Diaz’s full-length, Plastic Moon reflects a lifelong attraction to song craft as well her deep-rooted affinity for contrasting types of music. One part pop music and one part organic Americana, the album is a hooky, confident collection of songs that is as heartbreaking in places as it is catchy in others, sometimes within the span of a single song.
The 25-year-old, Nashville-based musician is herself a bit of a contrast, growing up in Lancaster, PA, surrounded by Amish farms, where she was home schooled by her Peruvian mother, Nancy, a proponent of early childhood development and the visual arts, and her Danish father, Eric, a woodworker and musician. Madi began piano lessons at age five at the behest of her father, himself a keyboard player in the Frank Zappa tribute band, Project Object. The family’s home stereo fed her a steady diet of Metallica, Sheryl Crow, The Beatles and Whitney Houston.
In her early teens, Diaz switched from piano to guitar and when she sought advanced instruction, she landed at School of Rock in Philadelphia. Her family eventually moved to the city and both Eric and Madi’s brother, Max, went on to become part of the faculty.
Diaz was a standout among the pupils and became a focal point of director Don Argott’s 2005 documentary about the program, Rock School. Nearly a decade later, she holds a fondness for the fierce teenage Madi captured on screen, but doesn’t plan to see the movie again any time soon. “It’s embarrassing enough to have pictures of you when you’re 15 or 16 years old; I have an entire doc.”
After high school, Diaz was accepted to Berklee College of Music in Boston and began spending every waking moment making music: writing, singing and recording. She credits the period with helping her get serious about pursuing music as a career.
A fellow student’s production assignment provided the first opportunity to work with Kyle Ryan. The Lincoln, Nebraska-raised guitarist would turn into her future songwriting collaborator and right-hand man. Diaz was in awe of his guitar playing, and Ryan had similar admiration for Diaz’s abilities, yet the two cagily circled each other for a time. Diaz was convinced Ryan was just being nice when he gave her his number and asked her to write together, while Ryan was sure Diaz hated his guitar playing, which was why she wasn’t calling.
The ice was broken when that fellow student, a producer looking for a project, offered Diaz the chance to record an album in Hawaii—all expenses paid, no strings attached. It was a no-brainer for Madi and she worked up the courage to ask her favorite guitar player on campus to come along as part of the band. The self-released, alt.country-leaning Skin And Bones was the result, and a songwriting and performing partnership between Diaz and Ryan was struck for good, as well as a friendship.
Not long after that, Diaz tired of Berklee and subsequently left the program. She and Ryan kept writing though, and, armed with a strong batch of new material, the pair began heading down to New York City regularly for gigs. One otherwise inauspicious night at Greenwich Village landmark The Bitter End led to a chance meeting with a manager who had come to see another artist and stayed when she heard Diaz’s voice. The manager left her card, and soon thereafter she began representing Madi. Their first order of business turned out to be sending Diaz and Ryan for a month-long visit to Nashville to do some co-writing.
The trip went so swimmingly that Diaz and Ryan relocated to Music City in mid-2010. The pair was quickly thrust into the center of the city’s nascent indie-pop scene, eventually landing Madi on the Ten Out Of Tenn tour showcasing the best of Nashville’s emerging artists.
With the release of the EP, Ten Gun Salute, Diaz began receiving some encouraging exposure, touring with The Civil Wars and Landon Pigg, garnering favorable press in Paste (who dubbed her one of the “Top Ten Buzziest Acts” at SXSW 2009) AOL’s Spinner and on NPR, as well as and having her songs licensed for ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars and Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva and Army Wives.
Plastic Moon initially began as a self-produced project. Diaz and Ryan gathered up “60 or 70” songs in progress and started paring them down, looking for a collection that held together as a singular work. At the same time, producer John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Liz Phair) was seeking his next project and connected with the pair, who then decamped for Dave Matthews’ palatial studio near Charlottesville, Virginia. The result departs from Diaz’s early rootsier side, though the record is no less heartfelt and arguably even more so with its poignant melodies and inventive arrangements.
After years of perfecting her craft, it’s no surprise that the album boasts uniformly strong songwriting, ranging from the power-pop bounce of “Nothing At All” and the unshakably inviting “Let’s Go,” to the soaring, introspective majesty of “Heavy Heart.” Diaz’s pure, effortless voice and unerring sense of song craft shine throughout. Thanks to Alagia’s meticulous and sympathetic production, the music keeps Diaz’s indie spirit intact while bringing forth a more sophisticated soundscape, with everything from Fender Rhodes to marimba popping up in the mix. (Bio from official website)