Cockeysville singer-songwriter's on the edge of a dream

Pop Music

July 18, 2004|By Sarah Breitenbach | Sarah Breitenbach,SUN STAFF

Devon Loizeaux is looking for her big break in the music industry - and she just may get it from a hair care company.

The Cockeysville resident is among three finalists selected for the Pantene Pro-Voice music competition for female singer/songwriters. Picked from a pool of more than 1,200 entrants by a panel of music industry professionals, she's moved to the final stages of the fourth annual contest.

While there was no American Idol-style performance (finalists are selected from a recording of an original song), a commercial featuring Loizeaux and her song "Depends on the Day" will air on MTV through July 25. The grand-prize winner - who will receive $5,000 from EMI Music Marketing, tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards and an Epiphone Guitar - will be determined by an online poll at

For her entry, Loizeaux, who is 23, submitted an original composition that was the product of a day spent trapped by snow in her basement-level apartment with producer Mike McAree. With snow piled up against the door, the two sat down and wrote "Depends on the Day," a ballad about the frustration she was feeling with a certain ex-boyfriend.

The snow-day effort will be included on the album Loizeaux is completing with her band, Shugar. Titled Four years, two boys and the one that got away, the LP is a reflection of the past four years of her life, she says. McAree hopes to have the record in stores within a few weeks.

Her style of "alternative female pop" meshes well with McAree's "hard-core" musical background, the singer says. "It can come off aggressive, not abrasive - it's a combination of masculine and feminine."

McAree, 25, met Loizeaux through a friend four years ago. When he discovered she could sing, he put her to work performing backup vocals for bands whose work he was producing.

Now producer, engineer and guitar player for Shugar, McAree says Loizeaux has made "leaps and bounds."

"In the beginning when we started she was just trying to find her sound," he says. "Within a few months, she just started to grasp the songwriting process."

A graduate of Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, Loizeaux plays piano and supplies vocals for the band. "Piano is really my main instrument," she says. "It's what I write all my songs on, it's very cathartic for me."

When she's not writing songs in her "starving artist" apartment in Cockeysville or working in the studio, she's a hostess at a Chinese restaurant to make ends meet. But if she wins the Pro-Voice contest, Loizeaux will be a bit closer to her dreams.

Though the top winner will receive money, tickets and a guitar, the best part of the prize will be a chance to perform Aug. 5 alongside recording artists Ashanti, Paulina Rubio, Fefe Dobson and Skye Sweetnam during a Pantene Pro-Voice concert at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom.

"If she were to win, it would be a huge step for us," McAree says, adding that the rest of the band would accompany Loizeaux to New York.

Previous contest winners have gone on to open for acts like Jewel, are currently touring or have received deals from Capitol Records and Dreamworks.

"I would love to - obviously - be doing music full time. I would love to be the kind of artist that tours as much as possible," Loizeaux says. "I don't need riches or fame, I just want to be able to tour and live off the money I make from that."

Devon Loizeaux

Raised in: Phoenix, Md.

Age: 23

Musical influences: Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple

Competitors: Marie Digby, 21, Los Angeles, Calif. Kate Voegele, 17, Bay Village, Ohio

How to vote: Visit to vote and to see contestant picture, bios and songs. Contest ends July 25.

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