? Your sound is very eclectic.
It’s a bunch of trial and error, to be honest. When I released “NEVER AGAIN”, people said I sounded like PARTYNEXTDOOR and I had never heard of his music. I was finding the middle ground between me and the genre, and not me and an artist because [naturally] people associate sounds with artists instead of a genre. I have to try over and over again to find what feels like d4vd in this genre instead of [another] artist in a genre.
Your music knowledge and library are robust, was music a big part of your upbringing?
I wouldn’t say that. I was only listening to gospel music until I was 13. When I approached music, it was like I [chose] to approach music instead of approaching a sound. Which is why I like trying everything and not putting myself in a box.
Is there a sound or craft you haven’t explored yet but would like to?
Country music. I have not made a country song yet. I can’t wait to find the right vibe. When I try these new genres, I want to respect the art,—not go into it thinking I know everything about it and mess it up—find a way to really bring the culture and accurately portray that in the right way.
Are any of your songs most meaningful to you?
I would say “Dirty Secrets”. I was hiding a lot and writing that for myself. That’s why in the music video I catch myself in the end. It’s a self-reflection song.
Do you have a strong support system in your life, that you can be as vulnerable with as you are in your music? Or is music the vessel for your secrets?
I feel like music is a vessel because I can say so much. But my parents, for sure. My family is a strong support system. But the music is unadulterated—it’s just me. I think both but music is stronger because I can do way more. I can have my phone and air buds on me and do it wherever I am at.
What was the genesis of the “Placebo Effect” concept?
This is a personal song to me. “Here With Me” was inspired by Up. [“Placebo Effect”] is personal because I overthink a lot, I’m a critical thinker, at that. But they don’t really mix. You can’t be critical about a million things. Finding what is real in your life and what is fake, what you need to take out and put back in. Finding the real and sifting through and curating your life and your experiences, what is really meaningful and what doesn’t matter at all.
You have a particular focus on relationships that come through your lyrics, circling around themes of isolation and yearning for connection. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, I think it’s because of homeschooling. Most of my songs are written from the perspective of myself when I was just [starting my] homeschooling. Being cut off from all those kids for two years, and then the pandemic happened. Those first two years were tragic. I was a big Snapchat streaker and no one was hitting me up and saying ‘yo David why are you not coming to school?’, people forgot about me. I felt isolated, in a way, and disconnected from a lot of people.
How would you describe your relationship with the internet and social media?
It’s weird. I have to be told to post sometimes because I don’t be posting. I want to have a personal connection with people. It’s not like before social media was a thing when you’d rarely see artists, which I think added a bigger fame factor, they weren’t as accessible as they are now. But I feel like I’m approaching it as a person, a real person you can talk to at any time. I respond to every DM [and] comment I can, and just be there, instead of being a celebrity. Having a connection with people who listen to your music is important because they will continue to listen to it. And if they can understand who you are as a person, rather than [just] an artist, they’re going to be there for life.
And what’s the difference between connecting with someone over social media and in person during a performance?
It’s super surreal. Usually, [when] they stream a song, I’m in their ears. But now you see me. When I’m performing, I’m performing with the crowd, instead of at [them]. It goes two ways, it’s super special.
What was the first time you felt successful?
I mean, success is subjective. But I feel like the first time I performed, and I was like ‘this is the product of the music’—those people, those kids, that are being helped by the music, interpreting the songs in their own way, [applying] the songs to their relationships, past selves, reflection, that’s the product of the music.
To your point, success is subjective. How would you define it?
For me, personally, it is leaving an entire project. Not even [just] an album, but seeing the visuals, the music, the story behind it, the short films, the potential anime, the potential manga, the potential poetry books, and just having that live on the earth and outlive me. Having people think about this as ‘this is what d4vd was’ and have that be what I leave behind.
Is there something about your music or legacy that you want to be remembered for?
The messages. Not that I’m pushing a specific [message] with each song, but kids can take what they need from it and use it however they see fit. I feel that’s super important. You can just take whatever you want from the music and let it be [yours], that we make together. Instead of me making it and you just listening to it.
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