INTERVIEW: Mark Diamond on the Release of Hummingbird Two
By Caroline Rohnstock
Hailing from Seattle, alternative singer-songwriter Mark Diamond has been steadily making his way into the music scene. He was working in a coffee shop when he was discovered and has since had a whirlwind experience, creating music and later signing with Republic Records. His first EP Hummingbird One was released in March: the four-song track list follows the symbolic act of a hummingbird landing on a flower, and how a hummingbird itself is representative of relationships and different aspects of life. A gifted songwriter, known for his guitar-playing and deep lyrics, Diamond has been influenced by his upbringing and continues to explore hummingbird imagery in his songs.
Today marks the release of his EP Hummingbird Two, and to commemorate the occasion, we spoke with Diamond about the hummingbird metaphor, his creative process, and his future plans.
Happy release day, first of all! I’ve listened to your songs and I really like your sound! I wanted to start off by talking about your lyric, “You float like a hummingbird,” from your lead single: I know both of your EPs have a recurring hummingbird theme, and I was wondering if you wanted to talk about the meaning behind that and what a hummingbird represents to you?
Thank you! And yeah, absolutely. I think it’s kind of this story that I latched onto maybe a year and a half ago, which is just trying to explain this story of the relationship between a hummingbird and a flower. I’m trying to tell my own story kind of through that lens. I started to obsess with it a bit and one thing led to another and before I knew it, I just had a ton of songs around this idea. It’s kind of a never ending story with my life experiences and my past relationships. I felt like I just had a lot of stories that had to be told; I didn’t want it to come out literally and tell these stories literally so I kind of wanted to paint them in a new way and that allowed me to do that.
Yeah, it’s a really cool symbol; I like your idea of a hummingbird and a flower and how that can represent relationships and different ways to connect.
Right, and it’s true; I wasn’t really sure at first which I was in the story—was I the hummingbird or the flower—’cause they are two distinct things and I think at the end of it, I came to the conclusion that I was the flower in the story but it doesn’t mean, like, the listener—it’s kind of up to them to figure out in their past relationships or in their lives, which they are: the flower or the hummingbird.
That’s really cool; makes you think! So, from listening to your songs, I really like how open you are emotionally and you’re very strong lyrically. I’m wondering what that process for you is like, that creative process of being so open and writing the way you do?
Yeah, it’s like the one thing I feel like I’ve learned to respect—that whatever gift or whatever the universe has given me to be able to have these songs flow through me is how it feels. So, the best way that I try to respect that, whatever it is that I guess songwriters have, is I don’t force it. So, as far as my creative process goes, pretty much at any time if I hear something or if I hear a certain sound or have a conversation with somebody, that’s typically where I become inspired the most to write. It’s more of a stream of consciousness more than anything. I start hearing something on guitar or piano that I’m playing and the melody and the lyrics should typically follow right away from hearing that. If they don’t follow right away, it’s probably not the right moment or it’s not the right sound or chord progression. So, I try not to get stressed when I’m writing a song. Part of my creative process is to keep a calm mind—a calm mind is a creative mind, so I’ve been moving forward with that thought process
Just letting it flow naturally; whatever comes to you, comes to you, right?
Yeah, flow or whatever that is. I’ve just always felt like it’s this sort of high that you feel that’s super, super addicting and it’s what keeps me writing songs. It’s like being on stage, for example: [that’s] another time where you’re so present and so there in the moment that when it’s done, you’re not really sure how it happened or how it went. That’s how it is a lot of the time where I’m writing a song that’s special. Once it’s written, you look back and, whether it took 2 hours or 12 hours, you’re so there and in the moment that time slips away—you aren’t paying attention to anything else. It’s quite an addicting feeling.
For sure! So, you really like performing and being on stage; is there a certain song you like performing recently?
One of my favorite songs to play live is a song called “London” that was on my first EP that I put out a little bit ago; that’s the most special one live right now. There is another one that actually beats that but I just wrote it 3 weeks ago, and it’s a song that feels so honest and true to me right now. It’s actually me and an acoustic guitar and there [aren’t any] release plans necessarily, but it’ll be out soon because I feel like it has to be out. But, that one specifically ,right now is the one [that when[ playing live ,seems to get me really lost in that moment when I’m singing i
That song, “London,” is actually one of my favorites from your first EP!
Yeah, that song live...it’s fun to see the room and watch everyone kind of transition during that song.
So, speaking of performing, I know you have a couple of shows coming up in New York, but is there anywhere that you dream of playing?
Oh man! I mean, first one that obviously comes to mind is Madison Square Garden: I’ve definitely never been afraid to say, like, “Hey, what’s the biggest goal?” and I’ll be like “Oh, ya know, selling out MSG 4 times... [To] do all these things that are huge goals…” But right now, I’m really focused on getting through each day in the best possible way I can. So today, for example, I’m going to go do rehearsals for about 4 or 5 hours and so, things have shifted for me. I think it’s really healthy and best for me to focus on the day. In my head, I know I can think of all these places I’d love to perform, but I think right now, it’s important for me to give everything I possibly can at rehearsals today. Then, when I leave and go to the studio after, be the absolute best I can be. And when Monday and Tuesday roll around and I’m in New York City, my goal for those days is putting on the absolute best possible shows I can on those nights. But, bigger picture, that’s how my brain has been working lately
That’s a really good way to think, like taking it day by day and putting your best in whatever day it is. I think that’s one of the best ways to approach being an artist and putting out music and touring .
Yeah, cause it’s super overwhelming! The further I get into this, it’s like I was just working in a coffee shop in Seattle, making music in my little apartment that was like 500 square feet, and I go from that and not knowing anybody, to, you know, signing to the number one label in the world. Then having a manager come on and a booking agent come on and all these pieces come in...It can be a bit overwhelming. So the absolute best thing to do, I feel as an artist, is focusing on the days rather than the years; the years kind of happen on their own. As long as you’re giving the best you can, on the days, it’s going to work out it. It has to work out.
Yeah, exactly. And speaking of Seattle, do you think growing up there has influenced your sound and your songs at all?
Oh, yeah. I would say I should just give songwriting credits to the rain at this point. Like, when people look it up it should just say, “Songwriting credits: Mark Diamond and Seattle Rain.” It should just say that because that’s been super...like, it’s funny! I was trying to figure out in my head what influences me [and] I feel like nothing really influences me—nothing musically influences me. There’s been a lot of great people in music that I’ve listened to that inspire me like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen or U2, Coldplay...but as far as what has influenced me—like when I listen to my songs, I can hear where I was when I wrote that. I know I sounds strange ,but I really do believe that where you are in that moment comes through the song. So, me, being in Seattle, I feel like I can hear that; I can hear the emotion of a cloudy day and the rain and feeling a little drowsy or feeling maybe uninspired at times. Actually, in a lot of ways, it was that rain that inspired me to create the music that got me to where I am and the same with the new music. I can hear in that music on this new EP—I hear that I’m in Los Angeles and I know that that sounds strange but I can hear it in those moments. So, Seattle 100% still today, I can hear it in my music. A big part of me is still up in Seattle.
That sounds really cool me—like your songs are a timestamp for you, a stamp of a moment in time where you know exactly where you were and how you were feeling and that’s what I think songs should be like: they should be able to transport you to a certain feeling or place. That’s really cool how you described that!
I even have a hard time. I’ve been able to do it lately, but [I’ve been] having a hard time being able to listen to my older songs on my first EP. Just because I put them out and I didn’t really listen to them so when I hear them now, it’s still quite emotional. I feel like I am back where I was when I wrote them. It’s an interesting thing!
Really interesting! And speaking more about your songs and your new EP Hummingbird Two—how do you think part 2 is different than part 1? Is part 2 more Los Angeles-like?
I think the reason that I chose those songs to go together [is because they’re] all building up to something musically and all 8 songs [from both EPs] feel right together and they make sense together. But splitting it up 4 and 4, it felt like the first 4 were a family and the second 4 were a family; they’re slightly different sounds. To me, I think the first 4 were the beginning of something and this middle 4 [from Hummingbird Two] is, like, now, we kind of already know the story. We know what this is about and it’s continuing that story, that conversation, and people know this is the story I’m telling of a hummingbird and a flower.; people understand that the story is continuing. There’s a balance of songs like “Heaven,” which is not a song you want to dance to and then there’s songs like “Hummingbird,” [which] is a song you want to dance around to. I think the other songs on there will create balance as well to hold onto as many emotions as possible.
I agree. It seems like you split them up to tell a story, I like the 4 and 4 balances. Do you think there will be a part 3?
Maybe someday! As of right now, I don’t have enough for part 3, but there is an album on the way! And so, that’s really outside of this EP, of course. On a musical level, that’s really what I’m focusing on: getting this album exactly where I want it to be.
That seems like a good goal! So after the EP comes the album and maybe a tour?
Right! And the only thing is, I just keep writing songs so that’s the only trouble with making an album— for me it’s that I write so much music and I write it quickly as well. It comes in spurts, but lately, I’ve just been writing like a ton of music; there’s still quite a few songs in me that need to be recorded.
Well, you could have worse problems— like not being able to write!
That is very true! I also think the biggest thing is having people keep their eyes open for tour dates. Really, my number one top priority over everything is getting out and seeing my fans. There are people out there who have been waiting for quite a while to see me perform, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I get to towns near my fans. That’s my biggest thing right now; I want to get out and start meeting everybody who’s supported me to the point where I’m at and I’m forever grateful.
Hummingbird Two is out NOW—make sure to check it out! His songs, including those on this release, are the perfect, peaceful soundtrack for the summer-into-fall transition ahead of us. Hopefully tour dates are soon to follow!