Front-woman Nina Diaz has just released her first solo album “The Beat is Dead,” a catchy rock record with dark and dramatic vocals.
The album is about her struggles with substance abuse and recovery. According to Diaz, “[The album] was definitely very therapeutic for me and it still is to this day. Taking it now on the road and performing it is a whole other side that I’m learning about myself . . . Sometimes it can get a little scary but at least now I know I can handle it . . . I know that I will never go down that dark path that I was in before.”
Before embarking on her solo album, Diaz was the lead singer in a local San Antonio punk band, Girl In a Coma, backed by her sister Phanie Diaz on drums and their close friend Jenn Alva on bass. Growing up, Diaz drew inspiration from bands like Silverchair, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Radiohead. She naturally took to writing stories, keeping a regular journal, which eventually turned to writing songs.
“Phannie had a guitar lying around so I picked it up and I just started messing around with it and she taught me power chords which is your basic punk chord. And I took it from there; I was self-taught,” Diaz said, explaining that she joined the band at the age of 13. “My grandfather was a musician so I guess it was kind of naturally in my blood to wanna pick up an instrument,” she added.
During summer break when she was 16, Diaz began touring in her hometown of San Antonio at which time she ventured out to other cities as well. The manager of the band pulled some strings, winning them the opportunity to record with Boz Boorer, musical director for the band Morrissey. Diaz dropped out of high school, soon after earning a GED and immediately began touring even more consistently.
Girl In a Coma was becoming more popular around this time in the San Antonio area. As a result, the band was approached by the producers of a television show called “Jammin’” on the SiTV network, which offer the band members quickly took up. They were characterized on the show as the struggling band that was trying to make it in the business. The climax of the show was to fly to New York City to meet a surprise artist.
The band was ecstatic to discover that the artist was Joan Jett, who they met during a rehearsal. They later performed for her at the Knitting Factory and Jett unexpectedly offered them a record deal with Black Heart Records. Girl In a Coma recorded 4 albums under the label. Diaz said, “It felt like a dream . . . It was definitely like a rock and roll fairy tale type of story . . . Joan herself, she always had a lot of great advice for us, and [the label] never tried to take over us musically, and that’s the best thing that you can ever get out of a label.”
After having been the singer and songwriter in Girl In a Coma for more than half her life, Diaz decided it was time to do a solo project to find herself as an individual and work towards sobriety. “I self-medicated for a very long time and the last relapse I had was the worst,” she said. “I’m three and a half years clean and this relapse made me see what I needed to do. And what I needed to do first of all was to get clean and then kind of try to find myself as my own person and my own musician.”
Now in her sobriety, recording in the studio and performing on stage has been a different experience for Diaz, who has been able to channel anxieties in a healthy way. “That’s been something fresh for me to be able to grab the microphone and go and mess with people in the front row or go jump into the crowd,” she explained. “It’s very liberating and I feel amazing at the end of a show. It’s the best high that I could never take for granted.”
Nina Diaz will be at Kilby Court 741 South Kilby Court, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 November 14th at 7 p.m.