Singer-Songwriter Mark Diamond released his new EP Hummingbird One on Friday, and sat down with us to talk about his musical influences, hummingbirds, and the recording process for Hummingbird One.
BTS: Can you tell us about how you first got into making music?
Mark Diamond: I was a kid and my dad had taught me how to play a G chord on guitar in the middle bathroom of our house, because it had great acoustics. I just kind of took it from there and fell in love with playing guitar. I played a lot of sports growing up but music was the one thing that was always there for me. I played soccer, lacrosse, golf but every time I came home, I just wanted to play music. It took me awhile to realize that playing music was my favorite thing to do. Then, I started taking it very seriously in high school. In my mind, every band I was in was going to be the biggest band in the world. I took it so seriously, I’d tell everyone that we had to practice every day at 5 PM after school and if you’re not there at 5 PM, you’re out of the band. I took it so seriously to the point where I became a solo artist. It was an important learning curve for me. But on the other side of it, I’ve realized that the less serious I take music, the better music I make. I just had to find that balance.
BTS: Who are some of your biggest influences?
MD: Hootie and The Blowfish was a big one, I listened to them a lot with my parents. Tom Petty was a big one, too. When I first started, I listened to Snow Patrol and The Fray, just all of these super sad songs. I would just be sitting in the back of my mom’s car with my headphones in, looking out of the window trying to be emotional. But, Coldplay is probably my biggest influence. Chris Martin is one of my favorite people in the entire world. A lot of writers love and respect him, and I do as well from a musical standpoint. But also I respect him as a person. In all the interviews I’ve watched with him, he always seems like the nicest person.
BTS: Who would you say you’re influenced by now?
MD: I don’t know! I don’t listen to a lot of music. I go through these phases where I don’t really want to listen to it and I just want to play it. Right now, I love Troye Sivan. I loved what Harry Styles did on his last album, and I’m excited to see what he does next. As far as being inspired by things, I get more inspiration for my music from things outside of music. I really don’t listen to music in my free time. The way I think of it is that I’m most creative when I’m calm, and the things that make me really calm are being in places where I’m around plants, and hummingbirds. My whole EP is about me moving to Los Angeles and I was just writing music about what was around me and at the time. Waking up in the morning and sitting down at the keyboard and looking out of the window, I had all of these moments that I can’t explain because everything that was happening was just so strange. I would sit down at the piano and a Hummingbird would come up to the window and would just be looking at me, and so I just started writing about Hummingbirds. So, it’s safe to say that Hummingbird inspired me more than anything.
BTS: Hummingbirds are magical though.
MD: Yeah! I mean when they’re around, everyone stops. Everyone stops and looks at them. They’re so beautiful. There are a lot of connections with Hummingbirds in my family, which is really cool as well. I was given this Hummingbird ring that was made from melted down gold from one of my Grandmother’s rings, she loved Hummingbirds as well. There are just a lot of personal connections that make this process and body of work so special to me.
BTS: You’re originally from Seattle but you’re based out of L.A. now, how have both places influenced your sound?
MD: I think location is everything. Even when I was younger and making music and I would listen back to that music, I can almost still hear the room I was in. In Seattle, a lot of my writing was done in my little apartment, trying to be quiet. That’s why I sing a lot of falsetto now, because at that point in time, I had to be quiet in the apartment complex I was in. So, I was singing falsetto to be quiet, but then I realized I was just writing loads of songs in falsetto so that just became comfortable for me. But also, I was in Seattle and it was cloudy and cold, and the music is definitely a product of its surroundings. When I lived in Seattle, I had a dream to write a project called Hummingbird, but I just didn’t start it. I moved to Los Angeles, and was just gifted these songs from the universe, which was really nice. But that wouldn’t of happened if I hadn’t been in Los Angeles, because these songs would not sound the way that they do. Location has influenced me a huge deal, and I can’t wait to see where I end up for the next project.
BTS: The visuals that go along with this EP really seem like they fit the music and vibe of the EP perfectly – are visuals important to you as an artist?
MD: They are! In the past, they’ve overwhelmed me a little bit because I have a difficult time articulating what I want things to look like. But it’s so important to me – the color scheme, my outfits – everything has very earthy tones. I created this alter-ego for myself called Dusty Flares, and it’s funny because it allows me to say “I’m going to go out on stage as Dusty Flares and I’m going to wear bright pink bellbottoms and a blouse on top,” because that’s just what Dusty Flares does. The whole visual side of it is so important. Right now, we’re working on some creative for music videos, and just sketching out ideas for things. I’m lucky to have a good team of people for that kind of thing, and they actually understand my vision. For the “Steady” lyric video they asked me if I had any ideas, and I sent back a photo of an old school motorcycle helmet that I really liked, and they made the video exactly what I imagined in my head. It was crazy – just the fact that I hadn’t actually met any of these people yet and we had just talked on conference calls and over email, and I just sent them a photo of a motorcycle helmet and they just understood what I wanted. It was nuts.
BTS: How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
MD: It’s difficult to describe. But I guess I would say emotional, because it is all around pretty emotional. Not necessarily in the sense of it being sad the whole time, that’s not what I want because that’s not who I am. I want my music to hit every feeling because I think it’s important that we feel everything. Even in horrible, shitty times I think it’s so important to feel 100%, and this album is exactly that. It’s an emotional project, both happy, sad, everything. I’ve realized with this project and myself that it’s easy to write a really sad song and end it sad, and people love it. The thing that’s really special is when you take an emotion, like being sad, and you’re able to flip it into something hopeful, because there’s no other option. Things have to be ok, things have to work out. I want listeners to feel that.
BTS: That’s important though, people definitely resonate with those emotional songs a lot more now then they used to.
MD: Absolutely! People want that 100-percent. They want to be validated in their sadness. They want to see that someone else gets it. I think music has an important role now, and I think loads of artists are doing a great job at it of just making really sad, dark music. But in today’s current climate, I think artists also need to be the drummer boy and let everyone know that things are terrible, but it’s going to be ok and I’m going to be here to make you feel better when you need it.
BTS: Can you tell us about your new EP Hummingbird One?
MD: Hummingbird One is exactly how I’m feeling right now, which is very unique because typically when you put out music, once you write and record it, it could be a long time before fans see the songs. This project is very fresh to me, we just wrote these songs a couple months ago. We were working so quick, as if we only had a certain amount of time. As we were finishing up one song, we would be writing and prepping the next song. We had two studios at Republic Records in Los Angeles that we were just going back and forth between. It was just Richard Craker and I. [Craker] is an amazingly talented writer and producer, and I couldn’t of asked for anyone else to write this with. That’s what made this project so special. The two of us met the first day we wrote a song together, and right away we were having so much fun. It was the first time I laughed a lot while making music. Something Chris Martin says is that you have to open yourself up and enjoy the wonders, and once I opened myself up and allowed myself to have fun, then all of these songs came through and “London” came through, which is such a special special song to write. I just kept saying that I was just happy to be in the room, and we both felt the same way. It felt very connected.
BTS: What was the biggest lesson you learned while recording the EP?
MD: Probably to just enjoy it. Like I was saying before, letting the process be fun was really important to me. When we finished writing “London”, we were crying, it’s a very deep song. That song lights up my chest more than any other song I’ve written. But then we started laughing, because [Craker] and I were doing this together and we knew we had this incredibly special song in our hands. We were just laughing so hard because we loved it so much. That’s how I want to make music. I don’t want to take it so seriously that it feels stressful or like a burden. Sometimes, it does get that way. Overall, as a writer you finish something and you hope that it’s not the last thing you’re able to write, but this project to me was almost like a job security kind of thing. I told myself to look around because there’s so much that I can write music about, and there’s always something to be sad about so there’s a fallback, but there’s also always something to be hopeful about, and that’s job security to me. But coming to that conclusion brought me a lot of calmness and allowed me to have fun on this as well.
BTS: That’s a great way to look at things, though.
MD: Exactly. My dad was an airline pilot, so I traveled a lot with him when I was young and that really opened my mind a lot. But it’s all just about what you see. If you see the same type of relationship in your life and you keep making the same mistake, then you’re going to keep writing songs about that type of relationship, which is fine, and it works for some people. But I think there’s another tier, and I think right now there isn’t a lot of that going on in the music industry. There’s a whole emotion in music that I think a lot of people are missing out on right now that’s important to feel. Hopefully this project is able to bring that to people.
BTS: What can fans expect from you for the rest of the year?
MD: Shows are the most important thing. I haven’t played a show in a little while, and most of it is because I’ve been so focused on writing the music that I want to play for people. We’ve been doing some rehearsals, and the live show is sounding so good right now. I have some shows I’m hoping to announce soon. This year I’m just hoping for live shows and more new music. This project is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come. There’s a lot to look forward to.
Stream Hummingbird One below!