Interview and article Ella Govrik
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Madi Diaz has joined Waxahatchee on tour, where she’s brought the audience nothing short of talented artistry and friendly stage presence.
Diaz released her album History of a Feeling in August 2021, and the eleven track record takes a deep dive into the grief and rage of heartbreak through intimate lyrics and moving melodies. Just a few weeks ago on March 4, 2022, she released Same History, New Feelings, an EP consisting of four tracks from her 2021 release recorded in collaboration with various other artists. Both the album and EP serve as a reflection of the intricacies of relationships and breakups, developed through resonantly intimate lyricism.
Madi Diaz hopped on a call with us one Friday morning to talk about tour, her recent album and EP and the Nashville music scene, as well as offer some wise advice for creative students.
You’re currently on tour with Waxahatchee, correct?
Well, yeah, sort of. We’ve been home. We took a month break between runs, but I guess on some level I’d like to say my heart is still on tour.
How was this last bit of tour before you came back home?
It was ideal. I mean, tour’s always been crazy but I think everyone kind of getting two years off just puts things in a different perspective. I think we’re all just so excited to get back out and to be back in our world. I’m so thankful to be on stage again.
Speaking of, is there anything about tour that you love in particular?
You know, It’s kind of a grab bag. You just have to roll with the punches, and everyday is so different. It’s kind of just like, the most extreme form of travel, and you have to expect nothing and everything at the same time. You can have the most planned-out day and everything can kind of just go completely sideways at any second. I mean, I kind of like that because you just never know what’s going to come at you. Depending on the city, even the most unassuming areas of the country just have so much there and it’s just kind of cool to, you know, just wake up and go, “Well, what the hell is going to happen today?”
Do you have any favorite songs from your album History of a Feeling to perform while on tour?
I feel like I really love “New Person, Old Place,” just because it really grounds me. I feel like that’s almost, like, the thesis statement of the record on some level, so it kind of just brings everything back into focus. I’ve also really been liking playing “Do It Now.” It’s the last track of the record, but it’s a little bit more of a step forward into a future way of thinking, as opposed to, like, a reflective, sitting-with-yourself kind of thing.
Right. So, your album really focuses on situations that are very unique to you and are obviously very personal, but I think listeners are still really able to resonate with those overarching feelings of grief and rage. What was the writing process like when creating work that was intimate but also universal, in a sense?
I don’t know, I mean I think I had just kind of been through a pretty crazy moment and season of my life. So much of it was just kind of like a purge on some level. And then, you know, I had spent so much time sitting and talking with myself and sitting and talking with really close friends and I think I wanted to make a record that sounded like we were just kind of talking to each other and trying to relate to each other. I feel like heartbreak is a pretty universal feeling, so that in and of itself lends itself to those songs really well luckily.
Your song “Nervous” really stands out on the album, and I read in a previous interview you mentioned that it almost didn’t make it on the record. What changed your mind? What pushed you to keep it on?
I think, you know, the reason that “Nervous” got on the record was because it kind of has nothing to do with anything else that’s going on in the record. The record without “Nervous,” when you listen to it, talked about how much I did. It’s a bit of a marathon, and “Nervous” is kind of like the rest-stop in the middle. It’s a pitstop in the middle of the thing. You change the tires, change out the oil, kind of just shake off some shit and go, like, “Why am I such a pain in the ass?” and then, you know, you keep going.
History of a Feeling was released in August 2021, but just a few weeks ago you released an EP Same History, New Feelings. What was it like to record some of those songs from your 2021 release in collaboration with other artists?
It was so cool. I mean, I didn’t even realize, I think as I was doing it, the caliber of the lineup of the artists. It was just kind of like, I was inviting this friend to do this and I was inviting this friend to do this, and then I turned around and I looked at all of it and I was like, “Holy s—!” This is a tour I would pay a bajillion dollars for, it’s a lineup I would die to be a part of, it’s a festival that I would go see, and it’s just all on one EP and you can sit down and have it in a listen. It was really special. I don’t know, it’s always cool to do stuff with people that you love, and it was just a really profound experience to have such close friends sing words that I wrote and hear their spin on it, and hear their swag on it, and you know, their flair. That was really cool.
Which artists or albums inspired your most recent work?
I feel like I always come back to Joni Mitchell, I always come back to Lori McKenna, Patty Griffin, just kind of songwriters that are pretty relatable, but like — I mean with Lauri McKenna, every time I wanna get advice from my mom I listen to Lauri McKenna. Every time I want to have a Monet-painting dream I listen to Joni Mitchell. Every time I just want to really focus on the details I listen to Patty Griffin. I think I really tried — or, I don’t know if I really tried so much, but that’s definitely what I was listening to.
You’re based in Nashville, right?
I was actually born and raised in Nashville—
Woah! You’re in Chicago now?
Yeah, I moved to Chicago for school but I’ve lived in Nashville my entire life up until I moved to Chicago. Have you lived in Nashville previously? When did you move to Nashville?
I’ve been here pretty much since 2008. I moved here in 2008, I was here for a while, and then I moved to L.A. for almost six years. Then, I moved back to Nashville in the tail-end of 2017. But, you know, even when I was in L.A. I was coming here to be here for months at a time. I always had work here and, honestly, Nashville just took better care of me in the long scheme so it just made the most sense to come back. It just has always been home.
Do you have a favorite place in Nashville to play shows?
I think my heart is always going to be with the original Basement on 8th Ave.. When I first moved to Nashville it was so the place to play. Mike Grimes (Grimey) — you know, Grimey’s Records — he’s the reason I was ever able to fill a room in Nashville. He put me on New Faces Nights on Tuesdays and just helped me build my audience here and really sort of raised me, for all intensive purposes. I have a deep nostalgia for that place.
The Basement totally rocks.
Oh, it’s the best. There are just so many memories there, like going out and seeing— I remember when I first moved here in 2008. Silver Seas were doing a residency every Monday for four or five Mondays and I came out every week. It was just the best show every single time, going and seeing, I don’t know, the most incredible musicians, especially in Nashville’s kind-of-growing not-country scene.
Would you say the Basement is also probably your favorite place in Nashville to go see a show? Or do you have another favorite for going out to see a show?
That’s so funny, you know, I’ve only been to the Ryman to see a show a couple times — and I’ve never played the Ryman, and I’m going to get the opportunity to play the Ryman April 15 with Wax — but, it’s just such a profoundly religious experience to go see a show there. You can’t even put words to it. It’s in the bone structure, it’s in the blueprint of the Ryman to just be in awe of what’s happening at the Ryman.
And you’re playing there in April, like you mentioned. Can you talk a bit about that? Are you just super excited? I can imagine it must be so exciting.
I am so excited. It’s funny, when I think about it I think my impulse is to be super stressed about it, but I’m actually really excited. I think it’s going to be so special, and so many of my friends are going to be here, and I have some friends and family flying in from all over the country just for that night. These shows have just been so special. The Waxahatchee fanbase— her audience is just, I don’t know, they’ve just been so wonderful to me. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for their— they just are so focused and attentive, and they really give a s— in a really special way. I feel like the Ryman is just going to be such a beautiful night. I’m so excited, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Definitely, that’s so exciting. So, lastly, as college students it can be difficult to find a way to navigate school and life in general while also pursuing creative outlets—like music. What would you say to students who are struggling to take the next step or figure out what to do in their creative journeys or careers?
Just don’t stop. “Just don’t stop,” is the best advice that I can even give myself now, or ten years ago, or five years ago, or fifteen years ago. I think I’ve been doing this since, like, 2007. There were so many moments where I was like, “Oh god, it’s not happening immediately, there must be something wrong with xyz,” but, there’s nothing wrong sometimes. It finds everybody in different moments of their life and things happen exactly when they are supposed to happen. I think the longer you stay, the more you have a chance, so just don’t stop.