Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Room With No Ceiling”?
Sure, Room with No Ceiling started with a wonky kinda oriental sound I found on my SV1 Korg keyboard, and then the melody and lyrics worked their way in. I brought it to a really talented guitarist/producer friend of mine, John Cave (guitarist for Taleb Kweli) who programmed a simple drum part, and a cool synth bass line that really suited the song. We were pretty stoked with how it sounded just bare bones at that point, but I ended up filling it out with live drums (Chauncey Yearwood), electric bass (Lavondo Thomas), and then Jason Lindner (Now Vs Now, David Bowie’s Blackstar) added this really painfully beautiful layer on the keys that my engineer, Ari Raskin had picked out and tweaked on one of his keyboards. Then Ari and I added two more synth lines and the song was pretty much done.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Oh yeah, a rrrreally long breakup.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I’m about to release my first video for the title track of my EP, South of Your Thoughts, and would love to do one for Room with No Ceiling, but it’s not quite in the works yet, except in my mind.
The single comes off your new album South Of Your Thoughts – what’s the story behind the title?
It’s about exploring our mind, not taking the words in our head as absolute reality, because they are partially stemming from a part of us that has layers and layers of misinformation. The song is meant as an encouragement to dig into those confusing, kinda scary parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable to be with, and listen to the subtleties stirring beneath those thoughts. Really checking them out without judgement and trying to find what they’re rooted in. Just beyond that place, the roots, there’s this endless pit of a pure essence that is untouched by the latest trend in our mind, it’s hanging out there just waiting for us to constantly sip from it. The “outside world” is completely a reflection of an inside job, and in my experience, everything becomes much clearer and more beautiful on the “outside” when I’m living from that sweet spot in my core. I hope some of this concept comes through my music video, we’re editing right now and I think some of this idea is swimming onto the screen nicely.
How was the recording and writing process?
Even though I consider myself primarily a singer, most of my tunes come from creating my piano part first, then the melody, and then the vowel shapes that fit the melody turn into words that serve what I’m trying to express. I used a program called Ableton to lay down everything, and then worked with John Cave for three of them, and Kyle Schweizer for the other two. Kyle is a fantastic sax player and arranger, and wrote the horn arrangements for Go Time and South of Your Thoughts, and also had a large part in the early stages of producing these two. We did a day of recording the drums, bass, and upright piano at Let Em In studio in Brooklyn, and then another day laying down the horn parts at Premier Studios in Manhattan. All the vocals and editing took place with my engineer, Ari “R.E. Thuggz” Raskin, at his home studio in Chelsea.
Did Tori Amos and Bjork influence this record in any way?
Tori Amos is incredible! However, even though some would think she would be a perfect a singer/pianist influence on me, I’ve never gotten too deeply attached to her music. I’ve seen her in concert and was blown away, and totally appreciate her artistry but I’ve never quite gotten into her songs. Bjork, on the other hand, is definitely an influence for me overall, but I haven’t been listening to her much in the last few years, so it’s hard to say she directly influenced this album, but she’s been a guiding light for a long time so, sure.
What role does NYC play in your music?
I wonder. From what I can tell, writing is my escape from the pace and chaos of NYC. But, also because I’m surrounded by the best of the best musically, it’s a constant reminder of the bar I’m reaching for.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
There are 5 songs on this EP, so I’ll save space on your website and point to one that is significant. I was at an after party of sorts, and met Sonya Kitchell for the first time. There were about 7-8 of us hanging in a studio in Greenpoint, BK and Sonya picked up a guitar and started playing a really soft captivating line that quickly silenced all of our conversations and had us riveted. It was an incredible moment to experience the sudden transformation of everyone’s mood, and witness how we all entered this special world she was creating with her music. The next day I started writing the last song on my EP, Sonya’s Garden which, essentially, pays homage to musicians and the power they have to move people.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes, I’m trying for 2 small solo tours this summer. One on the east coast and then the Pacific Northwest in August.
What else is happening next in Diana Hickman’s world?
My music video should be out next month around Feb 14th, and then my EP release show is going to be in Manhattan at Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 on Thursday, March 2nd at 7:00.