Q&A with California-based Diana Rein -- saturated Blues at core, infused with Rock n' Roots under her spell

"Blues Music spreads the message of Unity, Love and a knowing that we are all in this thing called life, struggling, doing the best we can and ultimately we have each other. No matter what age, color or size, you are accepted in the Blues World. When you listen to the Blues it lifts your spirit."

Diana Rein: The Six String Siren

In mythology, Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures that would lure sailors with enchanting songs and make them crash onto the rocky coast. It is said that some crews survived by using wax in their ears to keep from being compelled. But what if the music was turned up? What if it was amplified? What if there were soaring guitar tones that shook your bones and cut through to your soul? You’d be helpless. Meet your fate with Diana Rein on her magnetic Indie Blues sophomore previous album “Long Road” (2016). See if you can escape the artist named "the Six String Siren" by her adoring fans. With a sharp tongue, driving blues guitars and melodic solos — it won’t take long before you fall under her spell. Born in Romania and raised in Chicago, Diana came onto the scene as an acoustic rhythm guitar player in her hometown with the release of her first album of 8 originals "The Back Room" (2007).

It wasn't long before she was doing solo and band shows all around Chicago including venues like: The Double Door, Fitzgerald's, Joe's Bar, Lucille's, festivals, college shows and playing a set at The Taste of Chicago right before Bonnie Raitt hit the main stage. Her music is saturated with the Blues at its core and infused with guitar driven Rock and Roots. In early 2018, "Six-String Siren," one of the blues world’s rising stars has announced the launch of a crowd-funding campaign for her upcoming album, Queen Of My Castle. The new album is a collection of 15 songs, with one of those songs being a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. “There’s a lot of traditional blues, as well as high energy, upbeat, and blues-rock songs that I know you guys will love. This album will be lucky #3 for me and my first full-band album. I loved making my last record on my own, but I am really looking forward to challenging myself this time around and collaborating with the pros.”

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ blues music and culture?

I learned that I feel things deeply and the best way for me to express my experience here in this World is through my guitar, music and voice. When I listen to Rock n’ Blues music, it really goes deep into my soul, just the sound of an electric guitar playing the Blues from dynamic players is enough to put me in a trance. I also learned that I am tougher than I thought. Putting on a piece of Blues Rock music just turns on the confidence for me. It helps me dream and I feel that I can achieve anything I desire. It gives me a powerful feeling. Very spiritual.

What does the blues mean to you?

The blues for me means a direct connection to my soul. It means freedom to speak my truth and to get in touch with what I am feeling at the root of it all. The blues carries a beautiful history with it and the only way I can describe it is: pure emotion. If you want to feel music in the pit of your stomach, if you are going through any heartache or if you are dealing with one of the happiest moments of your life, Blues music will make you feel like you are living, feeling, awakening to a deeper part of yourself. Blues is my life and I walk hand in hand with it because I identify with it on such a large level that I don’t see a separation anymore. I just see myself constantly growing with it and learning from it my whole life.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think I would describe the influence that Blues and Rock has had on me as "expression". It has given me the freedom to express myself in all aspects of my life. It has also given me the nudge to question things and not to just take them at face value. And I feel that we all have a fire that needs to be flamed...and I think we are all searching to bring that out in ourselves because it makes us feel alive. So, all throughout my life, Blues and Rock music has always been there to bring that out in me and to free me up. It's always there to let me know how far or close I am from being completely open and free. There's nothing like seeing a performer on stage really letting go...you get a glimpse of personal freedom and that is always something to aspire to.

"Blues is our last name, but we have unique “first name” ways of expressing it. So I hope that the door doesn’t close to those of us who try to electrify it a bit more because I think we will be valuable in reigning in new listeners and lovers of the Blues." (Photo by Steve Polacek)

What were the reasons that you started the Blues/Rock researches?

When I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan for the first time in 2005, I was so drawn to his music and his guitar playing that I knew that my life wouldn’t be complete until I followed in his path. It was one of those moments in life where you almost see the future and everything is very clear to you .You know that the path you will have to take to get to that vision will be a long one. You know you will need to work very hard. But you know that it is the right journey. Music was not my focus at the time I had this epiphany. Acting was my main focus since I was 11 years old but music wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept reappearing in my life and opportunities came to me so easily with music, whereas with acting it was very difficult. I finally listened to the message the Universe was clearly trying to send me and said “music I am yours. I accept your offer to give you my 100% attention and time. I love you and I will never desert you again.” The title song from my new album “Long Road” is just about that…my return to music after such a hard time away from it.

How do you describe your sound & songbook?

My songs on my album Long Road are Blues Rock all the way. There are 3 songs that are ballads…two with vocals and one that’s just a guitar instrumental called “Peace”. The rest of the songs are electric guitar driven, rip roaring, bad ass, tough Blues Rock songs. When I write music I lead with the electric guitar because that is the sound I am drawn too. I love the sound of my Fender Stratocasters and they inspire me to just go wild with my songwriting. Since I was a little girl, I was drawn to the sound of the electric guitar. To me, it’s my favorite sound in the world! My songs also have a focus on great lyrics and melodies that will stick with you. I have had music around me since I was a baby and I listened to a large variety of music as I was growing up so melody is very important to me, when I play guitar and also when I sing.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I had a brief encounter with Jimmie Vaughan after one of his shows and I asked him for his autograph and told him that I play guitar. In his autograph he wrote "Play the music you want to hear". I think that is great advice for any and all musicians. Really find your sound, discover what makes you tick and what you love and keep going in that direction.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

My first Blues gig when I was eight years old was what introduced me to the Blues. I went up to the stage at The Back Room Blues in Chicago where my Uncle was playing. I sang a Stevie Wonder song “I just called to say I love you” with the lead singer and then she kept me on stage. I had no idea what she wanted to do with me. So the band starts playing a standard blues progression and the lead singer Cheryl brings an old blues man to the stage as well and she tells me to improvise. We all sat down at the foot of the stage and improvised the blues! That moment changed my life forever. It was the best feeling to not have rehearsed with these two people or the band and for us to just create music together. That’s the type of moment you want to bottle up forever. And obviously it affected me so much that here I am making music and the Blues my life mission.

How do you describe "Queen of my Castle" sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

"Queen of My Castle" was born out of the need for me to write new music and to get my voice heard. It just so happens that at the time that I was writing the music for the album, the news was going wild with the all of the sinister things that were happening in Hollywood. So, I feel that it influenced me in my writing to create powerful messages that gave me a sense of strength and power and a right to be in my position of being a strong woman. So, I think the songs on the album have an air of strength and appreciation for myself as a woman. There is also a song that I wrote for Stevie Ray Vaughan on the album. As of now there will be 15 songs on the album, with my take on traditional blues and a few blues rock songs.

Are there any memories from "Queen of my Castle" studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

So far, my friend and co-Producer for the album, Michael Leasure, have gotten together a few times to arrange the music. We haven't started tracking the album or recording anything yet. We are still in the early stages. But I am very excited to be working with Michael who will also be playing the drums on the whole album. He is such an amazing player and has played drums for Walter Trout for 10 years as well as having played with many other great artists. We are having a lot of fun together getting this album going.

How started the idea of the "Crowd-funding" Campaign? What would you like to say to your fans?

Well, since I recorded my last album "Long Road" on my own, I ended up funding it myself. But when it came time to decide that I wanted to make the next album in a proper studio, with other musicians and a partner in Producing the album, I knew that would take a lot more funding than I could manage on my own. These particular songs really need to be played by a full band in order to get that true Blues sound. So, the crowdfunding campaign was born! I basically need to raise $20,000 and have raised $3500 so far. So, we still have a bit to go. If I can raise the first $11,000 then I can actually go in and record the album. Then I can wait to raise the rest of the money in order to mix/master the album, duplicate the cd's and ship all of the rewards out to the contributors. Speaking of rewards, if anyone contributes $25 and up, they get access to a private FB group that is showing the behind the scenes of the album making process where I make updates every day to the FB group. If anyone is interested in contributing, they can go to my website at dianarein.com and right on the home page they will find a video that explains everything and right below the video you will find a list of all of the rewards for your pre-orders and contributions. It has been an amazing process so far and I really do hope that more people get onboard.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

I miss that it is not as prevalent as it seems to have been, although I am too young to know firsthand. There is not enough exposure to it for young people growing up. They hear all of this pop music on the radio but it would be amazing to have radio stations all over the world that offered Blues music to their listeners. I pay a satellite company in order to have a Blues Station in my car because that is all I listen to when I drive and I want my son to hear it. He is almost 4 years old and I want him to hear the root of where all music comes from. I started using my Youtube channel as a portal of sorts where I take really popular mainstream songs and I convert them into Blues songs. I thought it might be a good way to expose young people to the Blues. If I can open that door and they start reading about me, then it will open the door even further to them to learn that my influences are people like Albert King, BB King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, T­-Bone Walker, also Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton although they are more blues rock. But they also lead people to their influences that are part of the blues from the past.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, I hope that all Blues Rock artists take it upon themselves to keep the Blues Alive. To always lead people to our “roots” so to say. But I also think it’s great to evolve with any music and I love hearing new iterations of the Blues genre. I think in any family there are different beings that all have the same last name. So in this case… Blues is our last name, but we have unique “first name” ways of expressing it. So I hope that the door doesn’t close to those of us who try to electrify it a bit more because I think we will be valuable in reigning in new listeners and lovers of the Blues. I can guarantee that traditional Blues will never die. Never ever. Us humans are too nostalgic for that to ever happen.

"When I listen to Rock n' Blues music, it really goes deep into my soul, just the sound of an electric guitar playing the Blues from dynamic players is enough to put me in a trance. I also learned that I am tougher than I thought. Putting on a piece of Blues Rock music just turns on the confidence for me."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Well, I would love it if people were given more options as to what music they get to hear everyday from the mainstream. I have been hearing that the industry has started making algorithms to dissect a song that is selling and doing well and then it tries to find other music that sounds very similar so that record companies can have a sure bet, sure sell. But that just sounds so sterile and unexciting to me. The reason most people like cheesy pop songs is because that is all they hear on national radio stations. We need to broaden people’s ears to a vast variety of music so that they can really have a feast instead of an anorexic sampling of music. I feel like we are dumbing ourselves down and we are not being given the opportunity to develop our music tastes.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Romania. What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

I left Romania at the age of 3 so I don’t remember anything from the music circuit there. My Aunt Zoe was a famous singer in Romania and she sang traditional Romanian songs and Pop songs. But I never got to see her perform live. I know that the Romanian people are very oriented towards music, very passionate people so I don’t doubt that they love the Blues. It’s a dream of mine to go back to my home country and do a concert. Although I mainly speak English, Romanian is my first language and I can still speak it, although I do have an American accent.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the local (California) music circuits?

I think that the California music circuit is thriving and very much alive. I love that there is always something going on. I am guilty of not being able to go out to see as much as I want because I am busy with my own music while also being a Mom of a little boy, but I love that California is open to all genres of music and that there is a home for any band to find here. One of the most powerful music weekends I experienced here was going to a house concert to see Rocco de Luca play in a very intimate setting and then the next day seeing Philip Sayce in Long Beach just going wild on his guitar. There is something for everyone here with an abundance of live music.

What does it mean to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says?

It’s a beautiful thing! When I play lead guitar and I am up there doing my thing I feel super human and that transcends any gender. I just feel like a light being playing and sharing emotion. It lifts me off of the ground and there is no judgment there. If I am playing and people are thinking about the fact that I am a female the whole time, then I am doing something wrong or it then becomes my job to break down that wall and wake people up to just listening to the music, feeling the music, letting the music take them away. I sometimes get myself into trouble because I love guitar and I love watching people play guitar. Those people most of the time tend to be men. So my eagerness to learn from them or watch them play can be misconstrued as interest in way more. But I’m all about the music. That’s where it begins and ends for me.

What is the status of women in music?

Well for the Blues in particular it is very encouraging because I am noticing more and more women picking up the guitar or other instruments and getting noticed in the Blues World. I am seeing more women on Blues Festival stages here in the United States. And I am seeing that ageism is not a factor in the Blues either. So I feel that women have more of an opportunity to create a lifetime career in the Blues World and be respected at any age. So that makes me very happy to know that there is room for growth and there is an acceptance that will only keep getting better.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio­cultural implications?

Blues Music spreads the message of Unity, Love and a knowing that we are all in this thing called life, struggling, doing the best we can and ultimately we have each other. No matter what age, color or size, you are accepted in the Blues World. When you listen to the Blues it lifts your spirit. That’s how you know that it is a positive force and it trumps any racial, political or socio­cultural implications. With the Blues we are never thinking about ourselves and selfish motivations. We want to find comfort in each other and the common ground is the Blues. I can’t think of a more positive impact than that. Do you want to come into contact with your soul and the true meaning of life? Go and experience the blues with a crowd and you will feel connected instantly. That’s just the Universal power of music as a whole.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

No doubt in my mind, I would want to go back to the time right after Stevie Ray Vaughan got out of rehab and turned a new leaf. I would beg him to just be his apprentice and go on the road with him and learn as much as I could from him. I would love to hear his voice and talk to him about his life and be around him when he was just being silly. I would love to see his work ethic and learn about his spirituality and experience his energy in day to day life. I never got to see him play live unfortunately...I mention him in my new song Wild One from my album Long Road. But for my next album I have three songs that are directly related to him. When I am looking for musical inspiration, I just start talking to him and I get my answers.

Diana Rein - Official website

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