Madi Diaz on embracing the unknown with new album 'Weird Faith' - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Madi Diaz could have given up. She could have thrown in the towel, removed herself from the ebb and flow of an industry that is unfair at best and genuinely toxic at worst. She could have, but she didn’t, and that takes some weird faith.

What exactly does it mean to have Weird Faith? Faith itself is difficult to define, a feeling both fleeting and steadfast, a slippery notion that contracts and expands at will, the “weird” only further muddying the waters. What is clear is that Madi Diaz is an artist for whom this weird faith is essential. Diaz has been at this game for a long time and so has experienced the music business from almost every angle imaginable and so, inherently, any amount of optimism walks hand-in-hand with apprehension, second-guessing and acceptance.

Even now, as she enters the limelight for what is, without a doubt, the most highly anticipated album of her career, she wears the scars and bruises of what came before, both personally and professionally. Diaz’s heart is always stitched right there on her sleeve, and she holds close a weird faith that things will turn out alright in the end.

“So the whole world turned and the sun spun around, and I got up from where I got down, and if, I know only one thing now, it's that I made it”

In 2017, Diaz decided to pack her bags and move from Los Angeles back to Nashville. Perhaps ironically, given the city’s rich musical history, it was also the moment Diaz considered whether there was truly a future for her in the music industry. At that point, she had released four studio albums, to mixed results. It wasn’t a career of complete obscurity, far from it. She’d had her moments – a performance on late night TV, an appearance on Billboard Heatseekers Album Chart, writing songs for the hit network series Nashville – but things felt, as they often do in this fickle industry, at a standstill. Diaz is 37 when we talk just prior to the release of Weird Faith, but has the well-worn wisdom of someone who’s been through the ups and downs and has learned not to take either too seriously. Which is probably a good thing, given the whirlwind of the last few years.

How does one go from nearly quitting music altogether to touring the world with Harry Styles, writing songs for Kesha, and opening for the likes of Waxahatchee and Angel Olsen? Easy: you empty a vein running directly to the center of your chest. Not only did Diaz decide to gather herself for another record, she decided to leave it all out there, to embrace heartache in a way that shocked even her. 2021’s History Of  A Feeling is a break-up record through and through, naked, grief-stricken and painfully honest. The fact that it was this record that she finally broke through is a fact not lost on Diaz, even as it remains a bit bewildering. “I am still kind of processing the positive reception that record got, being that it came from a pretty ‘Bummertown’ moment in my life story,” says Diaz. “It was cool to learn by going deeper inward and pulling from my most intimate meltdown, I could create something so rewarding. It was not something I was expecting at all.”

“Everybody's got their shit, no one here is exempt”

Often, when people talk about something being rewarding, what they really mean is that it was hard as hell. Having your career trajectory shift significantly upon mining such a deep vein is, in its way, comforting, but it certainly puts a lot of pressure on how you might follow that up. “I have been peeling back the layers and I don’t know yet what the next layer is going to bring,” says Diaz. Weird Faith, to its credit, does not shy away from that kind of vulnerability whatsoever. “Are we taking the same risk? ‘Cause I’m standing here naked, sayin’ you could have it all,” sings Diaz on album opener “Same Risk”, a song that introduces us not to the end of a relationship but the beginning, a place where apprehension and passion collide. It’s a song of brutal candor, Diaz’s syrupy vocals reaching for a branch to hold, desperate for reciprocation.

Following a break-up record with one focused on the excitement and vulnerability of new love came with its own set of challenges. “After being really burned by love – maybe relentlessly burned by it – the album is about being brave and trying again. Doing it differently,” says Diaz. “With any new love experience you obviously don’t want to bring your years of baggage into this new relationship but you also want to honor where you’re coming from and all of the reasons you are terrified. A lot of the record is that inward conversation.”

Madi Diaz - Everything Almost

Diaz wrote “Everything Almost” a couple of years ago while touring with Waxahatchee, and it is the song that best wrestles with how one balances the hope and fear of a new relationship. In it, Diaz sings of being “painfully, eternally hopeful” while envisioning a future in which she orders her new partner around the house while pregnant. It’s the kind dream you don’t share if you are worried about scaring someone off or, alternatively, you only share when you become comfortable living in that eternal state of worry. Rejection comes in many forms, but it takes a weird faith to face it head on. “It quickly became the mantra of this period of my life, both in this new relationship and this new phase of my career,” says Diaz. “Walking forward with a weird faith that I am going to be able to catch myself and the world is going to catch me.”

When I talk to Diaz, she is preparing to head out on tour, one that will bring her to Philadelphia on February 28 for a show at World Cafe Live. Historically, Diaz has never been one to obsessively listen to her own work, so engaging with these songs again is something she is excited to do, even as they inevitably shift over time. That said, you get the sense she is already looking forward to what’s next, even as she is still working though Weird Faith.

“Finishing something is so energizing and exciting to me that I always want to just jump into the next thing to start that process again,” says Diaz. “It’s that excitement of the newness and the potential and where it’s going to lead me.” And that’s really what faith is, weird and otherwise, the belief that forward is the only way, come what may.

Madi Diaz performs live at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 28th. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the WXPN Concert Calendar.

Madi Diaz - Same Risk
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