Hannah Witkowski has nightmares. They’re vivid, and soon after she awakes, the electro-pop singer writes what happened. She analyzes how these vivid dreams looked, and sometimes the dreams create the foundation for her songs. That’s the case for her new single, “Senses,” and its accompanying music video.
The 22-year-old, who goes by the stage name Devi, dropped “Senses” less than two months after releasing her debut single. The new song may come from a dark place, but like Devi, it’s ultimately optimistic — and even more fun to listen to.
Witkowski comes from a musical family and was born and raised in Fort Worth. Her grandfather had a stint playing in Buddy Holly’s band in Lubbock.
“Music was second nature,” she says. “When I was 7 or 8, I picked up my Aunt Carol’s guitar and tried to learn how to play.
“From that moment, making music was the only thing for me.”
She started performing original material when she was 13. Witkowski started with acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter-type music, then progressed into garage rock and even forayed into heavy metal. As she bounced from genre to genre and gigged with different bands, Witkowski kept her passion and talent for beat-making to herself. Armed with an iPad and GarageBand, she developed a penchant for electronic music.
“I didn’t show anyone at first,” she says. “Through trial and error, I started to figure out things that I really like.”
She also yearned to be independent. Feeling confined by a band, Witkowski broke free and embraced the experimental electro-pop she’d been creating in the privacy of her own home.
“I was relying on others for my self-expression,” she says. “And I couldn’t do that anymore.”
Witkowski became Devi, deriving her moniker from Sanskrit.
“The word ‘Devi’ originally meant goddess, and now it means feminine energy,” she says. “This is me announcing that I’m the creator of my own stuff. That I’m the one that has to make my life happen.”
Although she went solo, Witkowski wasn’t alone.
Her talents caught the eye of two guys from Common House Collective, a Fort Worth-based production group that launched in late 2017. Producer Sam Culp was looking for an electronic artist, and his sound engineer, Peter Wierenga, recommended Witkowski.
“I knew right away she can sing, but then you realize she can write great songs, too,” he says. “It was a no-brainer.”
“She had the two things you need: the voice and the drive,” Culp says.
Witkowski's connection to Culp was immediate.
“We had this great chemistry together,” she says. “We fit like two puzzle pieces.”
That chemistry — and Wierenga’s mixing — translated to musical magic in the studio. Witkowski and the Common House crew recorded her debut single, “It’s Devi, Bitch,” and released it in late October. It was one of a slew of tracks the team assembled.
“Each song got crazier and crazier,” Culp says.
“Senses,” released at midnight Dec. 7, finds Witkowski mining personal territory and finding hope in the dark.
“I was having dreams where I felt like I was underwater, wrapped in darkness," Witkowski says. "During the day, I felt like I was going nowhere. I could either keep staying still, or do something about it.”
She chose to do something about it — to swim until she surfaced.
“I put myself out there, and that’s how I met Sam and Pete," she says.
Now she hopes to inspire others to do the same. While initially bleak, with a grainy sound that immerses you underwater, the song is buoyed by Witkowski's powerful vocals.
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“‘Senses’ is all about there being others with you in the deep end. There’s a cool chemistry there, and you’re trying to get to the top," she says.
Witkowski sees her duty as an artist to help listeners reach the top, too.
“Art is healing, so to be an artist is to hold some capability to heal others," Witkowski says. "I want to take people up with me.”
“Senses” is out now.