Nashville songwriter, Diana Jones recently released her third album, High Atmosphere. Co-produced by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, it’s an amalgamation of traditional Appalachia harmonies with a fresh twist. Diana took some time recently to answer some questions via email about the record, working with Jim Lauderdale, and her first guitar.
Q: You’ve got a new record, High Atmosphere… any good stories you can share about it?
A: I wrote a lot of the songs in my head and on planes because I flew so much at that time. I came home to Nashville the night of the big flood, late from Dallas. I didn’t know if I would find my guitars floating around my living room. As we drove up to the house I realized more than I had before that my little shotgun shack was on a big hill. Two blocks up from the Cumberland River but on a hill. I was so grateful for that hill. I wrote High Atmosphere that week. Jim Lauderdale was great fun to work with. He came in and just seemed to get the songs. He was funny and charming and has that beautiful high lonesome voice. In the studio things just flowed. We moved from song to song together and it felt like I just went in and sang my heart out for three days and we had the record. Everyone added their own beautiful thing to the songs and supported what I was doing.
Q: Of your songs, are there any that are favorites, or that you’re particularly proud of?
A: It’s a personal record for me I think. Although the story songs I write are always infused with my personal experience and emotions these were written in a way that was organic to my life on the road and trying to make sense of what was happening to me while I was out there. My cousin Harold Lesher who was also a singer and lived in Nashville passes away while I was on the road. He was a good friend and I was asked to sing at his funeral. I wrote Funeral Singer for him and dedicated it the record to him.
Q: How did you decide to become a musician? Did you ever consider another career path?
A: I’ve been writing and singing all my life. The other thing I love is painting. I don’t know if I chose music. It was more like it chose me. I would always come back to it and then it became my job. I feel lucky about this.
Q: What does your creative process look like?
A: I write songs to make sense of my life so it’s pretty integral. Part of how I live my life everyday.
Q: How has your music and style evolved over the years you’ve been performing?
A: When I first started writing I tried to emulate what I heard which was mostly from the radio so it was more mainstream. Over the years I was able to explore the roots of American music, through my family who are from Appalachia, and older recordings. So I’ve grown with my interests.
Q: If you could sit down for an hour and play with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?
A: Johnny Cash. I don’t know if I would have a question. I would like to be in his presence and listen.
Q: Besides your instruments, what are the top 5 things that you must have while on the road?
A: Good tea, Almonds, my writing book, the ICHING and my cellphone.
Q: Any stories about your first or favorite instrument?
A: It was a plywood guitar. I was seven and had begged my parents for a piano which they said was not going to happen so they broke down and got me a guitar. I played it until I was twelve and saved up enough for a Yamaha. I loved that guitar.
Q: What’s on your mix tape?
A: At the moment, Smithsonian Folkways recordings, Eliza Gilkyson’s new record, Lucinda Williams, Old Crow Medicine Show.
Q: What have you always wanted to learn how to do?
A: Speak French.
Q: Is there anything people listening to your music need to know about you?
A: I love it and feel lucky to be able to do it as a job.
Photo: Alan Messer