Meet Linda Diaz
Where are you from?
Linda Diaz: I am from the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
What’s your main role in music?
L: Singer and songwriter.
How old were you when you started getting involved with music?
L: I’ve been singing since I could talk and I was lucky enough to have a mom who listened and nurtured my passion.
Music wise, who inspired you growing up? Any other influential people in your life?
L: Ne-Yo was and still is one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time and a huge inspiration to me since I was a kid. My favorite movie growing up was The Wizard of Oz, so that score also had a huge influence on me early on in life. Later during my teen years alternative rock bands like Panic! at the Disco, My Chemical Romance and Paramore were my favorites – I think these bands in particular inspire the way that I naturally construct my melodies. My family is Puerto Rican, so I also grew up listening to a lot of Puerto Rican and Dominican music.
L: I still listen to a lot of reggaeton and I think alternative rock has been momentarily replaced with alternative r&b, but the people who have the biggest influence on me these days are my friends. I sing bgvs with Nic Hanson who I’ve also written with a few times and his energy is just infectious – super talented dude. I had the opportunity to sing bgvs in Jordan Rakei’s tiny desk concert and he’s had a big influence on my new music. Just being able to perform with and around so many talented people as they grow their sound is such a privilege. I’m especially inspired by my friends who aren’t confined by genre like Liana Banks, Tangina Stone, Vsteeze, Elijah Fox … The list goes on & on.
When and where did your music career start?
L: Though music has been my passion my whole life, I didn’t play my first gig until my senior year of college. At Oberlin, I was lucky to be surrounded by world class live music and musicians who welcomed me into their projects. I co-wrote my first songs for release on streaming platforms with Elijah for his first album and participated in a bunch of senior recitals. That was my first experience being around so many musicians my own age who were pursuing various music careers and through advice and collabs they helped me realize my own path.
How many bands or musical projects have you been part of?
L: I sing regularly with Nic Hanson and Bianca Muniz. I’ve also had a lot of configurations of my own band, but for now I’m focusing on my solo project.
With everything currently going on, what are your thoughts, and how do you feel?
L: Racism isn’t new, nor is “this kind of racism” that BLM has been calling attention to since the movement’s inception. Coronavirus has exasperated racial and class disparities, but capitalism has always existed as has white supremacy – our country was founded on both and our systems operate intentionally to the detriment of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color on the whole. COVID-19 has exacerbated racial and class disparities that have always existed. Our country was founded on white supremacy, and that compounded with capitalism creates a system that operates to the detriment of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color as a whole.
L: On an interpersonal level, the fact that it is “new” or a “period in time” to some people is hurtful to say the least. There’s no right way for Black people to feel right now, but I am personally trying to make my empathy, knowledge and experience useful. I have privileges with which I can make positive change. I am also still learning so much myself, even in terms of allyship. For me, it’s important to think big picture without compromising empathy and feel my feelings without allowing them to paralyse me.
What are your experiences growing up? When did you start to understand or were taught racial inequality? Have you ever been racially profiled?
L: I’m sure there have been ample conversations, but I’ve always known about racial inequity. I don’t remember not knowing about it. I’m sure there was a point of understanding and consciousness early on, but of course I’ve been experiencing systemic racism my whole life and with that has come both overt and covert racial profiling. People conflate prejudice and racism, and while they go hand in hand, one is feelings and the other is a systemic issue.
How has this all been affecting you creatively?
L: When you are a Black woman people are constantly looking to you to have the answers and deliver them compassionately. It’s exhausting to say the least, but I’m happy to have surrounded myself with a lot of great people and I’m feeling really supported by my friends. Everyone just now waking up to racism and expecting xyz from me is still exhausting and has affected my motivation, but I can be creative just about anywhere and about anything. I’m just not sure how I feel about writing songs about my experiences in this way for public consumption. On the coronavirus end, I don’t feel like I’ve been “living my life” and as an extrovert I miss the collaborative energy of being in a room with someone that helps me make my best work. That’s certainly a privilege – to only be inconvenienced by something like this.
Do you think through art and music, creativity brings people together in a sense where racial inequality doesn’t exist or is there more we have to do?
L: Definitely not. There’s no environment in which racial inequity doesn’t exist, only people privileged enough to ignore it. The idea that music is the great equalizer erases the history and current reality of racial inequity in music (or any field for that matter) and is detrimental to progress. People can be collectively moved while also being aware of racial inequity and actively working against white supremacy. A lot of people are just now waking up to reality, but nothing exists in a vacuum.
What would you like to see happen in the future of the music industry?
L: I’d like to see labels commit to taking musician’s mental health seriously, especially among young artists. Labels should be required to include professional mental support as part of their deals at the very least. It’s been great to see so many young artists speak out about their experiences and take initiative, but it shouldn’t be on them to lead the effort.
L: In a similar vein, so many labels are speaking out about racial injustice and inequity and many of them are putting their money where their mouths are (which is heartening)! I’d like to see more accountability, beyond just the recognition that Black people carry the music industry today. So many labels acquired catalogues/rights to the work of Black artists to build the very foundation of the machines that thrive today.
What is it you’d like to say to the world?
L: Don’t just think about doing something. Actually go do something.