June 13, 2024

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Interview with Nick Diaz: Fox Street Blues – put soul first in music, it keeps things honest: Video, new CD cover

Interview with Blues Mexican – American singer, guitarist, songwriter Nick Diaz. An interview by email in writing

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addresses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Nick Diaz: – I grew up on the East side of Houston, Tx, inside the loop, not the burbs. As kids, there were instruments around the house. My older sister received piano and guitar lessons and I just naturally gravitated towards it all. I hammered away at the piano for a short stint and then found my way to the guitar, that’s where the adventure took off. My first gig was around 16 or 17, with an original project of my own.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2024

I followed a pretty old school path of sneaking into clubs under age, often getting kicked out, to check out the local blues artists and jam sessions, getting up on stage any chance I could. It took some time before I actually started making a full time living off it all… lots of odd jobs, working part time while still always playing as much as I could .. some hungry times in there… but I’m happy to say those days are pretty far behind me now and things seem to keep going well.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

ND: – The sound is ever evolving. I think that’s one of the funnest things about music for me, the sound can endlessly evolve, it’s art, and my natural pursuit has always been one of evolution and experimentation. I came from a real ground up approach learning Texas blues at an early age, at 18 I moved to New Orleans to learn what I could about it’s legendary sound. I spent six years in New York, soaking up it’s scene and history. Made a quick side trip through San Francisco checking out the the west coast scene for a year before making my way back home to Texas and Austin. All of it, the travel, spending time in different places with different people rhythms of life, it all played a huge part in me finding my sound.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

ND: – I think I’ve just grown up and matured. There’s always been a common thread of “me, as myself” throughout the years, but now I’ve got more life, gig and stage experience under the belt. One can’t help but evolve after going through life a little.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

ND: – Long walks. It’s where I clear my head, listen to tunes, prep for shows, and ponder the artistic and sonic direction of recordings. I do a lot of listening on my feet no matter where I am, it’s meditative, and a great place to mull things over, and it’s a different listening environment than the studio or home.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2024: Buenos Diaz – Fox Street Blues, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

ND: – That I finally made a blues rock record after so many years, haha! It was ground zero for me, and it’s the genre of music that touched me the most as a young guitar player. It took me a while to find the confidence to want to make any kind of blues record, because I knew if I fell short, it could easily sound flat. But as I dove in, I think I gave it the attention it needed, digging into studio guitar sounds for the first time, swapping out amps and guitars depending on what each song needed. The making of Fox Street Blues coincided with the birth my studio The Tone Shack too, which allowed me the freedom to explore the songs and genre in depth and at a relaxed pace.

I think all in we spent 4 years working on the album, top to bottom, and for no other reason other than we had the luxury of time on our side to really make it as good as we could, and when the gig schedule got busy, we’d take a break from the recording process. I originally wanted to put a few traditional blues covers on it, but after a conversation with blues ace Mike Zito, he suggested I revisit the recording process with more originals because he enjoyed listening to them more than the covers. Per his suggestion, I went into the song vault, pulled out some old tracks I’d written during my early 2000’s New York days, tore them apart, and re wrote new material (Nothing to Lose, Where’s the Funk in the Neighborhood) based on the drum tracks we’d made at a studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The band back then was a blues rock project as well and had a lot of youthful energy, so once I dug in, it all came together pretty easily. It was a fun and new approach for me, digging into old material like that, and I’m glad Zito suggested it. And I do still have the blues covers in the vault and will be releasing them later this year as a blues covers EP. Today though, speaking of growth, evolution and change, I’m currently working on a Spanish rock record, a first for me.

Buy from here – New CD 2024

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

ND: – They’re part of the live band, so it was an easy choice. Jeff Olson, a native Austinite and standout drummer, has been in and out of Buenos Diaz for some 11 years. He’s spent time behind the kit for White Denim, David Ramirez, and a number of other fantastic acts. Mark Henne played drums on some tracks as well, has drummed for Black Joe Lewis and currently drums for Alejandro Escovedo. Drummer Matty Amendola was part of the New York band I mentioned before. Sam Powell, is currently touring with country act William Beckmann, rounds it out on keys.

JBN: – What sort of feedback did you receive after it was released from musicians or your friends and family?

ND: – Thankfully, they’ve loved it. I feel like everyone always enjoys when I dip into the blues. It’s where I came, so it’s just a really natural style of playing and singing for me.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

ND: – When I was 23 I got the privilege to travel and play in Bregenz, Austria with New Orleans Saxophonist Gary Brown, I remember playing the guitar solo to Purple Rain to some 5k people. In NY, I got to perform with pop punk act Just Kait, we toured the country on a bus playing huge venues one of which was a sold out show at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. I frequented The Bitter End in my NY days with early versions of Buenos Diaz to packed houses. Performing at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco was also special while playing in LA on the Sunset Strip was cool too (track star Carl Lewis attended the whole show). Last year in Austin, we performed for the South Congress Hotel summer concert series to some 1200 people, and there was line around the block to get in while I also got to play lead guitar at the Moody Theater with Alejandro Escovedo for his Texas Songwriter Hall of Fame induction.

One of my favorite studio stories is recording some blues tracks in the basement of an hold Manhattan building where they used to work on the Atom Bomb! It was an all analog session with select members of the Daptone Records family and other close friends, pretty sure the place was haunted!

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ND: – I do my best to put soul first in music, I think it keeps things honest. And there’s a certain amount of intellect that goes into pushing the musical envelope too. For me soul is a huge essence of music, and as a self taught musician, it’s what I had out the gate, everything else (the intellect) took me time to gather. I think the heart and soul I have for music has played a huge part in allowing me to be invited into people’s musical circles, as a guitarist, an independent artist, a producer… but my constant drive for sound exploration, technique, song writing, and working with other humans on stage, the intellect, has allowed me to push things further and continue to receive calls through today. It’s all important.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

ND: – Absolutely. I don’t mind at all. Sometimes I wished they longed for it a little more in this modern age of screens, instant gratification, and short attention spans!

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

ND: – I love jazz, and aside from musicians, music school folk, jazz critics, I know it can be hard for the average listener to get. I think maybe putting more of an emphasis on the culture that it was born out of could be a way to attract some younger ears. When I discovered it, I loved the idea of it being born in New Orleans, it’s history living in the speakeasy, the party culture that surrounded it, the stylistic dress code that went hand in hand with the performers and audience members, the dark smoky listening room vibe that embodied where it was performed. It’s all so very exciting. Jazz was risqué in it’s day, living in the underbelly of popular nightlife, almost like there was a secrecy to it, which allowed those performers to push the boundaries the way they did and create sounds that hadn’t existed yet, as if they were breaking the rules. Maybe leaning into some of that excitement in some form could attract young folks again.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

ND: – I saved this question for last… I don’t know that I’ve figured out the meaning of life, but my spirit feels pretty damn alive when I’m playing music. Music has always been a strong force in my life, has connected with some of the best people I could’ve ever asked to meet, and has also brought me a lot of happiness. So I think if you do what makes your spirit feel alive, you’ll come close to finding what life should mean for you.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

ND: – Less emphasis on digital statistics. I went to college… for Business Economics, if I wanted to be crunching stats and numbers I’d have gone into finance to make a bunch of money, not rock n roll. I think it really waters down the online music community, turns things into a competition, and takes away from important things like making good music. Personally, I could do without all that.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

ND: – Lots of South American bands… past and current. El Kinto, Candelaria, Zamar, Sofia Alvez, Gustavo Cerati, Charly Garcia, Kevin Johansen, Viejas Locas, Bandalos Chinos, Ainda… from the United States I dig Marcus King, Joe Henry, Adam Scone, Anders Osborne, Alice Phoebe Lou, Kate Clover, The Bad Plus, Greg Clifford, Jonathan Wilson. From other places, Jose Gonzalez, Amyl and the Sniffers, and always The Ramones.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

ND: – Roaring 20s, The Jazz Age. It just sounds so freewheeling, stylish, carefree, drinks were flowing, cigarettes were lit, flappers were flapping and Art Deco was in style.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

ND: – Self expression and positivity with a little wanderlust. Be yourself, no matter what. Find your own voice, let it be unique, one of a kind, and get out into the world. There’s a lot of amazing things, places and people out there.

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

ND: – Great questions, they’ve made me think, and I appreciate that! Do you like my answers??? Hahahah!

JBN: – Thank you for your answers, Yes, of course …

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

ND: – Many times, some on purpose and some not, ha! I don’t know I hope people enjoy learning a little bit about where I come from as a Mexican American guitarist, artist, musician and producer, I’m kind of an odd one!

JBN: – Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to discuss?

ND: – I once told a friend, if everyone woke up listening to some kind of jazz, the world would be a more peaceful place!!!

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