The Refrain Interview: Paul Diello

Award winning singer/songwriter Paul Diello has released two solo albums, seven singles and has toured extensively across the UK, Europe and America. He has supported artists such as Texas, Jarvis Cocker and Nick Harper and is also the lead vocalist in acoustic duo Under The Ivy. He performed his self written show Epicene, a gender blending celebration of iconic women in music to sold out audiences at LGBTQ+ events and arts festivals across the UK from 2017-2020 and 2021 will see the release of his visual album Make Heaven Motherland on May 28th.

 To announce the new album, Diello has released the lead single Into Springtime, an insanely catchy pop piano based track that’s supported with jazz guitar and simple percussion, before bursting into a full chorus of voices. The song is accompanied by a campy music video which you can watch below.

Refrain Music Blog: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You have a new single out now. Tell us about it? What’s it called?

Paul Diello: It’s called Into Springtime

RMB: What’s the single about?

PD: It’s a jaunty little number, possibly about a sinister event taking place with a backdrop of the perfect springtime afternoon. Possibly about a jilted lover leading the object of their affections into a spring meadow for murder? I wouldn’t like to confirm or deny these possibilities!

RMB: What’s the story on how it was recorded? The Who, When, Where etc. Was it a long process or quick? Any good stories about the recording process?

PD: It was partly recorded in Berlin in 2016 where I started recording my album. I laid down the lead vocal and piano parts and the choir all crammed into my bedroom where I was living and we recorded them there. Then the producer went AWOL and took all my tracks with him. I had to re-record all the other tracks from scratch but thankfully I managed to salvage this one which I’m so pleased about as I would have been
devastated to lose the recording of the choir. I didn’t have the separate stems for the track though, just an mp3 of the vocals/piano/choir so we added guitar, double bass, drums and backing vocals over the top of it. It made mixing a little tricky but there was no way I was losing that choir take!

RMB: Is it part of a larger album? If so, tell us about that.

PD: Yes, Into Springtime is taken from my new album Make Heaven Motherland. It’s the album I started making in Berlin but then started again in my home town of Brighton on the south coast of England. My last record was quite synth heavy, very 80’s inspired which was lots of fun to record and perform live but for this one I wanted to go back to my acoustic roots. I definitely feel like this is my strongest record to date. Because it took so long to record (there is a seven year gap between my last record and this one) most
of the songs on it were written quite a while ago. I’ve been performing them live for years so they’ve had time to grow and form their own personalities. It feels really good to finally have this body of work completed and it’s good timing that lockdown is starting to ease a bit in the UK so I can figure out some sort of promo strategy! The pandemic did afford me lots of time that I wouldn’t normally have so I decided to make this album a visual album, each song has its own video. Making the videos has been a great project to sink my teeth into during a year where I’ve played no live shows at all!

RMB: When is that album out?

PD: It’s out digitally and on CD on 28th May, the vinyl release date is a little later as the pandemic has slowed things down a bit at the vinyl makers!

RMB: How many songs on the album?

PD: There’s 9 songs on the audio album but the visual album has a bonus track video. It’s my shortest album so far, but hopefully it’s quality over quantity!

RMB: Is this your first album? If not tell us about your previous work and how this differs from your previous work.

PD: It’s my third LP of original material. My first album The Last Green Bottle was released in 2011 and is very stripped back, just vocals, piano with acoustic guitar and strings. Then in 2014 I released Looking Glass which was my pop moment! Lots of electronic instruments, synths, beats and high camp melancholia! Make Heaven Motherland is probably closer in sound to my first record but with a bit more oompf! There’s drums, harps, sax, clarinet, a real mix of sounds. My first two records were really autobiographical lyrically too whereas my new record introduces some new weird and wonderful characters.

RMB: Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start pursuing music?

PD: I was born and raised on the south coast of the UK and was always obsessed with music. There was always music in the house, my brother was really into The Beatles and 60’s music, my mum really loved folk music like Donovan or Suzanne Vega. I began writing songs when I was pretty young, they were naturally shit of course! I guess I was around 17 when I started taking my own music seriously, I enrolled on a music course at college, joined a band and I’ve never stopped really. I used to be quite shy when it came to singing in front of people but when I discovered Jefferson Airplane as a teenager I felt so completely inspired my Grace Slick’s powerhouse vocals that I asked my brother to play Somebody To Love on guitar one day and I just belted it out with this new found confidence and I knew then that I was meant to be a singer.

RMB: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

PD: My record collection is pretty much completely made up of female artists. I’m obsessed with Kate Bush, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, the list goes on. I’m also really into 80’s pop, I’ve been a Madonna fan my whole life, Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Alison Moyet. At the moment I’m obsessed with Aldous Harding, her live shows are so insane, if you’ve not heard her, go and look her up immediately!

RMB: What’s the one thing you are most proud of in your career so far?

PD: It was a proud moment when I won best solo artist at Brighton Music Awards in 2010 and performed at the ceremony in front of rock legends Jimmy Page and Roger Daltry. Jimmy spoke to me after the show and asked for a copy of my CD. It was pretty hard to top!

RMB: If you had to pitch your music to a potential fan in less than 10 seconds, what would you say?

PD: If piano-lead folky pop delivered by men in makeup and heels is your thing, then look no further!

RMB: What’s one piece of advice you’ve gotten that you think everyone needs to hear or that has meant the most to you?

PD: I’m not sure if I remember any advice I’ve been given, although I’m sure I must have been given some at some point in my life! I give advice a lot, I’m the agony aunt in my circle! The advice that I’m trying to follow at the moment and I think everybody should follow is don’t sweat the small stuff. I know it sounds obvious but I’ve spent a lot of time feeling completely stressed or anxious about stuff that really wasn’t worth my time feeling that bad over. As I’m getting older I’m trying to care less about the little things and
just focus on what’s really important.

RMB: If you could go back in time, what’s a piece of advice you would give to a younger you?

PD: As a young queer boy growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in a small town I always felt like a total outsider and that I was a bit of a freak and I found it very hard to imagine a future where I could be myself and be happy. I’d love to go back in time and tell that kid that life is going to get so much better than you thought it could and that being different will be your selling point.

RMB: What’s coming up next for your musical project?

PD: I’ve got a few things in the pipeline. I’m recording an album with Steve Parker, the guitarist from UK band Sparker, we formed an acoustic duo called Under The Ivy and have written a bunch of songs. That’s been on hold due to the pandemic but we shall pick up again soon. I’ve also written my fourth solo album and will start recording that later in the year. As well as the music I’m also writing a novel, so I’m keeping pretty busy!

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