Devon Worley has walked the line between two worlds since she was a child. In one world, she grew up in school with peers her own age. In the other, she grew up on stage, under the music industry’s spotlight alongside adult musicians who are also professional peers. Since launching her country music career at the age of 11, Worley, who is now an 18-year-old Plymouth resident, has successfully inhabited both.
Worley navigates both worlds in her own way. Take her version of prom. The night started with the usual: a prom dress, hair and makeup, and a date. But after only 12 minutes at the dance, Worley was transported by her tour bus to a show she was scheduled to play. She ended the night performing on stage in her prom dress. “I’ve been in this professional industry for so long, it’s almost like a culture shock when I go back to school,” Worley says. “It’s bizarre for me to go to a place where I am just a teenager.”
Worley’s passion for performing sparked early in life. She does not come from a particularly musical family, although it was her grandfather who taught her how to play the guitar. She always loved singing and would perform at every opportunity she could. She performed at talent shows, participated in the Minnesota Opera Ragazzi program and even played Gretl in The Sound of Music, a city of Plymouth production in 2006.
At age 11, Worley received her first big break through the Colgate Country Showdown, a country music contest. In the contest, she performed an original tune, backed by a band of veteran musicians. The team won the local and state competition, but did not advance after regionals. Even after they were knocked out of the competition, Worley continued to sit in and perform with the team of musicians, who eventually would become her bandmates in the Devon Worley Band (or DWB).
Made official the summer before Worley entered seventh grade, the DWB has been gigging steadily since, playing anywhere from festival stages to county fairs to small hole-in-the-wall bars. “Anywhere that plays live music in the Twin Cities, we’ve probably played it,” says Jamey Worley, the singer’s mother and band manager. The band travels outside the Twin Cities, too.
During the school year, they are on the road for shows a couple times each month. During the summer, they travel almost every weekend with some week-long stretches. With their silver and green tour bus, the band drives across Minnesota and into neighboring states like Wisconsin and North Dakota. And they continue to extend their mileage. Last year, they performed at the 2015 Country Jam in Grand Junction, Colorado, a music festival that attracted headliners including Tim McGraw, Billy Currington and Kacey Musgraves. This summer, they plan to travel to Montana and possibly Wyoming, continuing to spread their songs deeper into the heartland.
The DWB sound is spreading over regional airwaves, too. Local stations such as Minnesota’s Total Country BOB FM plays the band’s music fairly regularly. It’s becoming less of a shock when the band hears its music on the radio. However, Worley still recalls the excitement the first time it happened. She took the day off from school to celebrate with her family, who all piled into her grandfather’s office to hear the tune on the air.
DWB’s first album, Silver Creek was released in 2013 during Worley’s sophomore year. The band is currently working on a new album. The writing is a collaboration between Worley, her mother and her bandmates. “I like to think of songs as high-stakes essays,” says Worley, who is not a formulaic writer needing traditional conventions. When she writes, her two biggest influences are Willie Nelson and Led Zeppelin. The upcoming album is eclectic; there are songs on the album that are rock-heavy and hardcore, and then there are some that are stripped down with a strong country influence. “It’s kind of genre-less at this stage,” Worley says of the new album. “It’s hard to call what we are writing strictly country or strictly rock.”
Growing up on stage, you might think that Worley has encountered stage fright somewhere along her career, but it’s not big crowds that unnerve her. “I’ve always been more terrified of after the show than the show itself,” Worley says. It’s talking to people and receiving compliments that can be hard for her, especially when she is aware of a mistake she’s made while performing, she adds.
Like most artists striving to produce the best product possible, Worley is hyper-aware of her mistakes, but she also has acquired a thick skin. Because of her age, and especially when she was very young, the band was held to a higher standard. “When people come out to a show, they have to be knocked off their feet to consider us equal to all of the other people in the industry,” Worley says.
When other parents of talented kids ask Jamey Worley about her daughter’s career, she does not sugarcoat the dedication and sacrifices necessary to make it on the journey. Having a normal life outside of music is nearly impossible when you take into account the frequent road trips, late-night gigs and pressures from performing.
But, if the passion is true and deeply felt, the hard work and sacrifice are worth it. “My main goal in all of this is to make music and enjoy myself,” Worley says. Whether it is playing Gretl in The Sound of Music or being on stage at Colorado Country Jam, Worley puts her soul into making music. “I’ve always loved it, and I want to keep performing and playing no matter what level we make it to.”
Devon Worley’s Favorites
Who are your favorite musicians? These tend to change, but one who will always remain a favorite is Willie Nelson. Other currents are Johnny Cash, Eric Church, Elle King and Amy Winehouse
What are some favorite songs by others? An all-time favorite is the Willie Nelson tune “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” “I hope someday that I can write a song as beautiful as that one is written. It always makes me misty.”
Guilty pleasure music? She loves Katy Perry and listens to Nikki Minaj every time she works out.
Favorite road food? Teriyaki beef jerky, dill pickle sunflower seeds and a gallon of water. “It’s so bad for you, but I think one of the main things I’ve learned growing up in this industry is how to eat at gas stations all the time,” Worley says
Favorite road coffee? “I don’t know when, but at some point in my life, I stopped liking Starbucks coffee and started loving SuperAmerica coffee,” Worley admits. She prefers gas station coffee over most trendy coffee shops. Specifically, a drink her traveling companions made up is the Chuck Norris. To make a Chuck Norris successfully, combine half dark roast coffee with half vanilla latte from the gas station drink machines—it will not fail to kick you in the butt.
What do you miss most while traveling? Friends and family. Her bed. If it’s a long time on the road, she misses having her own space.
Where are some favorite places you have performed? Colorado Country Jam. However, her favorite bar in the world is Grandpa Al’s in Fairbault, Minn.