Interview: Irene Díaz, from Kickstarter to Latina indie darling on the rise

LA-based singer-songwriter Irene Díaz. Promo photo by Miguel Morales Cruz.

When you look at singer-songwriter Irene Díaz you would never guess that such a big and soulful voice comes out of that petite figure, but trust me it does. We met up at the Downtown Rehearsal studio—east of downtown Los Angeles—where she told me all about the whirlwind of a life she’s had in the last three years and what is in store for her music career.

Díaz grew up performing at church and learning the piano. Yet, it wasn’t until she picked up her dad’s guitar at 16 years old that she started writing songs. For the songstress the songwriting goes hand-in-hand with the music and the instruments. Anytime she’s playing an instrument she’s thinking of songs to write.

“I love all of it, but what I wrote back then was really depressing,” the singer says as she laughs. “My writing has changed over time. I’ve found people that inspire me. The music I have right now is inspired by friends or experiences that I’ve had as a young adult.”

She admits that when she first started writing she would hide in her room and not share her music publicly. Even though music was a major part of her life, Díaz decided to pursue a higher education in an effort to find the career path for her.

“In school I was always trying to figure out what to do. Deep down I always wanted to do music but the music classes just weren’t as fulfilling for me,” says Díaz. “I realized then that I just really wanted to do music full time so I stopped going to school. It actually felt really good to make that decision. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when it came to school but I knew for certain that I wanted to do music.”

Since 2010 Díaz has tried to establish her career as a singer-songwriter and initially she had no clue where to begin.

“A big part of my collaborating and networking process was learning how to play, write, be creative and be free with the music and I couldn’t have done that without the help of the friends I’ve made along the way,” says Díaz. “In the beginning I would just go and be inspired and creative with them during their jam sessions. It helped me get out of my comfort zone.”

It took some time but she eventually broke out of that shell. In 2011 she met Carolyn Cardoza—her now ukuleleist and booking coordinator—who helped her alleviate some of the work involved in establishing a music career.

“When I met Carolyn a lot of things just started unfolding for me, since then a lot of doors have opened because I had someone to help me work everything out” says Díaz. “She introduced me to many people who helped me book shows, produce and do other creative things.”

'I Love You Madly' is available now on Itunes and CD Baby.

Among those things was the planning and launch of a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. When Irene Díaz started recording her extended play album “I Love You Madly” she decided it was a good time to start a campaign to help fund her project. After two months of pre-planning and some blood, sweat and tears, their Kickstarter was successful and they were on their way to having a finished product for supporters and fans to enjoy.

“Luckily we had friends who had already done their own Kickstarter campaigns,” says Cardoza. “We talked to them about what worked and didn’t work for them in order to get as much information beforehand.”

“There’s a ton of work and effort that goes into a campaign like this. Sometimes we were just like, ‘We’re never doing this again!’,” says Díaz laughing. “But it was all worth it in the end because I don’t see how this EP could’ve happened without the support of this campaign. This was great because people not only helped with funds but also because they believed in the project and to have people like that backing me showed me I was doing something right and that this is what I was meant to do.”

With the outpour of support Díaz successfully reached her goal of $8,000 in just two weeks. She surpassed it by raising $10,209 at the end of the campaign. Díaz has worked hard since December to make sure the content promised went out to the fans in a timely manner.

With “I Love You Madly”, Díaz says she wanted it to be a listening experience that flowed nicely.

“I like to transition from one song to the other,” says Díaz. “That way people don’t get taken out of the moment and they can let the musical experience take over.”

Complete with interludes this album is one in which you can just relax and listen to from beginning to end.

“You can just get wrapped up in Irene’s songs, even playing with her, you don’t want the music to stop,” says Cardoza. “You want to stay in that moment in time. It’s a musical experience that just leads you somewhere else. You get wrapped up in the performance and you’re not interrupted.”

This summer she performed in Philadelphia and at the Latin Alternative Music Conference, where she stunned concertgoers with her soulful voice. As a result of her talent, she was featured on National Public Radio’s “Alt Latino” and “All Things Considered” and on Mucho Music. Up until now, the success Irene Díaz has achieved was earned through diligence and as part of a natural development.

“We haven’t had a PR person, we don’t have someone funding everything and as of right now I kind of like that,” says Díaz. “It’s very much about the people who enjoy and share my music with others. I feel happy with the way things are just happening organically right now.”

Díaz is currently working on getting her music to more college radio stations, performing on the road, writing more music and of course building her fan base.

“We are planning a West Coast tour for the near future,” says Díaz. “We’re also looking into booking some dates during South By Southwest 2014. Ultimately, I want to perform in showcases in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as part of a Southwest tour so that is all in the works.”

In the last three years Díaz has accomplished great things in her musical career. Still, she knows there is a ton left to do and is facing the future with excitement and passion.

“I really want to influence people to do things that they love. If you’ve specified or realized what you want to do then by all means go for it,” says Díaz. “Music is what I love to do because I’m always learning by doing but mostly because I get to create an enjoyable experience for me and my audience.”

Keep an eye out for Irene Díaz because this little lady will be coming to Austin in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy her soothing and soulful sounds in this official music video for “Crazy Love”.

Jessica Ramirez

Jessica was born and raised in good ol' San Antonio. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin—\m/ Hook 'Em!—with a degree in multimedia journalism. She is currently living in Los Angeles working in publicity, promotions and management for Cosmica Records. Jessica is unabashedly a pop culture junkie who is fortunate enough to write about music, comedy, film and TV.

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