Diane Birch Speaks A Little Louder

7_DianeBirch_1Photographed by Dan McMahon. Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Born in Michigan and raised around the world — from South Africa to Australia (and later London, L.A., and, now, Brooklyn) — Diane Birch has a global view of pop that’s as eclectic as her upbringing. “I’m always inspired by music that feels very wide and huge,” she says. While Birch always had a penchant for sweeping songwriting, four years after her Americana-drenched debut, her new album incorporates her vastest array of influences yet, with songs that recall everything from ‘80s megahits to Phil Collins and Fleetwood Mac. “There was a lot of stuff from the first record that I didn’t get to express," she says, "especially stylistically and musically."
For Speak a Little Louder, Birch wanted to share the myriad (occasionally, contradictory) facets of her musical personality. That meant incorporating different styles of production and arrangement and, occasionally, returning to her classically trained roots. (“I even sing opera at one point.") It also meant writing an album that represents who she is today, with more intimate lyrics that capture her grown-up personality. “I don’t know if it’s good, if it’s bad — I have no idea,” says Birch, who's been keeping much of the music close to her chest for years. “Just the idea of sending the music out into the world is very exciting.”
7_DianeBirch_2Photographed by Dan McMahon. Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Under the Influence
“This album was taking a lot more of my influences and putting them into the mix. I wanted to make music I could play in an arena. I was really inspired by classic pop songs with thumping, anthemic hooks. It was really important to me to showcase a lot of my influences without it sounding like a cluster-fuck, for lack of a better word. A lot of things that I’m into contradict each other stylistically. I love New Wave. I grew up listening to goth music — Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy. But, then I got into this soft-rock sort of thing. I wanted to put those things together, [combining] adult contemporary, like Phil Collins, and then my influences, which are a lot darker."
All Stars
"I was writing at a point where some people in my life, and myself, kind of weren’t sure what we were doing with our lives, with ourselves. It was at a point where the record was kind of in a lull. Then I had this burst of information, where [I realized that] we’re all stars. There are so many people that are so talented, and all my friends are artists and I’m so inspired by them, but the world doesn’t know them. I want everyone to know! Even though we’re not getting the exposure that maybe we deserve in life, we’re still superstars."
Basic Instinct
"I think the worst advice I ever had, which may not have been said out loud, was to take direction when it comes to creativity. Every time I haven’t trusted my instincts, it’s always come back to bite me in the ass. 'You just need to trust other people’s visions' is the worst advice. The best advice came when I was doing demos way back in L.A. I was working with someone, and we kind of got into it — he was probably a little bit annoyed with me, because I was very opinionated. But, when we finished, he said, 'Always trust your instincts.'"
A Little Bit Country
"I listened to something off of my first record — I never listen to my first record — and I was like, ‘I totally sound like a country singer.’ I have this natural style in my voice. I think there’s this nasally thing that I have. I like country, but the stuff I’ve listened to is more vintage, like Johnny Cash, Dusty Springfield, or Dolly Parton. I don’t listen to any modern country really."
Driven to Distraction
"I can’t filter out the things that are around me. When I lived in L.A. and London, I didn’t have much exposure to anything. I used to write so fast — I was writing songs every single day. I was super-prolific. Being here [in New York] is really distracting. Sometimes I hear other people’s music, and I’m like, 'Maybe I should be doing that? I suck!' It’s easy to lose the sound of your own voice when there’s so much going on. I let the outside influence me, but I have to make sure it’s influencing me for the right reason."
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