There’s a lot to be said of danceable tracks with actual emotional depth. Not only is it a feat to translate sentiment and reflection into catchy pop melodies, it’s rare to find an artist who can do so with seamless effort. Madi Diaz, is just such an artist.
“I think it’s one of the most special moments a writer can have, if we are able to catch the lightning of human connection and understanding in a song,” says Diaz of her song writing process. And, if the goal was to “catch the lightening” as the singer puts it, than consider it caught.
One listen to Phantom, the newly released album by the Connecticut-born musician, and the phrase “breakout” immediately comes to mind. A beautiful blend of pop hooks and story telling, Phantom is an indelible listen that will have you humming your favourite tracks through the week.
Songs such as “Stay Together” are perfectly girly, and sing out as if written with the soundtrack of a romantic comedy in mind—the indie variety of course, think Safety Not Guaranteed, while “The First Time” shares the pop sensibility of Metric, flexing sophistication through infectious rhythm. But it’s the album’s moody cautionary tale about the other side of passion that standout amongst its perkier tracks; namely, “The Other Side,” an evocative reflection that recalls the luscious chants of PJ Harvey circa 1995.
Hot off the release of Phantom, we caught up with Diaz to talk about the inspiration behind her new album and shaping her ever-evolving sound.
I understand that your parents fostered a love of music in you at a young age, and that you were already playing piano when just a toddler. How much influence have your family had on your career in music?
I was 5 when I was started on piano, and I think my love for music just grew from there! My family definitely allowed me to follow my heart and my own path. I know that if I had been as fired up about fixing cars or building houses or swimming across the pacific ocean, my parents would have been just as supportive. They were very encouraging of me trusting my gut.
The music scene is very different than what it was with the current rise of social media; as an artist, how have these changes altered the way you approach sharing your music with the listening public?
One of the amazing things about social media is that artists, including myself, get to keep our art and the release of our art very conversational. It cuts out a lot of the middle-man-big-scary-record-label-feelings, and puts you all in a living room or in a car or in a bedroom together, listening to music or watching a music video or looking at images etc etc. I find it so exciting because it let’s everyone feel involved and a part of the movement and story.
Your songs have been featured on shows including ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, do you feel like the narratives in your songs become even stronger when used to enliven the action/emotion transpiring on screen?
It’s pretty amazing to see songs transcend the meaning that I gave to them to fit a scene in a movie or TV show. It kind of even tests the strength of my song, to see how versatile it can be, and how wide the meaning can be. The visual starts to change the color of my original meaning.
Speaking of Pretty Little Liars, we featured your track “The Other Side” in our recent fashion video starring Sasha Pieterse, how did you like the way the music paired with the video?
I loved the video you guys made! It was very dark and searching. lonely and reckless. I was honoured that you guys took such care to do justice to the tone of the music, so thank you for that! (Watch the video.)
You’re welcome, we love the track! Would you ever consider scoring a soundtrack; is it something that’s on your to-do list?
I’d love to give scoring a shot if the right project came along, absolutely.
Let’s talk a bit about the evolution of your sound. Do you think your move from New York to Los Angeles has affected it at all?
Well, I moved here from Nashville by way of Boston by way of Philadelphia area. each has been a massive piece of the puzzle, while at the same time allowing me to cut the fat and really hone in on myself and my sound as a writer and artist. West coast and East coast are entirely different beasts, not so much stylistically, as much as personality wise…both have their major advantages and disadvantages.
How are they different?
East coast has two feet planted firmly on the ground of hard realities and the West has a sort of wandering disconnected follow your thoughts thing going on. I love both. I can’t choose….don’t make me choose!!
Okay, we won’t! As you just mentioned, you’ve moved around quite a bit during your career, is there one city that feels particularly like home?
I still call Nashville my home, and probably always will. A lot of my closest friends are still there, and I plan on always going back there and always keeping a part of my heart in Nashville.
Your latest album Phantom is set to be released at the end of this month; are you excited for the launch? Does it feel like it’s been a long time coming?
I had a lot of life to live and learn from in the 1.5 years it took to write record and release Phantom, so no, the release feels timely to me. I’m super excited about the record, I feel like I’ve been winding up like a rubber band and now I’m ready to go “pop” around the country and show everyone!
How would you describe the mood of the new album?
Phantom is definitely a poppier and more lush record than We Threw Our Hearts In The Fire. I really wanted to push myself in my writing to have songs that felt connected, not only to me and what I was going through at the time, but to people that I know have felt the same things.
Can you tell us a bit about writing this album, what experiences and emotions inspired the lyrics?
The general theme of Phantom is the dictionary definition of the word itself. The record spans the period of a relationship and person and moment while being caught with the possibility of it never having been real or having happened at all. Haunted with the thoughts and memories of a story.
Is there one track that exemplifies what you were trying to create with this album?
The story is in the lyrics and the emotion is in the sonic spaces of the record. I think “Ghost Rider” really takes a good piece of the cake with a haunted energy, and the lyrics speak to the idea of someone giving grand sweeping gestures without truly paying attention to their meaning or purpose. It’s the story of a gallant liar, which of course, is the most attractive kind.
What’s next for you after the Phantom launch?
Hopefully wonderful things I could never even imagine!