We caught up with Diane over email to find out what Song-of-the-Week is all about, what it offers her fans, and why she’s feeling more inspired than ever…
It’s been over six years since your last ‘proper’ album came out, and I know that you’ve been bombarded with emails asking when you’ll return to the studio. As such, there’s a lot of excitement about your new Song-of-the-Week initiative. Could you explain, in a nutshell, what it’s all about for those who haven’t heard about it?
Song-of-the-Week is a project in which I’ll be writing, recording and sending out twenty-four songs over the course of six months. There will be one new song each week, delivered to everyone who subscribes. I’ll also be sprinkling in videos, drawings, recipes and things like that. I’m very excited about it!
You first mentioned creatively funding your next album “outside of conventional record label dependency” in a newsletter I received way back in September 2010. That’s a long time to be thinking about something! Who or what inspired you to take this approach, and why the delay in setting it up?
Yes, it is a long time to be thinking! Kickstarter certainly inspired me to try something like this, and the delay in making new recordings has been around the challenge of funding my existence, in general. I’ve led a double life throughout my music-making career. ‘Double life’ is exhausting…not the stuff of intrigue that fiction would have you believe. I decided to set up Song-of-the-Week in lieu of a day-job – to be very regular about it – organised and accountable while doing something I love.
Was there any particular reason you decided to do this completely independently, instead of using established crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or PledgeMusic?
A close friend of mine is a software engineer. When I mentioned I wanted to try fan-funding a project, he began looking into various sites to figure out how they worked, what their strong and weak points were, and what their back ends relied on to make everything happen.
One of the downsides we saw in Kickstarter was that they’ll only give you your backers’ contact information if you reach your funding goal – in other words, if your project isn’t fully funded, all of those people offering support just disappear back into the ether. Back when we investigated PledgeMusic, their format was to deliver funding after one’s project is complete, and that model didn’t work for me. Through Song-of-the-Week funding on my own site, I’ve had the chance to interact personally with everyone who’s been subscribing, and whether or not I reach my monetary goal, the process been really encouraging and interesting for me.
I can’t say I’d never use a pre-existing ‘crowdfunding platform’, but Ken really wanted to build me something. I agreed to it because he’s very good at what he does and I love working with him.
It’s a huge undertaking to do this pretty much on your own, from a publicity standpoint alone, not to mention the creative energies that the project demands. Now that you’re a few weeks into the campaign, how are you feeling about it all?
I’m freaking out on a daily basis! I’m also learning a lot and laughing and regrouping on a daily basis…with help. I’ve never publicised my own work before, and it’s bringing up huge emotions in me. Sometimes I get completely eaten up by doubt, and then I know it’s time to take a break – watch the sunset or bake a cake or listen to someone else talk about their day. Eventually I return to whatever promotional task I’m dealing with and try to discover what might be expressive or enjoyable about it.
I’m in the midst of a big, organisational learning curve – one that’s helping focus my creative mind. I’ve always had way more ideas than I can catch up with, so I think this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
Having been to many of your shows over the past six years, I know that you already have quite a wealth of unrecorded songs at your fingertips. Will any of these be included in the Song-of-the-Week project, or will the songs be entirely new? If new, do you have plans to record and release the existing songs in another way?
I’m bursting to get into the studio again! It’s taken a couple of years to collect the equipment and create the space I need, and I’m so grateful to be in the situation I’m in now. In the meantime, I’ve been singing on a regular basis, because singing feels GREAT.
There are enough unrecorded songs I could rely on for Song-of-the-Week, but I’d rather the project function as an ongoing musical journal. The project will include an online forum where people can discuss the songs, offer feedback and suggest subjects they’d like to see developed. I’m open to trying writing in that way.
How’s your CD-R rescue project going? Do you think you might compile another collection along the same lines as Monarcana using these long-lost home recordings?
I’ll return to it, but Song-of-the-Week is my central focus for awhile. I’m learning to loosen up about all the things I’m not getting done. There really isn’t time for everything, so I’m trying to focus on what’s available, what’s possible. This hasn’t been easy for me! I’ve also been working with the idea, suggested by a friend, that ‘sometimes people want to help you even when you can’t pay them.’ For a long time, wanting to be able to pay everyone for their time held me back from asking for more help. I became too self-reliant, untrusting. Realising that giving someone the opportunity to help can actually be a gift is an important shift, for me.
You mention in your blurb about the project that you are open to collaborating with other artists on some of the songs. Do you have certain people in mind? That new song, ‘Haylofts’, that you performed live with CocoRosie is wonderful.
Sierra Casady is pure music; when we spend time together I’m continuously inspired. I’d love to work with both her and Bianca again this year. Bianca wrote ‘Haylofts‘, and I dig her mythically rich, poetic style.
Nick Yulman is a Brooklyn-based artist who builds and sometimes plays alongside mechanical musical instruments. We’re talking about making something together for Song-of-the-Week.
I have others in mind, but my root idea is that this is a home project…about organising and focusing on the home territory. I recently moved to Virginia and I’d like to meet more local musicians here…people I can walk down the street and play with.
There was some talk about eighteen months ago of a live album and photo collection being compiled to mark your early work with drummer Anders Griffen. Is that still going to happen?
We’d still like to scoop some of those recordings into a digital EP release through my website.
I know that I personally will be a little bit heartbroken if the Song-of-the-Week project doesn’t reach its $15,000 target. Have you given any consideration to that worst-case scenario, in terms of what you would do next with your music?
I will consider taking out a loan, because I really want to do this project. If anyone reading this is super-flush and loves my work, please consider sparing me from doing that! Even if you’re not cash-heavy, you can subscribe to my project for a modest price and receive song-treats and tender thanks from me.
Do you have plans to come back to Europe after the Song-of-the-Week project winds up in the fall? We missed you last year!
I missed you, too! Emmy The Great, Mary Hampton, Comfortable On A Tightrope folks in Manchester… I thoroughly enjoy my yearly UK jaunt and the friends I’ve made because of it. I look forward to returning as soon as I can. Right now, I’ve got lots keeping me stateside. Somehow, in my own way, I’m becoming quite patriotic.
For more information on the Song-of-the-Week project, including how to subscribe, visit Diane’s official website. Top photo by Eric White.