Meet Musician Irene Diaz

Artist Interview by Patrick McGowan

PHOTO: Bethany Pangilinan | Irene Diaz performing at The Hi Hat in Highland Park

Local singer/songwriter Irene Diaz and her partner Carolyn Cardoza are in the midst of producing Irene’s first full album after the success of her debut EP “I Love You Madly”. She has toured the west coast extensively and found international acclaim in Japan and Europe. Her song “Crazy Love” was chosen as one of NPR’s top one hundred singles of the year and was also picked as one of the top ten first dance songs on alongside artists such as John Legend, Drake, and Alana Del Rey. She has opened for Gaby Moreno and David Garza and has songs on several sound track albums. We met at one of her favorite hangouts in South Pasadena, La Monarca, to discuss her search for the right sound for her album, her life as an artist, and her South Pasadena haunts.

She is performing July 8th at Harvard Yard, 1400 South Western Los Angeles. Doors opens 8:00 Tickets $10.00

PM: One of the things that people loved about your first EP was how assured and at ease you were. Sometimes there’s a tendency to let nerves flatten the energy and uniqueness in the transfer from live performance to studio. How did you avoid that?

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PHOTO: Patrick McGowan | Irene hanging at Videotheque, a local favorite

IRENE: (Laughs) It’s funny, for the EP, I kept searching for a producer and nothing was working out and Carolyn kept bringing it up that I could do it myself and that’s what eventually happened. We had a friend who had just built a studio and we really took our time. (To Carolyn) How long were we there?

CAROLYN: A couple of months. We’d go in four or five days out of the week. It was leisurely.

IRENE: Yeah, there wasn’t any pressure.

PM: Do you bounce ideas off Carolyn?

IRENE: All the time. I was looking for songs that flowed together and at the time I was influenced by film noir. Some movies that I really liked were “Crisscross” and “In a Lonely Place” – that’s an amazing film.

PM: For your full-length album, you have been recording in Mexico City. How did that come about?

IRENE: What I wanted was someone to not just record my music as it was, but to really do something with it. My manager Gil Gastelum (Cosmica records) asked Alejandro and Demian Jimenez if they would listen to my music and when I sent a track of mine to them they started playing with it and when they sent it back to me I was like “Okay this is what I was looking for; more instruments, collaboration and initiative.” We went to Mexico City and we didn’t know if it was going to work out but it did and we became friends. It was my first time in Mexico City and we stayed for three weeks and just got back from another extensive trip. The first time we did a lot of recording and this time we focused a lot of vocals. It’s definitely collaboration this time, a team effort.

PM: Carolyn, do you feel different this time?

PHOTO: Patrick McGowan | Carolyn Cardoza and Irene Diaz sifting through vinyl. They both have been collaborating for years

CAROLYN: Oh yeah, we had met Alejandro on tour and he was the bandleader for all the artists and so he was very serious and stoic but in the studio he was much more relaxed and goofy. I got to know them and the second trip I was more comfortable giving input on melody and arrangement. It’s much more of a collaboration.

IRENE: I think one of the best decisions we could have made for the album was to get out of L.A.  I had never been to Mexico City but for some reason I felt really connected there. My Grandmother was born and raised there. Just imagining her there, you know, this is where she was. I didn’t get to visit her house because we were recording so much.

PM: And you’re letting Alejandro and Demian run with stuff.

IRENE: Yeah, there’s a lot of feelings I had on this last trip that I’ve never felt before because for me, I’ve dreamt about this, I’ve worked on this, I’ve pondered this for so long and it’s a little scary to hear things that are different and they’re great, amazing, but you’re trying to figure out where you sit in this. It’s so new, but it’s so good.

PHOTO: Patrick McGowan

Some fun stuff:

A favorite pop song as a kid – Her Tia would play “I wish I was a Princess” by Peggy March. She would bring her huge guitar to high school (and Irene is very petite) and she learned the songs “Everlong” by The Foo Fighters and “Raining Blood” by Slayer.

South Pasadena Favorites: Videotheque, Fiore Market Cafe, Heirloom bakery, South Pasadena Library, The Farmer’s Market, and the South Pasadena sign for sunsets .

Upcoming Show: July 8 at Harvard Yard – 1400 S. Western Ave. Los Angeles. Doors open 8pm. Irene Diaz 11pm. $10