Demi The Daredevil Is Leaping Emotional Hurdles With His Music

Traditionally, when one thinks of a daredevil, images of Evel Knievel on his bike, attempting to jump a canyon, come to mind. For Demi the Daredevil, however, being a daredevil means something different – it means daring to bare his soul.

“I’m very shy in person,” Demi the Daredevil – which is the performance moniker of Austin, TX based emo pop-rock artist Jeff Azar – explains, “I’m more introverted. I wouldn’t appear to be a daredevil unless I’m on stage. I can kinda let it out there.”

With a new EP, titled My Purgatorium, due out December 2nd, Demi has a whole lot more he’s ready to let out.

I caught up with Demi to find out more about what listeners can expect from My Purgatorium, as well as the unique history of Demi the Daredevil, and the joy he feels in being able to connect with fans on a deeper level.  

Demi the Daredevil started with you as the drummer, but in 2009 the original lead singer, Jovan Ortiz, passed away from bacterial meningitis. I can’t imagine it was an easy decision to continue on with Demi the Daredevil. What led you to decide to keep it going? 

It was primarily me thinking about continuing his legacy, and also thinking about his family.

He wrote songs that were part of a self-titled album, and I wanted them to, if this thing works, get royalties, or something, to where it isn’t just like I start a new project and there’s no attention to what he already did.

So I was thinking about his family, and I was thinking about his legacy.

There was a little bit of controversy with another member that was part of originating the band. It appeared that I was being maybe a jerk at the time by just taking the name when I split off with the guitarist, but I felt like it was the right thing to do at the time because I knew I was gonna carry it forward.

It’s really cool that if anything from that self-titled album gets placement, or blows up, some of the money is gonna go to the family. 

Exactly. That was #1, I think.

Even though a considerable amount of time has passed, do you still consider him part of the project? Is he still part of the emotional output when you’re writing? 

Yeah, he is.

He was very different from me in that I always thought he was kinda like Jim Carrey, or Robin Williams, that kind of person that’s just able to be really malleable with their facial expressions. He was just a natural born comedian, but he also was a really good connoisseur.

In a sense he taught me, initially, that you would go to the best possible music, and compositions, and kind of remix those, or inspire from that, stand on the shoulders of giants. He taught me that, which was such a huge lesson.

He was very stylistic, and had clever lyrics, really good lyrics. For me the lyrics are so much more about coping with life. I’m more melancholic than him. I’m very different.

I still have a t-shirt of him and me.

There’s a picture that his dad made of us in my garage, and I’m always looking at that, and just thinking about him, being like – you would be amazed at the people that we’re working with now. You died in 2009, and things were so different back then. He’d be amazed at how much we can access these producers, or work with industry people.

He motivates me.

What about you, or your music, do you feel makes you a daredevil? 

Let’s see, about me … I would say having the bipolar thing – in the negative sense I can be reckless, and in the positive sense I definitely get real intense with endeavors, and can really risk it all.

Anyone that’s going down a path that’s atypical, you’re gonna choose something maybe for the integrity of it rather than an immediate payoff, or at the risk of no payoff. So in that sense it is risky.

Earlier you explained that while you’re an introvert, you feel you can be a daredevil on stage. Is the stage the one place where you feel OK to fully express yourself? 

Yeah, definitely.

I just read a little thing about Prince the other day, and they were saying the same thing – you would never picture this little shy kid would be able to kind of go to that other alter-ego place on stage. I definitely feel like that. For some reason I don’t get embarrassed on the stage.

You mentioned you’re bipolar, and I know you put your anxieties, and depressions, into every song. Does this make some of your music difficult to perform, or is it a form of catharsis, and relating to others? 

I would say the latter. Maybe it’s difficult to initially lean into talking about it, but once it’s brought to light, once it’s out there, I feel comfortable with it. So it’s definitely more in the sense of relating to others, and just making sure that I’m focusing on the person that I really want to connect with, and that’s somebody who feels a lot of shame, something causes them to feel like an outcast, or rejected, and so I focus on that, and it makes it easy.

How often do listeners come up to you after shows, or hit you up on social media to discuss how they’ve related to a song, or a lyric? 

I get the DMs a lot. There’s a lot of interaction because of maybe the vulnerability aspect, so I get a lot of those DMs daily, and I try to respond to them as quickly as I can. I make sure to respond to everybody. It’s a lot of people opening up, which I really appreciate.

There are some artists that are kind of just like, “Well, it’s a lot of baggage, and I hate it. The fans, they give you all this baggage,” and I don’t feel that way. When (fans) open up, I’m just like this is great, because it’s very fulfilling to be able to connect on a real level, and for people to open up, and not small talk.

And sometimes a person just needs someone to talk to that they know can relate. 

Yeah, it’s so true, and that’s what they say – it feels good to have someone who understands.

I hope I do understand. Everyone’s problems are slightly different.

Even if you don’t fully understand, you listen. 

That’s so important. I’m thinking about my worst times, that was probably one of the biggest issues, I couldn’t get anyone around me to be a supportive ear. It was very hard to find that. You’re like, am I crazy? Nobody cares?

I read that one of your goals is to create a safe space, and community for “weirdos among other weirdos.” What makes you a weirdo, and what makes being a weirdo great? 

Oh wow. What makes me a weirdo? That’s a very good question. What is it to be weird? I think that you’re maybe considered a weirdo in a positive sense if you kind of march to your own drum, you listen to your own thoughts, and you try to do what’s right for you. Simply doing that makes you seem eccentric, because you’re listening to yourself.

What makes you great because of that? Maybe you’re changing up the mold. Maybe if you do what everyone else is doing, and following the masses, or the herd, or the conventional way of doing stuff, it doesn’t create change, and maybe change is part of our evolution as humans, so maybe that makes you great.

Earlier you mentioned not being able to find a supportive ear when you were younger, so I think I know the answer to this, but did you have a community of “weirdos among other weirdos” growing up, or is this something you’re creating for the very first time? 

I’m sure that I did have it, and that’s on me to go back and be thankful for those occurrences, but I feel like it was a problem, and that’s why I’m so passionate about solving that problem. There was none of that, from what I remember, most anywhere I went, so I think I’m trying to start solving the problem.

Access while you were growing up was a bit different. You basically only had access to your immediate community. There was no social media. 

That is so true. It was a different time period. The internet opens people up to this wealth of connection.

One of the first things I thought when I initially heard your work is that there’s a theatricality to it. Where does this come from? Do you have a background in theater? 

Everybody picks up on that, and I was never in theater.

I know that I have this flamboyant side of me, so I’m thinking people are saying that because of the way that I’m singing. Partly, I know that it’s overcompensating for being really tired when recording vocals, and I feel like I have to just give it my all.

I heard a lot of classical music growing up, and my mom and sisters were dancers, and they were playing musicals, and maybe that kind of more complex musicality, which I love, is coming out in the music. Maybe that makes it theatrical.

Your upcoming EP, titled My Purgatorium, is due out December 2nd. A title like that brings up thoughts of religion, and dealing with the repercussions of one’s sins. Am I anywhere near the mark with that? 

You’re totally right. I was raised Catholic, and this is kind of … not rediscovering, but clarifying, making sure that I am fully honest about what spirituality means to me, and I’m not just following the religion.

It was an accident, in a way. I was making these songs, and the lyrics, I noticed, were having this trend of using the words rosary, saints, and Heaven, so I’m like OK, this is what I’m doing naturally. I’m assuming it’s because I got these messages growing up as a kid, but it’s really just trying to work through – what is the idea of God? What is this thing going from victimhood to more empowerment? What are these family habits, people rationalizing this is the moral thing to do when you self-sacrifice? Working through all that.

Musically, what were some of your goals for this album? 

Sonically I’m not the type of person to go and say – OK, for this album it’s going to be an era, I’m gonna go listen to all of Prince’s albums, and I’m gonna emulate that, and the next album I’m gonna listen to (something else).

I feel like every album I’m kind of tweaking the sounds that I’m already doing. I tend to use the strings, and I tend to use the organs, so it’s got a gothic feel to it overall, and I tend to make dark, aggressive songs. I tend to make music when I’m feeling not great, so it leans towards the dark, and aggressive, but there’s also hopeful sounding stuff on this, musically, and it kind of has an ambient feel. There’s a lot of reverb on the vocals, and a lot of reverb, and delay, on the piano, so it kind of brings you into this foggy world in a way.

Finally, I see you took part in Inktober, which means you also create visual art. How long has this been a part of your life? 

Actually, I can’t draw for anything. The fans tend to be creative, so I get a lot of Demi related fan art, so maybe that’s what you were seeing on Instagram. I was posting recent re-posts. That’s all them. I’m always amazed.

So your fans are insanely talented, and hard working, as well. 

That’s true. They want to express themselves, and maybe it’s all part of the same drive.

It’s also another way of communicating with you. It’s someone saying – here’s a representation of what you did for me. 

Yeah. They create their own narratives, or they add to the narrative, and that’s cool. (It becomes) collaboration.

Would you ever consider a music video, or lyric video, that’s all fan art? 

I would love that!

We had a fan music video collaboration where I asked everybody to send videos of them lip syncing lines. (Some) were like – I can’t get in front of a camera, but I’ll take a picture of these illustrations.

It would be very cool to just do it in the illustration world. I’ve been wanting to do animation videos for a long time.

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Therese Snider said…
I hope you blow up, you have so much to offer the world. Excited for you and for Jovans legacy and his family!

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