The COVID-19 pandemic brought life to a crashing halt all around the world starting in early 2020, but it’s been a busy time for Diamante. As if writing and recording her independently released second album, “American Dream” (May 7, 2021; read Live Metal’s review), with the production team of Howard Benson and Neil Sanderson (Judge & Jury) wasn’t enough, she also graduated from college with a degree in business administration. About a month after the album’s release, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with Diamante to discuss going independent, writing the new record, her love of ‘80s rock, earning her degree and more.
LIVE METAL: Right now, you have some special significance to me because back in November of 2019—it was Black Friday, in Washington, D.C.—you were the last concert that I went to. It’s kind of crazy to think that I haven’t seen a show in more than a year and a half.
DIAMANTE: Oh, wow. Oh my gosh. That feels like three years ago, doesn’t it?
Yes, definitely. I had so much fun at that show, and then that whole tour, to me, became more impressive because I later learned that you did that all without any label support. How hard was that to pull off?
Logistically, it was not too hard to pull off, because I’d done some headline shows before in the past, so I knew what you needed to do to put on a headline show. But the scary part of it was that it was a huge risk for me at the time. I had never done a full-on headline tour. So I kind of just rolled the dice with that one and said, “Well, let’s see what happens.” (laughs)
I can’t imagine the roller coaster of emotions you must have been on throughout that whole year. In the summer, you were on what must have been the biggest tour of your life, with Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle and Three Days Grace, and it was in the middle of that when you found out the label wasn’t gonna pick up the second album. Did you see that coming at all, or was it just out of the blue?
No. Totally, totally out of the blue, at least for me. When that happened, it was a total blindside. My thought process was like, “OK, that’s a bummer, but what’s plan b? How do I keep moving forward?” I’m on this tour, and I was halfway through, so I had to keep pushing through the second half, regardless of whether I have a label or not. And my thought process was, “I have a couple songs already written for what I think will be the next album. So just keep writing, and maybe see what happens if you release it on your own. Who knows?” But it was definitely a surprise to me.
I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t have been interest from other labels. You were an established act, you were part of a number one single (“Hear Me Now,” with Bad Wolves). So why did you decide to go independent? Was it for the freedom of it?
Yeah, I think I wanted to see what would happen, what I could create, if it was just me and my producers, and I had all the creative control in the world. And it was so much fun. It was so magical getting to make an album without having a label breathing down your neck or an A&R department or this person or that person. But that’s not to say that if a record label who made sense, down the road, came to me and said, “Hey, we believe in your vision, we want to see it through with you”—I’d never say no to anything. But it was fun to do this album that way.
Yeah, I’m sure the freedom was a great thing to have, but on the other hand, was it ever kind of daunting? Like, you could do whatever you want, but then you can do whatever you want.
(laughs) Yeah, absolutely, because everything that goes wrong, the only person to blame is me. All the fault goes to me. So there was definitely an entirely new kind of pressure this time around, whereas the first album, it was I have to please everybody else, make sure I’m doing a good job. This time, it’s how can you be objective about your own music, which is hard. I had to, with Howard and Neil, A&R the album and say, objectively, “OK, this song is really good. The song needs work. This song doesn’t match up to the other songs.” It’s a hard process to do when you’re analyzing your own music, which is all so subjective.
How important were Howard and Neil throughout this whole process?
Very important, because we created like a trio collaboration this time around. And because of that, I actually got closer to Howard, I had a lot more say, and I always took what they said into consideration a lot, because they’ve been doing this for a long time. Howard, especially, was the one who really pushed me to write these vulnerable songs, and write from the place that’s kind of painful and uncomfortable, because that’s where the real magic happens. I’m so glad that he pushed me to go there.
You’ve described this album as a diary, basically. For me, putting something like that out there would be absolutely terrifying. How was it for you?
Oh, it was. (laughs) It totally was. (laughs) But there’s also on the flip side, a freedom to just putting it all out there, because these are things that I was internalizing and suppressing and keeping inside, and I think a huge factor was actually just being stuck at home. Because I wasn’t on tour, I wasn’t playing shows, I didn’t have this adrenaline every night, and I had to face everything. And everything started bubbling up to the surface. Painful memories, insecurities—anything I was feeling that I was suppressing just shot up. A lot of the songwriting material came out of that.
I feel like a lot of the songs could be read multiple ways, referring to past relationships with an ex-lover or your former label. Was that intentional?
Absolutely. I think one specific one that does that really well is “Wake Up Call.” It’s about someone who doesn’t value you when they have you. So, it was totally either a song about relationships or a song about people you’ve worked with in business before who didn’t value you when they had you.
What does the phrase “American Dream” mean to you?
It has a double meaning for me, and that’s why I decided to make it the album name. “American Dream” was the last song written for the record, and up until that point I really didn’t have a name for the album. When I heard “American Dream,” I knew that’s the name—one, because this was my independent release, first time making a full-length album, no label, nothing. So that is the ultimate freedom of being independent. And then the second thing is, my mom’s Mexican, my dad’s Italian, they came here to the States 20-something years ago, and had they never done that, I wouldn’t be here singing, making albums, touring. So that in itself is the American Dream, too.
I feel like you hear that a lot, when a band’s big single or title track ends up being one of the last songs they write. I wonder if that’s because you get to the end and then you’re just kind of like, “OK, let’s just write one more and see what happens,” and you kind of just let things go a little bit more. Is that what happened?
That’s absolutely what happened with “American Dream.” Like you said, I already had all the songs pretty much written, and this was the last one. So what I said to myself is, “This is your last shot. What haven’t you experimented with or said yet that you really just want to put in this album?” So that’s why that song is a little bit pop and a little bit of rock, and there’s some country in there, and it’s so much fun, because I really could do whatever I wanted to do, and I just threw it all in that song all at once.
You covered “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls with Ben from Breaking Benjamin. You’ve toured with them a lot. Was that a result of a friendship that grew out of those tours?
Yeah, I had pretty much toured with Breaking Benjamin for what felt like two years straight, and the ongoing joke is that I only ever tour with Breaking Benjamin. But I did really get to become friends with Ben and the rest of the band, and they were always so nice to me. We didn’t have any plans to do a cover or collaboration or anything while I was on the tour, but because I had toured so extensively with them, when it came to having to decide who do I want to sing on this cover with me, I immediately thought of Ben. And all I did was message him on Instagram, and I said, “Hey, I want to do this cover of ‘Iris.’ I love the song, I’ve always loved the song, and I’d be super honored if you would sing on it with me.” And to my absolute shock, he was like, “Yeah, I love that song, too. Let’s do it.” So it was definitely organic.
There’s a pretty strong ’80s influence in your music and even in the artwork for the album. What are some of your favorite ‘80s artists and bands?
When I first started out, I discovered Joan Jett, which then led me to Pat Benatar, which then led me to Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks. And then Guns N’ Roses. Any hair metal band, I absolutely loved. Guns N’ Roses was the number one.
Obviously, you weren’t around in the ’80s, so how did you get turned on to that music?
That’s the funniest part, and that’s the joke I make, too, that I don’t know why I am so captivated by a decade that I wasn’t alive to see. Maybe that’s part of it. Maybe it’s because it’s this past mystery that I’ll never know what it was really like. Just from movies and pop culture and music and the TV shows, it seemed like the coolest era to live in. And then I think another part of that, too, is when I was a teenager I would do shows here in L.A. on the Sunset Strip, which was notorious during the ’80s. I played venues like the Whiskey a Go Go and the Roxy and the Key Club and the Viper Room—all these places where all these legendary bands played. So I felt, in a way, that I was connected to them somehow and I was maybe carrying that torch a little bit.
I wanted to say congratulations on getting your college degree earlier this year.
That’s a big achievement. Why did you feel that was an important thing to do, and how has that helped you as you’ve taken control of your career?
I would say it was important for me to do for a number of reasons, I think the first one being that my mom graduated Ivy League college when she was 32 with four kids. So she was like superhero woman, and she did the impossible. I’ve always looked up to her, she’s my biggest inspiration, and because I had sort of both sides—music people and then school people—both telling me, “Don’t do the other, you need to focus on the one,” I never wanted to listen to either party because I saw my mom raise four kids and go to school. So I always figured no, I can do both, it’s fine. And that’s what I did. It took me six years, but I’m so glad I did it because I think it’s so important for artists to understand the business side of the music business. Before going to college, really, I didn’t know a whole lot. I was just, “All I have to do is sing, and go on stage and have fun.” And that’s not the case. (laughs) There’s so much business you need to know just to keep yourself protected and not get taken advantage of.
Aside from making an album and finishing your degree, what have you been doing throughout the pandemic while you’ve been stuck at home? Did you pick up anything new or anything like that?
Those two things did take up a lot of time. But something that I did do was I actually started hiking a lot, which was not something that I did, but because the only thing I could do was go into nature because everything else was closed. I went hiking a lot with my family. I went to the beach a lot. I hung out with my dog a lot. Whatever I could do to not be cooped up in here, I did. I think that’s something I’m going to carry with me, even years from now,
There have been a few festivals announced that you’re playing, including one today. Rocklahoma just came out with the lineup. I’m sure you’ve got to be super excited to play those.
I’m so excited, especially because these three festivals are festivals that I’ve seen them announce lineups for years now, and I’ve never played them. So this will be the first time. I’m so excited. Rocklahoma got announced today. Then it’s Inkcarceration, which is the tattoo and music festival, and then Louder Than Life. I’m just like fingers crossed that these actually happen.
Yeah, I think we all are. Are there plans for more tour dates around those festivals?
Maybe one headline show here and there, but for the most part, I’m wanting to do a full tour in 2022.
A couple videos have come out from the new album. I think I heard you say earlier that you shot three in three days, so I guess there’s one more that’s coming.
There’s one more. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done—three music videos in three days. And the fun part was that every music video, as you can tell just by looking at the one for “Ghost Myself” and “American Dream,” they’re so vastly different. I got to play a completely new character every day, and every music video feels like its own mini movie. So I’m dying for everyone to get to see the third one, which I can’t say what song it’s for, but it’s gonna be so cool.
Do you know when that’s gonna come out?
I would think around a month or two from now.
Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?
Just that the album “American Dream” is out now. Please stream it, show it to your friends, have dance parties to it, listen to it in your car, and that I hope I get to see you guys at the festivals in September.