“One of my favorite feelings is the sense I get from pouring over parts of my past before lighting them up and leaving it all behind me to start over again.” – Madi Diaz
In 2013, Madi Diaz packed up her Nashville home and drove across the country to L.A. “It took five days to drive to Los Angeles by myself. I listened to Abbey Road for six hours at a time, and watched the desert open up before me again and again. I saw the sun set and rise at the Grand Canyon, and I sang out over the cliffs, picked up tumble weeds along the way and threw them in the back of my car. When I got the Pacific, I just ran straight into ocean.”
After much time on the endless road, three tiny apartments, and one big heartbreak, she buckled down in LA, pushing for something true to herself and who she wanted to be. The result is Phantom, an open-faced and undeniably honest chronicle of falling down, getting back up, and heading to the horizon.
The songs on Phantom expand upon Madi’s brand of sophisticated indie pop, taking on grungy, pulsating bass lines that open up to shimmering, expansive chords, punchy drum beats and unfettered vocal swagger. “It’s very visceral,” Madi says of the album, “it’s about a person looking at herself every day and getting lost in the other side of the mirror.” Phantom was recorded in Madi’s newly adopted home of Los Angeles, produced by Nick Ruth (Mikky Ekko, Active Child) and mixed by John O’Mahony (Coldplay, Metric, Oh Land) at NYC’s famed Electric Lady Studios.
"Stay Together" is a fist-pumping anthem of honesty, punctuated by Madi's soaring vocals that pierce through the uptempo beats. Madi calls it "a great big trust fall." The album traverses moods, from the energetic bursts of “First Time” to the downbeat and breezy track “Ghost Rider.” But the album’s sound is unified and direct; the lead track “Tomorrow” sets the pace, propelled by pulsing beats, meandering melodies and subtle synths, while Diaz’s voice weaves in between the danceable rhythms. "I wanted to look at our wreckage one last time, and then move on," she says of the song. On the sonically textured "Wide," Madi says "it shows that I am strong enough to let all of this go and keep on trying."
Underneath the effervescent pop, Madi’s lyrics reveal an emotional through line. “The record tells an arcing story that begins with a sweet naive love, then things get hard, and then comes a big slap in the face,” she laughs. “It starts nostalgic and resolves itself in this understanding of wider truth...this exhausted, relaxed goodness and reflection.”
Madi’s own story begins in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley, where she grew up home-schooled by post-hippie parents. “It was totally backwoods,” she says, “with cornfields, horses and buggies, where we had more Amish people going down the streets than cars.” Her home was filled with music. Her father and mother both have wide arms and colorful palates, and supplemented her education with a steady stream of classic rock, metal, r&b, pop and prog. The inspiration stuck with Madi, who left small town life behind for Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music. There, she began to shape her sound with songwriter Kyle Ryan, where her powerful voice intermixed with Americana undertones. Next she moved to Nashville, self releasing her first album Plastic Moon in 2012, and beginning to explore her music's cinematic feel.
Now with Madi's Nettwerk debut Phantom, her songs dive deeper and fly higher, providing a soundtrack for adventurous escapades on sweaty dance floors with old friends or late night introspective drives under a canopy of stars. As she takes to the road again this summer, Madi is poised to unleash her powerful songs and chase whatever the future may hold. "I can never sit still," she says "I wanna hurl myself into life. These songs tell a story about lighting flames and letting every part of the last fire burn out. Don’t turn around and don't look back. Look forward."