I first heard the music of Diana Jones about 18 months ago and I knew right then and there that we simply had to have her come and play at the me&thee. When the opportunity availed itself to have Diana do a double bill with Bill Staines, I was elated. I caught Diana doing a show in Worcester last winter and her music was warm and quite enthralling and I’m hoping that this interview convinces music fans to come on out and see Diana for themselves on Friday, February 1. Her music is personal and most memorable and if we’re lucky, Diana and Bill will collaborate on a tune or two. Now wouldn’t that be pretty special?
Enjoy this video of Diana singing my absolute favorite tune of hers, “Pony,” which was shot at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Check out Diana’s web site to learn much more about Diana.
- Your life story is one of the most compelling musician stories I’ve heard in quite some time. At what age did you discover that you were adopted and how did it click inside you that your musical soul might be connected to your birth family?
- I can’t remember not knowing that I was adopted. My parents adopted my baby brother so I thought that was the way everyone got babies. I was always drawn to old timey music when I heard it. People like Emmy Lou Harris and Johnny Cash on the radio. I used to borrow my brother’s Johnny Cash records. It wasn’t until I found my birth family and met my grandfather that I knew where the tone in my own voice came from. We listened to Smithsonian Folkways recordings and he knew all the songs. My voice made more sense to me when I learned some of those songs.
- You’ve had the great fortune to tour with Mary Gauthier, Richard Thompson, and others. What was it like playing with them?
- I’ve been very lucky to tour with such amazing artists. Mary and Richard are both artists that I admire and are kind folks to be out on the road with.
- You are most often compared to Iris Dement and Gillian Welch. Have you had the chance to meet either of them yet? Have you been influenced by their sound?
- When I started to mine myself for the songs on my last record I went back to the oldest songs I could find recorded. I was influenced by them and also more contemporary artists like Iris and Gillian.
- You were commissioned to write a song in tribute to the West Virginian coal miners who tragically lost their lives. The result “Henry Russell’s Last Words” is a very moving song. Can you tell us a little bit about how that project came about?
- I was asked to write a song commemorating the 80th anniversary of the mining disaster that closed the Everettville mine in 1927 by the President of the Everettville Historical Society, Carol Thorn. She gave me all the details of the mine and the disaster but I couldn’t get inspired by the numbers. I asked her if she had anything else. She sent me a copy of a letter that was written by Henry Russell during his last three hours of life in a room in the mine. The letter was so beautiful and tender. I was immediately inspired and wrote the song in about 20 minutes. I played it in Edinburgh Scotland three days before the memorial. Henry and his wife Mary were from Scotland originally. A journalist picked up on the story and the day before the memorial Henry Russell’s picture and letter were on the front page of the Edinburgh Sunday paper. An incredible full circle experience for me.
- According to your website, your recent collaboration with Jonathan Byrd, Radio Soul, was recorded in only 7 hours! Was it an impromptu decision to record some songs together and just run the tape or had you planned it out and wanted to use some raw energy and adrenalin to complete the project in one day?
- Jonathan and I worked out the songs over a weekend, played a show at the Down Home in Johnson City and went into the studio the Monday after. We wanted a record of where we were with the material. It turned out to be a record that we put out. It was a lot of fun to record it that way.
- What do you have in store for 2008?
- A new record, a lot of touring and hopefully a lot of writing. I feel truly blessed that I get to do what I do and just want to keep doing it.