Devendra Banhart was born in Texas in 1981, then moved with his family to live with his grandmother in Caracas, Venezuela. When his mother remarried, the family relocated to California's Encinal Canyon, where he first began to play music and learned to speak English. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute but dropped out without earning a degree. Banhart's first public performance was at the wedding of his two friends Jerry Elvis and Bob The Crippled Comic. He then began a period of globe-hopping moves to Los Angeles, then Paris, back to San Francisco, then to Los Angeles writing songs and performing when and wherever he could manage.
Devendra began making waves in underground music circles in 2002 with his debut album Oh Me Oh My The Way The Day Goes By The Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs Of The Christmas Spirit. The album was compiled by Young God label owner Michael Gira from a voluminous collection of audio Post-It notes of songs Banhart had accumulated whilst hoboing around the world. These song-sketches had been recorded on sundry answering machines and borrowed cassette machines during several years of international vagrancy. Over the course of 2003, Oh Me Oh My... became a grass roots sensation attracting a passionate and rapidly growing audience as well as abundant praise from the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Arthur Magazine, Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, Magnet and Jane among others. Two extensive U.S. tours followed, one with his friend Entrance and the other opening for the Angels Of Light as well as sitting in with them on guitar.
After these tours, Banhart retreated to rural Georgia with Gira as co-producer and spent two solid weeks sitting on a stool recording from daybreak to sundown laying down some 32 tunes. A small amount of additional instrumentation and backing vocals were added afterwards in NYC, but the two albums that resulted from these sessions, Rejoicing In The Hands and Nino Rojo were primarily showcases for Banhart's deft acoustic guitar work and increasingly sophisticated singing and writing. When these albums were released in Spring and Fall 2004 respectively, Devendra's following became still larger and more zealous, and two headlining tours (the first solo and the second with a backing group) packed venues across the country and overseas. Meanwhile, journalists on both sides of the Atlantic were unstinting in their praise in publications like the Sunday New York Times, Mojo, Spin, Washington Post, The Wire, Harp, Village Voice, Paste, Interview and Elle Magazine to name but a few. In England he appeared on national television on the prestigious "Later...With Jools Holland" show performing between Alanis Morrissette and Alicia Keyes.
In the meantime, Banhart was gaining recognition as a visual artist as well. His distinctive, minutely inked, often enigmatic drawings appeared in a group show at the Canada Gallery in downtown New York in the Summer of 2004, then later in the year he had his first solo show at the Roth Horowitz Gallery. Devendra's artwork has graced the covers of all three of his full-length CD releases and one EP, appeared in national publications including BB Gun and Magnet and a selection was self-published in book form as Light Aligns.
He has also become known as an outspoken champion of other musicians, mainly the uncommon and underexposed among his contemporaries as well as musical forebearers. He regularly cites singers like Vashti Bunyan (whom he recorded a duet with as the title track of Rejoicing In The Hands), Linda Perhacs and Clive Palmer as important inspirations and brought them and others to the attention of wider audiences than they'd experienced in decades. He has been generous in his public support of other young, adventurous musicians as well (the list runs to phone book length) which has been a key factor in the public and press' acknowledgement of the far flung, grass roots community of musicians loosely bound by a mutual love of eccentric vintage acoustic music (ala Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music) AND formidable avant-garde experimentation; this has since been documented in publications such as Spin, Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, the Boston Phoenix and numerous others.