By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor
Madi Diaz is a force to be reckoned with. A musician from Pennyslvania who attended the Berklee College of Music, Madi then moved to Nashville to record her debut album Plastic Moon. With the collapse of her record label and the need to “scare herself,” Madi packed up and left Nashville behind for Los Angeles. Madi has toured with The Civil Wars and Landon Pigg; her music has been featured on shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Drop Dead Diva, and she is a self-confessed Taylor Swift fan. In the run up to her new album, Phantom being released on September 30th, Madi sat down with I AM THAT GIRL to talk about the new music, getting older, and going with your gut.
Photo by Logan Cole
My inspirations change all the time but I think the ones I keep going back to and spending a lot of time with are the lead singer (Maynard James Keenan) from the band Tool. He also has this other project called A Perfect Circle. There is something about his voice that’s so unhinged and so powerful and so true to me; there’s an energy in his music.
I always go back to Bjork and her album Homogenic because I just think that record is so lush and brilliant, and so deep. And I feel it’s like of those things, where you watch the same movie over and over and over again, there are certain parts that stick out to you more than another part, like things you didn’t even notice or like someone putting something down on a table and you didn’t realize the symbolism before. It’s kind of like that with Homogenic. There are always things that start to kind of grow and stand out in different ways to me. So those are the two biggest standouts plus Radiohead, because they’re just Radiohead.
On What Makes a Perfect Record…
My favourite [record] is whatever you’re going through now and totally different than what you were going through three months ago. Certain songs mean something different or something totally different to you on the twentieth listen around. Music is magic like that. If a musician can make a record that a listener can keep going back to through their life that determines the artists staying power versus their quick death.
On Making Phantom…
We tried to make it so that however deep down the rabbit hole you want to crawl you can feel good, gloss over it, and dance it out. Or if you really want to feel all the feelings and stick with it and pull it apart, there’s a lot there.
The album definitely took shape as I was writing. It spans a relationship I was in while it was unfolding. The writing was unfolding as the relationship was unfolding; and the writing was unraveling as the relationship was unraveling; and the writing closed when the relationship closed. It was a really, really interesting process. I had to get up close and personal with myself, and my relationship with this person, and my relationship with my relationship, and my willingness to be open in my writing. As far as sonics go, all of that took shape very naturally and it was just very inspired by things I had been listening to over the last year and a half of writing. And then we’re all products of our childhood upbringing so it definitely has a lot of references in there. It happened pretty naturally and probably more naturally than how any of my other records have been made.
On Working with John O’Mahony (Sara Bareilles, Metric, Coldplay)…
He is a total artist and that was one of the big reasons I wanted to work with him in the first place. He doesn’t approach things with traditional mixing ears, he approaches things with instinct and gut, and with intensity and follows his impulse. To me, the mix, the balance of things doesn’t matter. If a song feels like it should be in balance then the mix should only enhance that. And John is definitely of that school.
It’s not really advice as much as an echoing of knowing that I can trust my gut and that we always, at the core of ourselves, know when something is right or when something is wrong or something is true to our artistic vision or it’s not enough or not quite there. Time and time again I am faced with that lesson and I’ve learned it the hard way. I’ve been lucky enough to have had multiple chances to speak my truth so I think I’ve been lucky to have been very encouraged by people around me, that tell you “yes, you do know what you’re talking about,” and I actually do know what I want and I actually do have voice to speak all of that.
I had a person tell me once “that Los Angeles would eat me alive.” I had, very, very early on, someone tell me that I didn’t have thick enough skin to be in this industry or to be in this business, or to be an artist, which are pretty crazy. Those are all strong things to say to someone, and I don’t think that when they said those things they ever really resounded or those words ever rang out in a way that I’ve plotted my next step based on what their advice or comments.
It’s funny to me now, doing what I do and being where I am, looking back at what was said. I think people are going to say whatever they’re going to say. You are your own force of nature and you are going to end up where you’re going to end up, and I don’t think you should ever fight against of that negativity. Instead, just letting it all fall off you, letting it go through you and continuing on your way, because if you fight that stuff, you’re only going to be met with more force.
I definitely do listen to it, obviously. I’ve carried that stuff with me for like a really long time and it’s back there somewhere but I just try to weave a bigger story, and let that just be a very small thread in it.
On Getting Older…
I think I definitely know what I don’t want, and think I definitely know how to “smell bullshit” better. I don’t think it’s become necessarily easier getting older but my career has gotten wider and the world has gotten smaller. I think I’m pretty defiant and determined, and definitely in a place where I know there’s nothing else that I could possibly do with my life at this point and so I’m like “this is it.”
Your game face is a little stronger and that may sound sad in a way but it’s not. I think at this point I know myself well enough now. Before everything surprised me because it was the first time I was experiencing anything and at this point nothing really shocks me, nothing really surprises me. All of the good things that are happening are wonderful, and all of the shitty things that happen just happen. None of it is the end or the beginning for the world; it’s just another part of it.
On Trusting Yourself…
It helps when you have people who have your back but it definitely starts with you and I think that it’s a really interesting thing to kind of learn your own intuition. I think it also comes a little bit with getting older and being around this stuff for as long as I have. But for you or for any of my friends, we all know; we can all feel it in our stomachs when something is right or wrong, and to me when we force a smile and power through or force a laugh, or throw our heads down and don’t speak on that, that’s when we’re only muddying up the process for everyone and ourselves. And when you don’t listen to your gut, it only gets worse and it only gets worse, and it only gets worse, and then it always forces you back to the beginning.
On Moving to LA…
It was totally on a whim to be honest. I was on tour and playing a show in LA, and was talking to a friend about how much I was just aching to get out of Nashville. I love my friends there, and miss them so much, but I was at a point in my career where I knew I was in stagnant waters and just wanted to scare myself. My friend mentioned how he need a roommate, and I barely thought about it and wrote him cheque! I went back to Nashville, released ‘Plastic Moon’, packed up all my stuff and left the rest of it on the side of the road. It was tough. I was on the road for four or five days driving through beautiful deserts and across amazing canyons, and pulling into weird motel parking lots. It was really hard at first but then very, very therapeutic being alone like that and very cool realizing I had all of my power, all of my strength, and I could just do it!
On Her Dreams…
I absolutely dare to dream to sing with Maynard at some point; I have definitely dreamt of working with Ryan Adams and making some sort of record with him; I definitely want to produce my next record myself; I haven’t ever extensively toured the UK and that’s definitely something I want to do as well as Asia, Australia. I want to do the whole damn thing! I would really love it, in my late 50’s to end up on Broadway for ten years and see what happens. I want to do a Judy Garland and find some amazing show and get an old apartment in the East Village and just walk to the studio everyday. That’s an end game dream of mine.
Check out Madi's new video for "Stay Together!" HERE!
Emily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.