INTERVIEW WITH DIAMANTE & PHOTOGRAPHS
BY JEREMY SAFFER
Diamante stormed the scene in 2018 with her first album Coming in Hot. Now two years later, Diamante reflects on the trials and tribulations of working with a record label as she announces her amicable split with Better Noise Music, a new single and video “Obvious,” and gives us an idea of what her future looks like as an independent artist.
You recently announced your departure from Eleven Seven/Better Noise Music. How did that come about?
Very quickly (laughs). Out of nowhere to be honest. I was out on tour this past summer, in the middle of the tour actually, with Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, and Chevelle, promoting the first album. My manager was on the tour with me, but it was a day off so he called me and tells me, “Hey, I have some news for you, meet me at this bar.” We were in Dallas, and I had no idea what he was referring to. I meet him at this bar, and he sits me down and goes, “So, your A&R called today.” He showed me a screen shot, it was one minute long, and he goes, “The label decided they don’t want to pick up the second album and you are free to go.” At first I thought he was just messing with me, I was like, “Ha ha, you’re so funny Adam!” because it came as such a shock for me. Once the shock wore off, a lot of emotions came over me, obviously the bittersweet stuff, but there is a feeling of excitement because you get to begin a new chapter, then there is this feeling of overwhelmingness because you have all the control now that you didn’t have before.
“A LOT OF EMOTIONS CAME OVER ME, OBVIOUSLY THE BITTERSWEET STUFF, BUT THERE IS A FEELING OF EXCITEMENT”
What did you find were the positives and negatives of being signed to a label? Was there anything holding you back?
There are many pros, especially when you are first starting out. I was signed when I was 18. I had been on one tour and I needed a label if I was really going to do anything at that point because I didn’t have the money to promote myself or market myself. They did so much for me and they are definitely the reason why I am where I am now. But there are some cons, especially relating to the music. You don’t get to decide a lot of the times what songs you put out, when you get to put them out, who you get to record with, who you get to write with, so you are just playing by their terms, especially at the beginning.
When you and the label parted ways, was it more freeing or a devastated kind of feeling?
I was never really devastated because I had music that I’ve had in my pocket for over a year now, so I knew that I had the next batch of music that I wanted to put out. More than anything I was just a little nervous, because now if things go wrong, the only person to blame is myself because now it’s a one-man team.
“I WAS JUST A LITTLE NERVOUS, BECAUSE NOW IF THINGS GO WRONG, THE ONLY PERSON TO BLAME IS MYSELF”
Was the label restricting on what you could do with your music?
If I wanted to put out a song, it would have to go through them and it’s always on their terms. When I finished my first record, the album didn’t come out until a year and a half later, and a lot of the times when you get signed and you make an album, it doesn’t even come out. I was just stoked that the music actually came out, but it’s never up to you and there were a lot of moments making that album when I was told what songs would be on the album and what songs could not be on the album, even if I really liked them.
If there are songs that didn’t make the album, are you allowed to use those now?
Yes, which is really cool. I’ve been going back, because when I was making that first album, I wrote for something like two years. Something crazy like that, and I did over 100 writing sessions. I have all these dope songs that I really liked, but never made the cut.
Are they going to see the light of day now?
A few might, yeah. A lot of the concepts will.
What are going to be the biggest changes for you going from being signed to a label to independently releasing music?
The biggest change…well, it’s not so big because even when I was signed, I was very hands on with my project. I always want to be in the loop, not in charge but have a say. So, now that I have all the say, it’s like being your own CEO. The really fun part is getting to create your own timeline. So, with this new music what I’ve been doing is releasing a song every month, and I really like being cryptic and throwing out hints, especially on social media and teasing the fans. Then they come back with their theories and hypotheses, and it’s like a wave. It’s really cool.
The single, “Obvious,” was your first self-release in five years. Now that it’s been out or a little bit, how has the reaction been and how are you feeling about it?
It’s been incredible. I’ve had that song for a year now and I always knew that it was special. Every time I played it for somebody, and it wasn’t very many people, I noticed that they always had a visceral reaction to the song because it’s real. It hurts, it’s painful, and a lot of people have been through what I’m talking about in that song. It being the first one makes me so stoked. I constantly have to remind myself that people have only heard the first song. In my brain, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there’s all this new music!” And I’m like, “Dia calm down. They only have one song so far.”
“I’M MORE WILLING TO SHOW THAT IT’S OKAY TO FEEL LIKE THERE IS NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL”
As you mentioned, “Obvious” hits close to home for so many. Did that come from a specific experience you had to deal with in the past?
Yeah, I write based off of personal experience, and this was the first time that it was so autobiographical in the sense that I didn’t sugar coat anything. That’s exactly how I felt in that moment, and even on that first album when I wrote from a place of pain or heartbreak, I always had to towards the end of the song switch it up and make it uplifting—there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Like you hurt me, but I’m going to be stronger now because of it, and this is the first song where I didn’t do that because I think I’m more willing to show that it’s okay to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel in those moments and to just embrace the hurt.
Musically, you teamed up with Neil Sanderson of Three Days Grace for this song. How did that come about?
Through touring. It was so cool. Every night after the show all the bands would hang out in the parking lot where the buses are, and Three Day’s had this huge boom box that they would bring out and we all had the lawn chairs and drank beers and ate hot dogs. We would always show each other music, and Neil and I got to talking because we both work with Howard Benson. Howard’s done I think three of their albums and Howard did my first album. He knew that I was going to be going back into writing new music, and on the tour I played him “Obvious.” That was the first song I ever showed him, and he told me, “This song is incredible. You have to play it for Howard, and I want to help you make your next record.” So, that’s what we’ve been doing since summer.
You’ve worked with Howard Bensen for a while. What effect has he had on your music and songwriting?
He is an incredible producer, and especially vocally, he’s always pushed me in that vocal booth. His favorite things to tell me are, “Mean it,” “More aggro, more aggro,” and, “Bite into it, bite into it.” On the writing side, he’s the one who told me from the beginning to write from that vulnerable side of yourself that you’re not that willing to show people, because that’s what people are going to connect to at the end of the day. He’s said he’s worked with a lot of artists who get in their own way and can’t write from that perspective, and it hinders them.
Now that you are an independent artist, what do you see in front of you as the next thing you’d like to take on and accomplish?
Putting out this second album is definitely on the top of the list. The goal is to tour. I think my next big goal would be to go overseas. So far I’ve only ever played US and Canada. I would love to go to Europe. I would love to go to Latin America and Japan. Those are my three bucket list places.
Do you have a bucket list of venues you want to play?
I’ve always wanted to play Red Rocks. I see all the photos and videos, that’s a big dream, but really reaching Madison Square Garden is up there, too! (laughs)
“I WANT TO BRING THEM INTO MY WORLD AND MAKE EVERY SONG IT’S OWN THING.”
Can we expect more collaborations with All That Remains, Bad Wolves, or someone guesting on one of your songs?
Yes, that is probably what I am the most excited about this new album. I am putting so many collaborations on it and features, and not just with artists who are in rock. I am purposefully going to artists outside of the rock world, and I’m finding rappers and country artists. I want this album to be eclectic because I listen to so many different types of music, and I want to bring them into my world and make every song it’s own thing.
Any hints of whom you are working with, or is it all top secret?
It’s very top secret, because I’m a huge believer in not jinxing anything (laughs) until it’s out in the world. They are people that I am honored that have said yes to working with me.
How would you compare the direction on the new album to your first album?
The direction on the first album, what’s interesting about Coming in Hot is I wrote that when I was 19. I wasn’t touring at the time, and I didn’t have the live band that I have now that I go out with every single time. I was just in these dark dingy studio rooms with random strangers everyday writing these songs. Now that I’ve toured, especially this last year so extensively, I got to hear those songs live. I realized that in a live setting they are so much heavier than what they sound like on the album, and I’ve had so many fans come up to me after the show and say, “I checked you out before and I thought you were really cool, but I had no idea you were going to sound like that.” That feeling is what I want to bring into the second album musically. I’ve been writing with the guys that I tour with because who better to write music with than the people who are on stage with you every single night and know what it’s like.
Are you changing the direction of your songwriting?
I’m still working with Howard and other co-writers and producers, too. What I do is I will have a bunch of sessions and I’ll bring the songs to Howard and he will then tell me, “This is a banger,” “I’m not into this one,” “This is great, but you need to fix this and that.” What’s cool about Neil is he’s super into titles and lyrics. I’ll send him songs, and he’ll tell me straight away, “I don’t like that title,” “I don’t like the lyric.” It’s cool to have them, because one of the other challenges I’ve found with being independent is you have to be your own A&R. You don’t have them to tell you what’s a good and what’s a bad song, which is already so hard to do because music is objective. To do that with your own music that you feel so strongly about is hard, so having Howard and Neil there really helps that whole process.
“YOU CAN PUT OUT A SONG ON ANY STREAMING PLATFORM YOU WANT AND NO ONE IS GOING TO STOP YOU”
Do you think you don’t need a record label at this point because you can just do it on your own for the most part?
I think in 2020, there are so many things that you can do as an independent artist. I mean, anyone can upload anything. That’s really the beauty of it. You can put out a song on any streaming platform you want and no one is going to stop you (laughs). Music videos you can just do them DIY. With touring, labels and agents make these tours happen, but artist to artist relationships are so strong too when it comes to that. If you tour with bands and you’re not a terrible person and you’re easy to work with, it’s not hard to find tours and bands to go out with.
So many bands are now going independent, releasing their own music, and doing it all themselves. Why do you think that is?
For me, the biggest pro is the freedom aspect and just having the total creative control to be whoever you want and put out whatever you want.
You did your first headline tour last year. Are we going to see you headlining more or doing more support slots?
I think it’s a little bit of both. That headline run was a huge risk (laughs). I thought it was way too soon, and my manager was, “Let’s just do it, see what happens, let’s roll the dice,” and it was the coolest experience I’ve probably ever had alongside doing the big tours, obviously. Just to see all these people coming to my shows—I hadn’t been touring that long—and they’re showing up with their hair dyed blue! They are coming to my taco party, which is my VIP experience that I do. We’re eating tacos together, and I’m playing to these crowds and their singing the words to every song. So, I love headlining and I think I’m going to be doing it a lot this year.