Avi Diamond is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter based in the Pittsburgh area. She mixes soulful vocals, acoustic-folk instrumentation and brutally honest storytelling to create a unique musical experience.
How did you become interested in music?
Avi Diamond: I started playing piano when I was a kid. I grew up in Squirrel Hill and there was a woman who lived next door who would give me informal piano lessons and teach me to play songs I liked by ear. I kept playing piano and started taking voice lessons but I never thought I was good enough to do music professionally. I went to CAPA for high school and focused on literary arts. When it came time to do our graduation projects, I decided to write an album. These projects are really involved, so it ended up being 17 songs. Some of them sucked but some of them were good and I got a lot of good feedback. There was one literary arts teacher there who used to make me cry a lot, I guess because I wasn’t doing what she wanted. I told her, “I want to do music anyway. I don’t want to write.” So I did.
When I graduated high school I went to Duquesne for music therapy with a focus in jazz voice. I trained with my mentor Maureen Budway there and started performing more after graduation and going to jazz clubs. I didn’t really have enough confidence to put myself out there, though until I went to The Space Upstairs in Point Breeze. It’s Second Saturday performances are really wild and I would go every week. I started meeting really wonderful people. Actually, I met Princess Jafar there and she did my first music video and I ended up recording my first album. It was Duquesne that gave me the training but it was the community that pushed me to start collaborating and gave me confidence.
How would you describe your sound?
AD: A few people have told me my voice reminds them of Amy Winehouse, which I think is a huge compliment. I’ve also been told that my music sounds like a melding of Alanis Morissette and Gillan Welch. I think I’d say it’s folk/americana with jazz sensibilities. I’m also very influenced by Fiona Apple and I love ‘90s pop. Nineties music was the height of music, in my opinion.
What's the music community in Pittsburgh like?
I’ve met some really wonderful friends through the Pittsburgh music community. There are different pockets depending on what genre you play. I’m connected to a lot of the folk/americana people.
When I first started playing I noticed that women musicians sometimes get pitted against each other; like there’s only one space for a women’s band in a line up. I don’t think it has to be that way. I’ve learned who I should be talking to and aligning myself with when it comes to that.
Do you have any upcoming releases?
AD: My most recent release was in the summer of 2019. I’m really proud of that album. I wrote over the span of two years. It’s called Barefoot. I’m really inspired by nature and I think that it has these healing capabilities. It grounds me and takes me back to what’s important to me. In my song writing for Barefoot I used imagery of animals and nature to represent experiences I’ve had in my life with moving from insecurity into empowerment. I hope it causes people to be more grounded and empowered. Musically, it’s a lot more folky than my other stuff. But there’s one song that's a completely raw, rock-type track. I do have an upcoming music video release which is being edited right now.
Check out Avi at this week’s Sunday Showcase (7/12) at noon. Any donations from this week’s show will go to Proud Haven, a nonprofit organization that provides services to queer youth who are experiencing homelessness and housing instability in Pittsburgh.
To keep up with Avi Diamond, follow her on Facebook.