as mentioned the other day, i had the chance this weekend to sit down with singer/songwriter diane birch and ask her some questions. she’s incredibly sweet and down to earth – and she’s got great style too!
i read that you weren’t allowed to listen to pop music growing up, how has that influenced you as an artist?
it’s really influenced me, because during my formative years what i was exposed to was classical, opera, church hymns, just really kind of old school music. i’ve gotten into many different phases of music, like i was listening to a lot of goth bands at one point, but i’ve still extracted that formative listening experience with my music and it’s definitely been a huge influence because for a long time i had to suppress all that stuff.
are there any specific musicians who have had a huge influence on you?
i’ve always greatly admired people like john lennon, elton john, nina simone, brian wilson, michael jackson, people who had the ability to be really individual and push boundaries and yet reach a massive audience and touch every person in some way.
if you could get on stage and jam with any musician who would you pick?
do they have to be alive? i guess i would probably say michael jackson or stevie wonder – i actually just did a show with stevie wonder in the south of france and he was incredible. it would be fun to get up on stage and jam out with him.
so you have a day off – what do you do?
day off, what is that? i’ve been on the road for about three months straight so i haven’t really had a day off in a while…i guess the first thing i would do is laundry. the second thing is to try to organize the piles of clothes – i actually have a day off tomorrow so i’m going to sort the piles of clothes in my room.
other than that i’d probably just hang out with friends. i love to go shopping – vintage shopping, going to flea markets, antique shops. i love going to museums, checking out bands. i live in brooklyn so there’s always something to do, it’s really fun, especially in summertime – i’m in williamsburg right by the waterfront so there are always fun things going on.
how would you describe your personal style?
it’s kindof a mix of a lot of things – classic, gypsy, masculine, feminine, a little rock and roll. my style icons are people like coco chanel, patti smith, jane birkin, annie hall, stevie nicks – i’m in a kind of stevie nicks obsession right now. there’s definitely a 70s, hippie, gypsy kindof feel to things, i love mixing old and new. and a lot of black.
what do you like to wear on stage? do you go for comfort or style?
i like to try to go for both. i used to always dress up when i would be on stage, like i would wear a skirt or heels… but i like to feel a bit more masculine now when i’m on stage so i like to wear flats or boots, but i do like to dress up a little – it’s hard for me to wear jeans and a t-shirt. and i always have to have some jewelry.
at free people we’re all animal lovers – do you have a pet?
no i don’t but i would love a pet – i’m obsessed with dogs! but when you’re always on the road it’s hard and also living in new york i feel like i want to have a yard for it. i personally love pugs – i’m one of those annoying people that when i see them i have to stop and pet them.
where do you draw inspiration for your music?
i definitely draw from personal experience. this first album was really inspired by my life, my childhood, it was kind of an album about the past. about my relationships and my whole range of human emotion whether its triumph or joy, loneliness, depression. it was really kind of derived from this transition between my childhood and adulthood in a way…so that’s sort of where i drew my inspiration from on this album. now that i’ve got that out of the way i can focus on my present inspiration and things that i’m doing and feeling currently as opposed to having it be so much in the past… but yeah it is quite personal.
so what do you have coming up in the near future?
i’m almost done touring now, and i’m going to asia in ten days. then when i come back i’m pretty much done for a while and i’m just going to focus entirely on the second album because i’m dying to get it done. i’ve been working on this first album for such a long time that i’m just really ready to move on to something else now.
what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced being a musician?
the most challenging thing is just sticking with it when you have so many people that are kinda like “yeah, that’s cool but i don’t know…” people who just aren’t really understanding it, they don’t really get it, and you have to constantly work through that. even though you have people that are putting you down or closing doors you have to keep believing, believing, believing. that was always a challenge for me, to stay focused and positive when there are so many opportunities to just say “you know what, i give up.” that’s the most challenging thing, just staying with it. you have to learn patience and you have to keep believing. i’ve always had people, fortunately, that believe in me and are really supportive.
what does free mean to you?
free means choice. being able to choose what you want to do…being able to dictate your life.
check out her myspace page and listen to her music, it’s really lovely.
thank you so much diane!