Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Madi Diaz: The Soul Behind the Voice

It's a Saturday night in New York City, and The Living Room is packed from the stage to the bar.  A medley of characters fill the room, all eager to hear the astounding voice of fresh-faced 22 year-old singer/songwriter, Madi Diaz, whose music can only be described as an orgasm for your ears.  From the fanciful opening song "It's Only a Kiss" to the heart-tugging encore "Pictures," Diaz commands her audience with every effortless note escaping that gifted mouth.

Growing up in Lancaster, PA, Madi's father (a musician as well) introduced her to piano at age five, and guitar at fourteen.  "I lived out in the middle of nowhere... I rode horses for ten years before I did anything else," Diaz says with a laugh, "Ponies were really great until I found the guitar, and then that was really great."  More formal training came during her high school years at Paul Green's School of Rock in Philadelphia, PA, before heading to Berklee College in Boston.  Diaz now resides in Nashville, TN, writing, recording, networking, touring, and following her dream.

Perched casually at the bar at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, it's almost hard to believe the powerful voice, moving lyrics, and infectious spirit that radiates out of this humble young girl onstage.  Describing her indie/folk/pop blend as "flirty, cynical, and distracted," you can't help but wonder if that's how this insanely talented artist also views herself.

Diaz started writing around the age of 16, creating songs that reach out to audiences of all ages and lyrics that resonate maturity and real-life experience.  "When you start writing a song it takes a direction no matter what you try to do, and the more you try to force it, it doesn't get to it's full potential," Madi explains, "If the emotion is taking it one way you have to follow it."  It seems the road to create a song is similar to the road to create an artist.

Taking care of all the booking and hype promotions, finding a place to sleep, eating well, and learning the target audience in each new city they tour is just a sampling of responsibility for this young entrepreneur.  "It's not just getting there to play your set and pour your heart into," Diaz maintains.  There are club owners and audiences to thank, other bands to make connections with, CD's and promotional materials to sell, mailing lists to generate, and networking to be made across the board.  Challenging, but not discouraging for Madi, whose band mates provide a fantastic, built-in support system.

Madi Diaz is rarely seen performing without best friend Kyle Ryan by her side.  Diaz and Ryan have been playing and writing together since meeting at Berklee; their onstage connection screams of a solid friendship and mutual respect.  Touring with Adam Popick and Mitch Jones, the gifted foursome are a pleasure to watch.  Constant movement happens on stage, with each band member rotating instruments and vocals for every single track, validating that these are no ordinary musicians, but artists in every sense of the word.  Not phased by being the token female, Diaz says, "It's been so gratifying to just have people that know you and respect you... They are my peers, musicians, friends, colleagues, brothers and fathers... lot of roles all in one."  The admiration is reciprocal, obvious as they let Madi take center stage.

Another mentor and source of inspiration for Madi is manager Ty Stiklorius.  Diaz sings her praises: "She's like a big sister, best friend, mom, manager... she has an amazing career, a beautiful baby, and has struggled so hard to get where she is... she just wants to help other people, the light of the world, just wants to give... I hope that one day I'm in a position like hers so that I can help somebody like myself."  

This budding 20-something declares performing a John Denver duet with Tom Paxton at the Songwriters Hall of Fame to be a career highlight, and holds high esteem for Radiohead, respecting the way they've built their albums and their command of the industry.  "They've made really smart decisions- production-wise, career-wise- that I think everybody could take note from.  They've done it really well," she explains.

As for advice Diaz would pass on to other new artists getting their feet wet? "Do everything.  Never say no.  Say yes until you get so busy because people know you are always going to say yes.  That's when you can start picking and choosing."  Madi adds with a laugh, "Except drugs.  Say no to drugs but say yes to everything else."

Now promoting "Ten Gun Salute," the EP follow up to her debut "Skin and Bone," Diaz's growth and experimental style with music is intriguing to observe.  Recording "Skin and Bone" in Hawaii with a group of young musicians and producers new to the scene, Diaz exclaimed, "I barely had enough songs for a record!" Citing influences such as Patty Griffin and Ryan Adams, Madi was still learning "to influence and create what you need to do instead of imitating."

Collaborating with Kyle on "Ten Gun Salute," Madi's new EP (which was recorded in less than seven days) has taken a wonderful turn lyrically, vocally, and musically to incorporate a conglomeration of new concepts and sounds.  Instruments have been added, and that powerful voice grabs every emotion of the uniquely different songs.  "We realized we didn't need to force songs, we could let them be what they were," Diaz explains.

Still writing the new, tweaking the old, and pushing forward on this incredible journey, Madi's passion, commitment, and love for her art is obvious to anyone within miles.  Observing our nation is "do-it-yourself," this aggressive musician understands the importance of who you know, who you need to know, and figuring out how to get there. "It's all right there for you," Diaz says, " People just need to have the drive to go and get it."  No regrets reside in this gifted singer/songwriter, who made her peace with youth and is ready for this road. "I think this would be what I was missing if I did anything else," Madi states with absolution.

For the record, the world would be missing out if she did anything else.

For more information on Madi Diaz and to check out her tour line-up, please visit or www.myspace.madidiaz.

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