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The spectacular rebirth of Madi Diaz

12 February 2024, 00:15
Words by Laura David
Original Photography by Muriel Margaret

Singer/songwriter and sometimes Harry Styles band-member Madi Diaz tells Laura David about the role trust has played in her mid-career rebirth.

Madi Diaz and I are both snowed in. “Dude…. They said [it was going to be] three inches, and it’s…. It’s insane,” she says as she looks off out her window. “This is actually my first snow in my house. It’s so, so lovely.”

Though she’s down in Nashville and I’m up near Toronto, we’ve both got that special snowstorm feeling, the one where the abrasiveness of the world shuts off and you’re blanketed by calm and quiet. Those kinds of snow days feel, in a way, like a rebirth. And it’s fitting, because that just so happens to mirror the phase of life Diaz finds herself in now.

“The first 10 to 12 years of my career were really hard,” Diaz admits with a laugh. “Like, it’s really hard for me to not carry that baggage forward and [stop] bracing myself for nothing to happen or for a shitty thing to happen.”

Though her last record, 2021’s History Of A Feeling, wasn’t a debut, it certainly felt like one. Homeschooled by her mother and taught piano by her father, a Frank Zappa tribute artist, Diaz has been working towards a career in music for almost her entire life. After enrolling at Berkeley in Boston, she started shuttling back and forth to New York for gigs in the early 2000s. From there, she went to Nashville in 2008 and signed her first record deal, which subsequently took her to LA. But the industry, as any artist will tell you, is tough, and what might seem like a break at first can turn, despite one’s best efforts, into a dead end.


Following the release a series of early projects to varied success, bouncing around writers’ rooms, playing in numerous backing bands, and going through a breakup, Diaz called it quits on the west coast. She drove back across the country to Nashville, where her only real plan was exploring the possibility of becoming an equine massage therapist or a bartender.

“When I moved back to Nashville, I wasn’t really expecting to have much of a music career,” she tells me. But of course, like most things in life, she found what she’d always wanted as soon as she stopped looking. “Music is just always going to be the thing that I turn to. It has always been where I go when I get quiet […] I’m always gonna catch myself singing out a thought in the shower or driving in my car and turning something over. So that was a really interesting awareness, and [I just decided] to catch that awareness and have space for it to be kind of joyful and keep moving towards it.”

In that period, Diaz’s output was prolific. She wrote over 100 songs, not even fully realizing those snippets would become an album until later on in the process. During that time, she also reconnected with her old friend Christian Stavros. The pair first got introduced in LA when Stavros was working at Sony as an A&R. “We became super close, and throughout the years he transitioned through so many different [roles] and so did I. But we always maintained contact,” she explains. “When I moved back to Nashville, he was always checking in on me and making sure I was writing while I was going through this grieving process. At one point, I was in a strange deal situation, and he was just like, ‘Can I just fucking manage you?’ And I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to say that for the better part of 15 years!’”

With his help, History Of A Feeling took shape. Diaz released the record with few inhibitions, largely because she didn’t have the energy for them anymore. “I felt like I had finally exhausted my efforts to the point where I could do nothing but peel back all the layers and just be like: ‘This is it.’”

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Truly, History Of A Feeling is just one of those albums. It’s the kind of record you know got made because it had to, not because someone just decided they wanted some studio time. It was released to rave reviews, and Harry Styles picked up Diaz for a supporting slot on the Toronto leg of his famed 2022 Love On Tour. We reminisce together a bit about how special the city and its fans are, and Diaz assures me she got a warm Canadian welcome. As we talk about the experience, she admits to me she still gets giddy thinking about it, and the excitement is infectious.

“My phone weirdly erased like so many of my of my pictures from the last year and a half, like suddenly they all went away. And I was like, ‘Oh my god… Did it even fucking happen? Did this summer even happen?’ It was full panic… But then I found them in my Dropbox,” she laughs. On a more serious note, she continues on: “It has been, you know, so much to take in in the aftermath of it all. Those Toronto shows were so special. I’d never played a stadium before with my own music ever. It felt like the ceiling was both physically and metaphorically high. You know what I mean? It was like bigger shoes to fill, which was really exciting.”

In 2023, Styles called her back to join him as part of his touring band for the rest of the Love On Tour shows. Diaz speaks of the experience as something of a cross between a dream and a masterclass. “Just to watch him, the way he is with his crowd and fans, was a really beautiful thing to witness,” she gushes. “People [talk about] holding a crowd. And it feels like when some people are talking about it — or when I previously thought about it — it felt like corralling a crowd. He feels like he’s genuinely just tenderly holding and filling the space with good and love. It’s really effortless, seemingly, but it takes a lot of work to do that.”


Between her runs with Styles, History Of A Feeling was taking off. She made late night show debuts, her profile was picked up by Rolling Stone, streaming numbers were rising, and she embarked on a headline tour of her own.

The rigour of the road is a hard thing to empathize with from the outside. While the audience sees an hourlong set, the artist has to worry about logistics, finances, sleep deprivation, and, of course, whether or not anyone will even show up. “I’ve done headlining tours before in my career, and they’re hard, you know. We would have a couple of shows where it was packed or sold out, but I would say 80% of touring was just barely full rooms and singing to the bartender,” Diaz tells me. “Like, it feels like a birthday party, you know? Just every single night, the adrenaline of the birthday party you put on where you’re like, ‘Did I tell people what time to get here? Are they gonna show up? What’s gonna happen?”

“Everything is a little bit of a mountain when you’re an artist the size that I am. Touring is not cheap, and it’s not easy. Especially as a 37-year-old that’s been doing it for a really long time,” she explains.

But the “Crying In Public Tour” tour, like everything else about the History Of A Feeling era, was, finally, different. “I never looked at ticket sales before I went on stage. But every night was this really wild, like, ‘Oh my God! Not only are people here, but there are, like, a lot of people here! And not only are there people here, but they are here for this show, and they know these words, and they’re singing these words!’ It was completely mind-blowing.”

It truly was the reintroduction of Madi Diaz. But after years of being let down by an industry, letting it back in again can be a strange thing. Enter Weird Faith, the new record that Diaz has been writing over the last three years, released last week.

“I started writing it right around the time that History Of A Feeling came out, which is always what happens. You’re done with the previous record, it’s signed, sealed, delivered, it’s ready to go out into the world, and you start to have a little space back [in your head],” Diaz says.

History Of A Feeling I sat on for a little while. Weird Faith didn’t happen like that. It was kind of like History Of A Feeling felt like falling forward and Weird Faith felt like tripping forward.”

If there is one theme of our conversation, it is blind — or, to borrow a phrase, ‘weird’ — faith. With every good thing that’s happened to Diaz since History Of A Feeling, there has been that creeping, tingling distrust from years past following not far behind. Baggage, if you will. Part of Diaz’s work not just as an artist but as a person, she tells me, has been letting all of that go. That, she tells me, is what Weird Faith is about. Trusting the goodness of her new managers, trusting her label, trusting her place in a business that can often be a boys’ club, trusting newness in all its forms. This record, she explains, is simply trying to process that one central feeling of finding your faith again in all its forms and iterations.

“I feel like my ‘give-a-fuck’ is quite a bit lower,” she says. Even though she qualifies the statement with a laugh, she’s still being serious. “I don’t feel as apologetic. I’m a little bit less: ‘Do you like it???’ I feel a little bit more focused on: ‘Do I feel this thing? When I’m handing this over, do I feel rung like a bell at my core and so excited to part with it and share it?”

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That new trust wasn’t all business, though. While the pain of Diaz’s first retreat from the industry was compounded by a fracturing romance, her dive back into it came as a new relationship blossomed as well, a bookend on each era so narratively satisfying it’s so tempting to think Someone Up There had it all planed out for her. Of course, nothing is so simple. That new love has since come and gone, but Diaz speaks on it with gentle acceptance. She even trusts that dissolution happens for a reason, too.

“There’s a song called ‘Hurting You’ that I wrote a while back, after my relationship that inspired History Of A Feeling ended and I was starting to get back out there and talk to people. I mean, even talking to like my brother or my parents. I was just so spiky. I just felt like a porcupine, and I was so protective,” she says with a pause, getting emotional and taking a moment to collect herself. “It was this moment of trying to figure out how to be vulnerable after you haven’t been handled with care.” ‘Hurting You’ is one of many tracks on Weird Faith that have that rip-your-heart-out quality to it. Diaz brings her lyrical power to the table once again, and her storytelling is surely the highlight of the album. Supporting that writing prowess are tender country, folk, and bluegrass-tinged arrangements, in true Nashville style.


But one that’s stood out from the rest is the record’s second single, ‘Don’t Do Me Good.’ Featuring Kacey Musgraves, who is now a personal friend of Diaz, the track handles those moments of wanting what you can’t have. Or, more specifically, wanting what you know is wrong for you but not being able to pull yourself away.

“I wrote that song over Zoom with Amy Wadge. We were talking about the music industry, and we were talking about how many times you walk away from something and how something can be so good for you and so bad for you at the same time,” she tells me. “But I just needed a buddy on that song because it was so sad singing it alone. And Kasey’s become a buddy [in Nashville], so I lucked out.”

On the eve of Weird Faith’s release, Diaz tells me she’s got nothing but excitement. “This record kind of caught me off guard a bit,” she says and smiles. Of course, with the new album comes another tour, another promotion cycle, another turn in the ringer again. But she assures me that now, finally, she’s got a team around her that make it all worth it. “We’re still waiting to catch lightning in a bottle,” she says. “But we’re ready for it.”

Weird Faith is out now; listen via bandcamp

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