Scene+Heard: The sweet sounds of Candy Diaz
BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Candy Diaz is no stranger to the stage, having performed both locally and nationally as part of various bands, including all-female songwriter collective the Girlas and reggae band Rootikal Riddim. Now a solo artist, she sings with the kind of ease and confidence that can only come with having the experience of a professional.
Not only is she musically talented, with her laidback voice and jazz-inspired style, but she’s also a really nice person who loves all things creative — and it shows. Along with music, she designs and produces her own line of jewelry and dabbles in vegan baking.
The first time I saw Diaz perform live was a few years back at one of the sold-out Kokua Festivals. She was on stage alongside greats like Paula Fuga and Jack Johnson, while I was a complete newbie to the music scene and just trying to absorb what was around me. In the hopes of trying to connect with other local singer-songwriters, I began following Diaz’s Twitter feed. I figured I could learn a few things or two from someone who knew what she was doing.
Months later, I saw Diaz at an event and went up to introduce myself. (By the way, no, I do not make it a habit to approach people out-of-the-blue, but we shared a few Twitter comments so I thought “what the heck?”) Since then, we’ve become fellow music buddies and I am so happy when I get to share the stage with her.
The best way I can describe Diaz’s music is that it’s classy — a blend of blues, folk, pop, and jazz. I am always blown away by her consistent creativity and positivity. From performing at weekly gigs around town to shooting videos with big name local acts, her life revolves around everything she loves: music, art, and family. (Note: Diaz is engaged to Honolulu Star-Advertiser Entertainment Editor/Online Jason Genegabus.)
Along with live performances, Diaz is currently working with Soul Sound Studio’s Shawn Livingston Moseley on her solo debut album, which is expected to be released later this year. As a fellow independent artist, I am always in support of my fellow indie singer-songwriters; she is fully in charge of her musical career and expression and does so with grace — and more importantly, talent. Personally, I can’t wait to hear this album!
I caught up with Diaz this week to talk about her musical experience, the recording process and what the rest of 2012 looks like for her.
Sabrina Velazquez: You come from a musical family, which must have influenced you tremendously. Tell me about your musical background.
Candy Diaz: I’ve always been influenced by the music I grew up listening to, from popular stuff my parents liked and classics from my grandparents’ collection, to things my older cousins were listening to. As long as it was music, I basically loved it.
When I started making decisions about the music I chose to listen to, I found myself with a collection that contained punk rock records, indie rock albums, and tons of jazz, preferably torch jazz. I also spent a couple of years doing lots of singing in church, and always find myself referencing that part of my life while writing songs because I learned so much.
My first band was a group of friends who got together to perform at my 8th grade banquet. I was shy and decided to just play guitar. We covered “Purple Haze” and an Elastica tune I can’t remember. By the time I was a senior in high school, I mustered enough guts to form a trio with two friends and perform a cover of an indie song by the band Jejune for “Brown Bags to Stardom.” I sang and played guitar.
Growth, expression, freedom. Those are major things that drive my music today.
SV: I’ve been lucky to see you perform a number of times. You have the ability to sing anything, from blues, to jazz, to reggae, to pop. Is there any particular sound you lean towards? And what is it like to go from performing in a band to solo act?
CD: I think I tend to lean towards jazz. Slow, comfortable vocals, nice sultry lows, highs behind clean, crisp guitar notes. Jazz is one of those things I feel very comfortable doing. Expression certainly changes with genre, and when I think of jazz and singers like Julie London, I get inspired.
As for being in a band and going solo — both are exciting to me and have their benefits. As a solo artist, it allows me to be more free during performances. I’m a woman who constantly changes her mind. During a set, I can choose to go a different way without messing with the band.
Still, playing with a band is just as great; I love the full sound. The major difference I feel when playing with a band is that I get into “singer” mode and find myself relaxing with my instrument. I’ve always been more comfortable singing but love to do both.
SV: I completely understand that ease that comes with performing and focusing on your singing when playing with a band versus on your own. You play gigs around town all the time. With such a busy gig schedule, how do you keep focused and keep the performances fresh for yourself?
CD: I just do the usual things to stay focused; I change up my set lists and try new songs every now and again. More recently, I’ve been trying to go through pieces of my catalog so I don’t neglect other songs I’ve written.
SV: You have been working with Shawn Livingston Moseley on a new album. What is the recording process like for you and what can we expect?
CD: Shawn and I have worked for weeks going over my songs and doing some fine-tuning here and there. I will be working with a band these next few weeks to go over the 14 or so tracks I’ve chosen. Everything I’m doing feels very organic, very me.
The band I’m recording with are all working musicians who tend to work with reggae acts, but all of them know me well enough to help me sound good. I’ve always had trouble describing my music, but I’m sure you’ll hear influences of jazz, soul, and folk. I wrote all the songs, so I view them as a soundtrack to what life is like in my head.
SV: We are officially halfway into 2012. What can Candy Diaz fans look forward to for the rest of the year?
CD: Lots of gigging and writing. I’m finishing up my album and getting it out there, so I’d love to tour — but as an indie artist, it’s going to take a bit more work. I’m hoping to get my music out there and heard, as I’ve been wanting to release something since my early twenties and am now I’m finally getting it done. It’s been a long time coming!
The best way for people to find out what I’m doing is via my Twitter and Facebook pages.
SV: What continue to be your top three music goals?
CD: Stay honest, keep being creative and sell records.
SV: Describe yourself in one word.
If you haven’t heard Diaz sing, well… I don’t know where you’ve been hiding because she performs all around town. Go check out one of her regular gigs:
» Mondays: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at REAL a Gastropub, 1020 Auahi Street
» Tuesdays: 5 to 6:45 p.m. at Down to Earth Kapolei, 4460 Kapolei Parkway
» Third and Fourth Wednesdays: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Diamond Head Cove Health Bar, 3045 Monsarrat Avenue
» Second and Fourth Thursdays: 5 to 6:45 p.m. at Down to Earth Kapolei, 4460 Kapolei Parkway
» Saturdays: 7 to 9 p.m. at Jawaiian Irie Jerk Restaurant, 1137 11th Avenue
Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.