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Madi Diaz Shows Us How to Get Through a Shitty Breakup

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By Ilana Kaplan

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Going through a shitty breakup sucks, and it can feel isolating. But singer-songwriter Madi Diaz has been there, too, and she's found some of the upsides. In fact, her shitty breakup led to a reinvented, darker sound—a departure from her folk roots. Drawing on this darker emotional palette, Madi created a gorgeous video for her single “Stay Together.” If you're feeling alone after a breakup, here is some reassurance.

The video, which we're pretty stoked to premiere, is directed by Claire Marie Vogel and is in part a beautiful homage to artist James Turrell, whose art focuses on light and space—elements Diaz took into account with the positioning of lights within the home depicted. Following a recent move to LA and a shift to a more pop-influenced sound, the song offers a different version of Madi, and it's one I'm totally on board with.

To get a better picture of where Madi's shift came from and how it's playing out, I talked to her about dealing with her breakup, trusting in yourself, and her upcoming record Phantom, which comes out September 30.

Noisey: How’s it going?
Madi Diaz:
I’m great. I’m gonna be straight up with you. I just got done with this photo shoot thing and I was feeling all glammed up until my friend who was doing the makeup dropped me off at my car. The driver’s side door is locked shut. This has happened before, and my car has been this absolute fucking hell mess for like months at a time. I was all glammed up trying to climb through the trunk of my fucking car so I can get my car open and drive it to get fixed. So that just happened [laughs].

Is now still okay?
I got home just 20 minutes ago, and I’m so glad. It’s like life can continue to start in a progressive way and not continue to fall apart for forever [laughs].

Your sound has transformed a lot from your previous records. Your last album was more folk-driven. You must have had to go through a really bad breakup for some of these songs to exist. Am I right?
It’s pretty transparent [laughs]. This relationship came at such a pivotal point in my life. I basically moved my whole life from Nashville to Los Angeles and had fallen in love. I think you realize so much about yourself that you wouldn’t have necessarily realized when you’re seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes. When they’re gone, you’re left with all the rest of it. It’s pretty much about that.

Has putting together the record helped you find closure at all?
Absolutely. When you step away from a relationship, it starts to hit you in waves. The record is very representative of all of those waves; like the beginning waves, of like ‘yay this is lovely we’re sailing,’ then the boat starts rocking and the ship gets swept away. I think that it still has a lot of power. I don’t think that I really lost my power throughout the process, so that was one of the goals, you know?

What’s the most meaningful song to you from the record?
They’re all pretty freakin’ meaningful. I tried to keep the track number down as much as I could because I feel like with 15-20 song albums you start to lose the message and the power. The one that is probably my favorite one right now and to play live is “Pictures.” It really walks you through the memory viscerally. It’s the most personally recorded one with the closest vocals and most stripped down.

You look great in the “Stay Together” video. Can you tell me a little bit about the concept? Why was it shot the way it was?
When all of the shit was hitting the fan, that feeling of “the shit hitting the fan” is such an overwhelming, huge and lush feeling. That’s what we were trying to capture with the record. Speaking with Claire [Marie Vogel], when we were first starting to do treatments and stuff, we hit it off so quickly. I was referencing so many lush tones in things that I wanted in the video. I had recently seen this James Turrell exhibit downtown and those colors are so true, pure and vibrant. Those colors represent the fullness of the emotions I was feeling. The majority of the video is very much inspired by that for sure. If you don’t know James Turrell by the way, you have to look up his work. He’s truly a force of nature to be reckoned with.

What made you get into his work?
My best friend from high school is a visual artist. When I was crawling out of my soul hole of despair, she was pulling me out of it [laughs]. She would come over to my apartment and was like we need to do this thing. We went on a girl date, she showed me Turrell, and it struck a chord.

How have your fans reacted to your sound transformation?
Thus far, very positively. I think I’m still growing into myself with it, too, so that’s been kind of fun to strip things down and build them back up again, and learn how my old songs work in this setting. Between Plastic Moon and this record, I self-released a record [called] We Threw Our Hearts In The Fire—it bent in this direction and took this kind of shape. I hope it’s not too much of a surprise. It surprised me a bit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it surprises other people [laughs]. No one seems pissed or anything.

Who have been some of your influences on this record?
I think Nick and I were pulling a lot from our Nine Inch Nails love in some ways. We were listening to some Garbage, a lot of Metric, and I was digging back into the Fleetwood Mac vibes, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Whatever the song setup is, I feel really strongly that these songs can stand on their legs. That was still the core.

Have people become fans off of your live performances alone? I was a fan of your music before, but when I saw you live and was blown away.
That’s such an incredible thing to hear. That’s my favorite thing: when you hear a band and you really like the song and then you see them live and you’re like “holy shit, this is why [I like them].” For instance, I saw Chris Martin solo by himself at Hotel Café—him and an acoustic guitar—and it blew my mind. It’s like, that’s why you’re famous, and that’s why everyone is in love with you.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned as a musician so far?
There are so many things I unlearn, re-learn and continue to learn. More than anything it comes back to the song. If you have a song that speaks truly to you, you need to trust yourself in your creative gut, rely in your individuality and artistry. If you can continue to follow that and hone that, then people will start to pay attention. It’s empowering to trust yourself—other people trust that kind of trust.

Ilana Kaplan is different live, too. She's on Twitter - @lanikaps

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