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Interview : Alela Diane

Nouvelle formule sur le blog, une première pour moi, une interview totalement en anglais !

L'artiste que vous allez rencontrer et (re)découvrir est pour moi l'une des reines du folk. Alela Diane s'est fait connaître en 2006 avec "The Pirate's Gospel", une référence !

Bonne lecture !


Hi Alela, thanks a lot for devoting a few minutes to us in your busy daily life ! How are you since your concert in Paris ?

I’m doing well! It was a really wonderful tour, and it is great to be home.

You did a few concerts in France, how did you experience this reunion with your French audience ?

It was wonderful to be back in France, and to be reminded of what a kind and dedicated audience I still have there, after all these years.

Is the atmosphere different here ?

It felt like a homecoming of sorts, to be back on stage after a few years away. It feels like people are grateful for live music, and very glad to be gathering again after a strange couple of years.

We adopted you from your first album "The Pirate's Gospel". Do you remember your first times in France ?

I remember the amazing reception that my first album had in France very well. It was so wild to come to France in those early years, and to be received with sold out concerts in small villages all over the country. It really blew me away, and still does.

Did you dream of coming to France when you started playing music ?

The Pirate’s Gospel was so early in my career, that there wasn’t time for a lot of dreaming about what’d I’d do with it. I actually wrote a lot of the songs on the album while I was traveling alone in France at age 20. I was staying at backpacking hostels, and seeing some of the world for the first time. I have often wondered if the album resonated in France because I’d written some of the songs there.

What surprised you the most when you came to us ?

I was astonished that these songs I’d recorded with my dad, that I never expected anyone to hear, had made such an impact so far from where I lived. I couldn’t believe how many people showed up on that first tour – it was very surreal.


Do you remember the first french artist you heard? and what did you like ?

I remember meeting Moriarty and appreciating their take on folk music. We crossed paths a handful of times in those early years. I’ve been a fan of Serge Gainsbourg since I first heard him as well.

With which French artist would you like to collaborate ?

I’m not sure, I’d have to think about that.

If we talk about your first steps in music... Did your father ( a musician) show you your first guitar chords ?

My dad was the first one to teach me a few chords on the guitar. After that, I was mostly self taught.

What type of guitar did you make your first chords on ?

My first guitar was a Larivee. A couple of years into my career, I bought a 1972 Martin 000-18, and that has been my primary touring guitar ever since.

Did you keep it ?

I still have the Larivee, yes.

You said you’re self-taught in guitar? What is the first song that you covered on a loop ?

I think one of the very first songs I ever learned was “Trouble” by Cat Stevens.

I'm impressed by your ease in playing finger picking, how did you get to such a level ?

I really just started with finger picking one or two strings at a time, and then it built from there.

You are a folk music reference for me. Who is your favorite folk or folk country artist ?

I admire Sandy Denny, Townes Van Zandt, Judee Sill, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash to name a few.

How did this style become yours ?

I grew up listening to my parents play folk music, and when I picked up the guitar and began writing songs, this style is just what felt right to me.


Over the years, your voice has evolved. Also your interpretation… How did you discover your voice ? What relationship do you have with her ?

A voice is always growing and changing, just as we all are. It was never a conscious thing, but my voice has settled into itself more and I have grown more comfortable with how to use it as I have gotten older.

How do you work on your voice on a daily basis ?

I don’t :)

You also play the piano, what relationship do you have with this instrument ?

It has been wonderful to write songs on the piano as well as the guitar. The piano creates such a different backdrop for a melody, and it has been a wonderful tool for expanding my song writing. I compose on both the guitar and the piano, sometimes I start a song on guitar and finish it on piano, or vice versa.

After 15 years of career, what comes easier when you create and what comes more difficult ?

Writing songs is the easy part. I think navigating the changing landscape of the music industry as a more mature woman is the harder part.

In your repertoire, some titles punctuate my daily life... Please, can you tell us a little more about the history of "Ether and Wood »?

I wrote Ether and Wood after I’d moved out of my Portland Victorian when my first daughter Vera was born. It’s about transitions, and how the places we live hold the memories of all who have lived there before.

When did you create it, in what atmosphere. Is it the text or rather the melody that came first?

I don’t really remember what came first. Often times I start with a couple of words, and then begin finding the melody and chords, and the words and melody sort of chase each other until the song becomes itself.

Where do you prefer starting working on a song ?

I’ve written songs in hotels, venues, my bedroom – written lyrics in the van on tour. I wrote most of Looking Glass in my backyard music studio before we moved across town. I just depends. A song can be written anywhere. The most important thing is that I am alone when I’m working on the chords and melody, that part is for no one but me.

When do your musicians come in ?

Usually not until I make the record, and am in the recording studio.

You leave a lot of space for the instruments, sometimes is it easier to make the notes speak rather than the words ?

Not necessarily. I just think that songs need a balance of lyrics and instrumental moments.

At the first listen to your musical universe, I was seduced by its sweetness. I love titles like « Take us back », « Lost Land » and « Lady Divine ". Are you aware of the soothing power of your music ?

Over the years, and after chatting with audience members after shows over the years, I have been told that my music does have that impact. I think to some extent, my songs are written to soothe myself, so it would make sense that it has that effect on others as well.


Is it also a form of saving therapy for you to create, to magnify words, sounds ?

Music for me is definitely a sort of therapy. I write songs in order to process life.

In general, why did you want to make a song out of experience, emotions or daily life ?

It is all I know how to do. It is what feels right to me, and what feels like my own truth.

Are there events in your life that you could only understand through music ?

There are events that can be understood outside of music, but which have been important to process through writing. I think once I write a song about something, it can live inside the song, and I don’t feel like I have to carry it around anymore.

Your new album "Looking Glass" is inspired by a natural disaster, the scary world. Despite everything you always find light in this chaos. What path do you take to get there ?

I think I just have to hold onto the lightness, and the good in order to make it through the days. There is so much heaviness in our world, and we can’t let it totally take us down.

Is it a permanent quest to go from dark to bright ?

I think it is more of a quest to exist in a world that will always have both; and to be OK with that.

There are some jewels including the very beautiful "Camellia", how did this title come about on the piano ?

I think this one was written on piano and just felt right on the instrument. "Camellia" started out with the lyrics, which process my near-death experience when my daughter Oona was born.

Contrary to other more eccentric artists, on stage you have a very pure style, you wear a sober outfit. What message do you want to convey by this way ?

I think it’s more about just presenting myself authentically, in a way that feels appropriate for stage. My music is an expression of who I am, and so my stage presence is an extension of that.

You have often collaborated with prestigious artists such as Mariee Sioux, Alina Hardin or Heather Woods Broderick. Can you tell us about these encounters?

Mariee and Alina are both old friends of mine from my hometown, Nevada City, California. I’ve known Mariee since I was a toddler, and our parents played music together when we were kids. I met Alina when I was in highschool, and she toured with me for a few years. I connected with Heather through mutual friends in the North West, and she has helped with arrangements on my albums and for live performances for about a decade. All three women are incredibly talented and I am so honored to know them and to have been able to collaborate with them all over the years.

You have often collaborated with prestigious artists such as Mariee Sioux, Alina Hardin or Heather Woods Broderick. Can you tell us about these encounters ?

It was very special to travel around with and share the stage with Mariee again. She is such a dear friend, so we had a lot of fun together, and it was so wonderful to sing together again.


At the Trianon concert, we are very happy to have The Hackles in the first part then to accompany you throughout the concert. Tell us about them ?

The Hackles are friends of mine from Oregon. They live out in a small town called Astoria that is a couple of hours from where I live in Portland. Luke and Kati are also members of a great NW band called Blind Pilot, and Halli is in a wonderful band called River Whyless. They are all super talented multi-instrumentalists, and it was so awesome to have them open the show, and perform with me at Trianon.

Your news is also the Ep "Of love", where does this new project come from ?

The "Of Love" EP is a digital release of three different versions of the song, the album version, a live version, and the original demo. I put it out for Valentine's Day.

If I'm not mistaken, you're talking about the unconditional love of a mother to her child ?

In the song “Of Love” I’m referring to love for my partner, and how that love often gets put on hold during the busy years of raising children. I have definitely spoken of the unconditional love I have for my children in other songs, but that is not the love I was speaking of in this particular song.

You often talk about your children. What values ​​do you want to pass on to them ?

I want to teach them to be kind and loving human beings who strive to make the world a better place.

Do you teach them to play music ?

Vera is taking violin lessons, and plays melodies on the piano every time she walks by it downstairs. Oona seems interested in music and can start lessons if she wants to when she’s a little older.

Are they attracted ?

They are interested in music, and also visual art. Vera draws all the time, she’s an amazing artist.

Is it easy to combine the life of an artist on the road and the life of a mother ?

No. It’s not easy at all, but I am grateful to be able to do it.


Will we have the chance to see you this summer at French festivals ?

I will be coming over for a handful of festivals this summer.

Ndlr : Festival Chant de Marin 5 Août - Festival du Bout du monde 6 Août et tournée à la rentrée dont Quéven, Rouen ...

Do you have any other artistic projects you want to tell us about ? Yours or those of other artists whose work you admire ?

I don’t have anything to announce just yet, but I know that Heather Woods Brodericks gorgeous new album comes out April 7th.

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