Photography JÖRGEN AXELVALL
Interview SHARI MONIQUE GAB
Fashion stylist Keith s. Washington
Diane Birch has been likened to pillar greats Carole King, Lauren Nyro, and Gerry Goffin, but the Michigan pop singer/songwriter is taking the reigns of her career and is about to unleash her truthful twists on preordained classical sound.
Her last release ‘Speak A Little Louder’ followed an extraordinary 2009 debut, ‘Bible Belt,’ which opened in the Billboard Top 100 and appropriately prompted Karen Carpenter comparisons. Previous to which at S-Curve Records, she honed her skills and shared the stage with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Betty Wright.
Strong through the tragic loss of her father to cancer, she surrendered herself to the darkness of days and found light and personal and professional maturity through the processes of healing – reemerging an enlightened artist unafraid of grasping – and sharing – her inner desires through sound.
A move to New York and crossing paths with Daptones drummer, Homer Steinweiss, released the inner benevolence of Birch. Touting it as a magical fusion of creative energy, Birch said, “The timing was perfect and it just worked.” “Tell Me Tomorrow,” “Diamonds in the Dust” and “It Plays On,” a tribute to her father and his enduring inspiration on her music, followed.
Though based primarily in Brooklyn, Birch also worked in the UK, where she recorded “All the Love You Got” with Adele’s Eg White, Roots drummer Questlove (co-produced with Steve Greenberg), and Duran Duran bassist, John Taylor. Followed by a bout in Los Angeles, where she co-wrote and cut “Unfkd” with Aqualung’s Matt Hales.
Stripped back, but saturated, her albums incorporate lush synthesizers and thundering drums, overlain with Birch’s ravishing and spine-stimulating vocals. There’s something unabashedly attractive about artists that can denude – in work and in life – in humble gratitude of their craft. To that end, on a blessedly sunny day in southern Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the quintessential haunt, Marlow & Sons, Birch sat with us – token hat upon her head – to let the world see deeper.
What are you working on now?
I’m taking advantage of diverging from working with large producers and taking control of my own process. For the past while, I’ve been adapting to the expectations of what my music should be and having to mold my vision accordingly. Now, it’s time to get back to where I started.
And where is that?
Growing up I was primarily exposed to classical music and my introduction to other genres came much later. I love hip-hop, pop, the Carpenters, top 40…it all. I’m distilling how those influences affected me, how they’ve taken shape through my music, and seeing what stuck from Beethoven to Portishead.
What are you finding?
I remember listening to Portishead’s “Glory Box,” with its classical arrangements and sophisticated harmony, and it breeding a feeling inside of me. I can still listen to it today and access that feeling. It is about finding those juxtapositions – R&B with melodic top lines maybe – finding two opposing forces that correlate. There there’s truth and those are the things that move me.
Where will you take it?
I’m taking those original influences that are true to my self and adapting them. I want to get in there, get weird, and morph my creative vision.
How do you know what is true to your self?
I’m asking myself ‘How do I want to be seen?’ and ‘What is this picture I have of myself?’ There are things on my first record that horrify me now and there are things that still feel so right. It’s difficult in music to put something out there because it feel like it’s this stamp on who I am and a stamp on my career. Hopefully, as I get to explore my roots and filter accordingly, that stamp will become less opaque. Meanwhile, there are those pieces from the past that are so purely me and those threads of consistency will become bolder and bolder.
What’s in store this season?
I’m collaborating on a new EP now with other artists from all walks and will also be touring this Fall. I never expected to work with so many different types of musicians, but I’m open to that experience of connecting with others that are doing something totally unrelated to what I’m about. Like I’ve grown to admire so much of the youth today. There’s a whole generation of talented musicians out there with their eyes wide open. Maybe I would even write things for other artists. In the past, I’ve held tight to what I created – wanted it to be for me – because I felt such a great responsibility in how it would come across. But, now I’m realizing that some things I write, they’re not necessarily meant to come just through me. So I’m open.
Four things you cannot live without.
My piano, good coffee, love, and perfume.
Who would you like to collaborate with most?
Brian Eno. I think I even mentioned it in my last interview too. One of these days he’ll read it and be like, ‘Who is this Diane Birch girl?’
From where we’re sitting, Diane Birch is a multi-faceted musician, a woman at the edge of time, with the face of a doll and a wide-open heart, windswept to the epicenter of transformation, clarity and creativity. Injecting integrity into sound and mastering the ability to layer soul with experimentation, her work resonates with her indubitable fascination with self-reflection. Her work invites you to lose yourself in the rhythm and take it to the dance floor, all while relishing in the synthesis of our connection to our core, to others, and the universe at large. Brian Eno, are you listening?
Leather Jacket by ＹＯＨＪＩ Yamamoto
Sunglasses by BARTOn Perreira
Dress,pants and boots vintage