Dev Hynes is perched on a bench outside his favorite East Village juice bar looking through an art-book of photos of Times Square that he’s picked up for inspiration. The British-born/New York-based singer, songwriter, composer and all-round musical wiz is in demand at the moment, especially after his sterling work writing and producing Solange Knowles’ “Losing You.” Last year he collaborated with Florence Welch and more recently, dropped official remixes for Phoenix and Kavinsky. In between sips of his breakfast smoothie, Hive persuaded Dev to give up the goods on soon-coming projects with Jessie Ware and the Sugababes, reveal the direction of his next Blood Orange album, and find out what being part of Solange’s musical crew entails.
What new music are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new Blood Orange album and then also working for Jessie Ware on some of the stuff, and Mutya Keisha Siobhan, the original Sugababes.
What’s it like working with the Sugabes?
It’s pretty wild! I remember being 14 when they came out, it’s interesting. I think that’s part of why it works ’cause I’m kinda approaching it as a fan, like what I would want to hear from them. And they’re so nice.
Which one of the Sugabes did you have a crush on back then?
[Laughs.] I’m slighting hesitant to answer but I think Siobhan was my favorite when I was 14.
What’s the vibe of the new Mutya Keisha Siobhan songs?
I guess it’s pretty U.K. R&b. I think it’s distinct. Some of it does touch on the ’80s stuff but I think there used to be such a distinct U.K. R&B sound and I don’t know where it’s gone — I think it’s become lost in trance music. So it’s kinda that tone. Their voices sound so good together and as soon as they sing it really takes me back to being 14.
When will this be out?
Soon! Like really soon, I think. They’re dealing with it — it’s been a lot of rushed mixes so that’s usually a sign it’s happening soon!
What are you doing with Jessie Ware?
A little similar, but I guess a little stronger if that’s the right word. It’s powerful. She has an amazing vocal range and her live shows really show that. They show what an amazing presence she has. I’m such a huge fan of that first album [Devotion] she did with Dave Okumu so I’m very influenced by that.
Does a singer having a large vocal range change the way you work with them?
It does, it does a lot because I can then write towards it and you feel safe, you feel like the only thing that can happen is it will get better. It’s a really good feeling. If it’s the opposite when you’re working with someone then it’s not a good one to have!
How’s the new Blood Orange coming along?
Yeah, I’ve been recording it in between all the other sessions and things. It has a lot of vocalists and a lot of different musicians.
Can you name any of the collaborators?
Yeah, I guess I can. There’s Clams Casino on there — not singing obviously! A good friend called Adam [Bainbridge], who does Kindness, is on it. The kind of vibe of the album is … do you know the Will Powers record? It was an ’80s record that was done by a photographer [Lynn Goldsmith] and it was meant to be a fake self-help album and she got all these musicians like Todd Rundgren and Carly Simon and Tom Bailey involved. It’s kinda like how Malcolm McLaren’s albums had so many vocalists, it’s that kind of thing. The closest I can think of in later years is like Gorillaz albums, they have that feel. So it’s kinda like that and I’m not as vocally present on it as before.
What’s the music with Clams Casino like?
Ah, he’s such an amazing dude. I feel like people don’t even know the breadth of his talents. He makes obviously amazing beats but he’s a good song-writer and has good melodic ideas. I love watching him create.
Did he do anything in the studio that surprised you?
He does it all on his laptop and it’s not a Mac! It’s really good to watch how his brain creates these rhythms, like it’s crazy fragments and then slowly you see it form to make this shape and it sounds amazing.
So is the Blood Orange project a full album?
Yeah, it’s a full album.
When will it be out?
Hopefully this year. I want it out while it’s still sunny, that’s my goal. It will be extremely out of place if it’s not sunny out when it comes out!
Do you have a title for it yet?
No, I did have one but now since working on it it’s been shot to pieces. Part of the reason I bought this Times Square book is looking for pictures that will trigger something. That kinda ends up how I write, looking at pictures.
What was the old title?
I can’t say as I might go back to it if all else fails!
Finally, are you working on anything new with Solange?
Kind of. I’ve been playing in her live band as musical director, so she hasn’t been doing recording lately. I’m gonna play a few more shows here and there and then hopefully start on production work. She does more New York shows and I’ll help out.
What’s she like as a band leader?
She’s great. It’s funny, I was telling someone recently how if I wasn’t kinda of music director I’d have fired myself for being the sloppiest member! I don’t have a tuner on stage, my delay pedal is not set so I just try and tweak it during the set. I’d be like, “What are you doing?!”