SXSW Interview: On the Spot with Irene Diaz

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Singer/songwriter Irene Diaz is among the showcasing artists at SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Singer/songwriter Irene Diaz is among the showcasing artists at SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Singer/songwriter Irene Diaz is among the showcasing artists at SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

It’s easy for some artists to get drowned out in the noise of more than 2,000 official acts at South by Southwest. So when a singer creates an atmosphere where you can truly be present, music magic happens. That was the case with rising Los Angeles’ singer/songwriter Irene Diaz Friday night at the Flamingo Cantina.

Outside the venue’s doors, a raucous Sixth Street crowd swarmed. But inside, Diaz centered the spirit with her soulful, moving songs that seemed to stop time.

Irene Diaz captivates SXSW crowd at Flamingo Cantina. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Irene Diaz captivates SXSW crowd at Flamingo Cantina. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Not too long ago, Diaz, 28, was figuring out her life’s path as a college student, unsure of what direction she should take. “I’ve been playing music all my life, but I never thought I could do it (professionally),” Diaz says. “It just didn’t seem feasible.”

But in 2011, she made a leap of faith that felt right and immersed herself in the music world. She put her studies on hold and has crafted her own path, one that’s already taken her to unexpected places. In 2012, Diaz’ song “I Love You Madly” was featured on NPR’s Alt Latino program, which helped put her music career on an upward trajectory.

Diaz, who is often described as a modern day torch singer, says she taught herself to sing by listening to artists like Ella Fitzgerald. And when she later developed a keen interest in film noir, she says that’s the direction she wanted to take her “I Love You Madly” EP.

Although she’s been embraced by the Latin alternative scene, Diaz says she doesn’t want her music to be “pigeonholed.” Her English-language songs don’t have any strong influences of Latin rhythms, but they are passionate, she says.

When she began getting attention as a Latina artist, she questioned at one point whether she should start singing in Spanish. But Diaz, who is the third generation in her family to be born in the U.S., didn’t grow up speaking Spanish and doesn’t want to “feel pressure to represent Latin roots,” she says. “I’m automatically representing by being who I am…maybe there needs to be a voice for someone like me.”

As Diaz continues to rise in the indie music world, she has her eyes set on growing as an artist. She still struggles with stage fright, (which you wouldn’t know from her stunning performances), and says she’s figuring out how to best deal with that. She’s also eager to learn more about producing, and eventually wants to produce all her own albums. Diaz’s first full-length album is in the works, and music lovers should keep an eye on what the future holds for this promising young artist.

 

 


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