I must admit my exposure to the Blues was once limited to B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Interestingly, Muddy Waters would in turn inspire one of my favourite metal/heavy rock groups Led Zeppelin, whose blues influence is heard on many of their classic albums. From that era I am also a fan of blues rocker John Mayall, in particularly, his classic album Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton (1966). That said, a long list of blues artists have followed since and more recently I have discovered admittedly by chance, Diana Rein, whose strong passionate vocals and blistering guitar skills attracted me to pay her more attention.
You cannot deny the talent of this contemporary blues rock artist. That said, she is a far more forthright musician than she was during her first incarnation. Yes, this amazing woman gave music away a number of years ago to concentrate on the simple things in life that included starting a family. But after awhile an ache in her heart for the Blues reignited a burning flame within to play again. And so it was in 2015, Diana embarked on a musical crusade. In something like eleven days, Diana wrote twelve songs, taught herself how to record in her relatively crude home studio, and along the way played everything from lead, bass and rhythm guitar and controversially programmed drums. As a consequence, the twelve-track guitar driven album Long Road (2016) was born exposing old and new audiences to Diana’s worldview of music she calls blues rock or electric blues. In short, this incredible album would receive the honour of being placed on the ballot to be considered for a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album in 2016.
Before we turn our attention to my next interview guest, I’d like to briefly state that this interview truly came about of the back of my appreciation for her sophomore album Long Road. (Rein’s debut album The Back Room was released back in 2007.) It is built upon some truly inspired blues-based guitar work with an authentic rock edge. Particularly catchy is The Real Thing, Wild One and Green Light. Elsewhere on the album, Diana Rein’s guitar is also surprisingly dazzling – even pressing, particular on my favourite album track Rebel With A Cause. While longing seldom sounds so good, especially on the albums’ title track Long Road. Furthermore, what good is a blues-based album without a decent rock ballad or two? Done Me Dirty and Don’t Walk Away are raw and intimate with Diana’s gentle and beautiful vocals rising to the occasion. But it is arguably the albums’ final track, the instrumental Peace that completes Diana Rein’s transformation to a mature blues musician.
Anyway, without any further ado, here is what the gracious Diana Rein and I talked about.
It’s so easy to get lost in the moment, especially when listening to contemporary blues. It evokes a range of emotions or feelings. That said, you have often said that music has a healing power. Diana, can you tell me a little more about that?
I feel that everything in our Universe operates on a certain frequency. Innately we can feel whether it is a frequency that takes something away from us or adds something to us. My experience has been that every time I play music the way I want to hear it, it leaves me refreshed and in the moment. And when that occurs it is just as good as any meditation. I know that meditation is healing so that only leads me to believe that playing music that raises me up is definitely healing. Music has always been there for me. It helps me work through trials in life. It helps me feel what words can’t express. Especially since learning to play lead guitar, it goes to another level for me. Words are nothing compared to the emotion that a guitar can evoke and bring out of me. I went through a challenging health experience for the last 5 years….including during the time that I was making my album and it was music that has always kept me going. This health journey had to happen as my learning experience to persevere and be strong and I am healing through the power of music, through kundalini yoga and through a vegan diet. They all play a role in being healthy as a whole.
What are the moments that keep bringing you backing you to music?
The biggest thing I can tell you that brings me back is the goose bumps that I get when the music and my lead guitar fit seamlessly together as a beautiful melody. We all have good days and off days. So I keep coming back to experience the good days. And of course there are those times when songs just come spilling out with reckless abandon and they are finished in a flash! I also just get so much joy from being up onstage and creating something in the live moment that will never happen again. Especially with my one woman band….you never know what will happen and even if there are mistakes that might happen…..it’s all in the way you recover and that’s exciting for me to see how quickly I can recover. It’s like a game.
Obviously you have a very personal connection with music. It seems to be strongly intertwined with your passion for life. Where do you find your inspiration when writing new material?
I feel like my interests are wide and I appreciate creations in life no matter what form they take. So I get inspiration from seeing other people be creative. I also get inspiration from the Spiritual Realm and from things that I am introduced to because of my search in natural healing. I absolutely love Kundalini yoga for helping me heal old blockages and opening up creative channels. I am inspired by Nature and fresh fruits and vegetables that you cannot deny are like a piece of art in themselves. Might sound a little out there but it’s all about energy and if you put a piece of watermelon in front of me and a piece of bread in front of me, I know that eating the watermelon will give me such a different positive experience than if I eat the bread that is not “living”. I also find inspiration from the things that I feel I need to work through that will help me forgive and let go.
Long Road is an apt title for your latest album, especially given your journey over the last five years or so. For instances, I was quite taken aback how you quit music to concentrate on motherhood. To add to your woes you had vocal surgery and I understand you were terrified to sing again. Your dream of playing guitar like your blues guitar heroes was gone or so you thought. Diana, can you tell me something else that might truly surprise us about you or your journey?
Well, I jumped in too quickly. I had finished my album Long Road and I was so eager to get the music out there that I jumped in too quickly with a band situation and I was unhappy because I wasn’t able to hear my music the way that I wanted it to be. It was no fault of the band…..it was just a knee jerk reaction and I just wasn’t ready.
Since beginning my musical journey in Chicago in 2005, I was a solo artist/singer/songwriter. I was playing a porch board bass at gigs when nobody even knew about adding percussion to your own solo act to spice things up. So I had to go back to the drawing board which meant that it kept me away from doing live shows for 9 months because I was in the laboratory refining my one woman show. It felt like I would never play live again but there were so many new things that I had to learn to get it right. I bought and returned lots of equipment because I had to try it out and make sure it fit right for me which meant that it had to be more analog than digital and it had to be something that I could easily replace or buy if it broke while on the road or something….. So now I can finally say that I have all of the components I need and am finally getting out there to do live shows.
Something else that might surprise people that I have touched on already is that I have been a vegan as well as a raw vegan for almost 10 years. I started doing this because I was taking daily yoga classes and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat meat or animal products anymore. It wasn’t helping my practice and it wasn’t helping my spiritual journey. And now as of late, when I eat mostly fruit…..I feel the lightest, the healthiest and I have the most creativity and the most compassion and empathy for everyone around me. It’s really the best medicine around and it works for me so I am going to stick to it.
What is the best advice, if any, have you received that has helped you along the way musically?
I went to see a Jimmie Vaughan show in 2014 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. My best guitar hero is Stevie Ray Vaughan so of course I was so thrilled to see his brother up close that night. At the end of the night, he was gracious enough to sign autographs for those of us that bought his album and when I got up to meet him, I was able to get a photo and I mentioned to him that I play guitar. So he wrote this on my autographed cd insert: “PLAY WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR”. That’s what it’s all about. Half of the people will love you, half won’t. That’s not your decision. All you have to do is worry about playing what feels right to you…..that just takes loads of pressure off of creating music which should not include any sort of pressure to begin with. You can’t be fully creative under pressure.
Can you tell me who your favorite blues heroes are? (Can you elaborate on one?)
I am a big fan of SRV, Albert King, Philip Sayce and Eric Clapton and I have been listening to some Albert Cummings lately too. I am in the lineage of guitar players that are just tuned into the SRV sound and it’s mostly because of his fantastic woodsy tone and strength in playing. I don’t have his finger strength or his hand size and I don’t use 13 gauge strings, but there is something undeniable when I hear it that just draws me in and I want some, I want to absorb it and soak it all in. I can’t talk about SRV without getting Spiritual. He just has a hold on me and I feel like I am one of his earthly crew and I have some work to do to continue sharing his message of love and recovery and uniting people which he was so good at exemplifying. Unfortunately he was taken away too soon from being able to share more of that message himself. So I consider myself one of his helpers.
What were some of your early experiences with music that made you want to be a guitarists and touring musician?
There was not a moment in my day where I wasn’t singing or listening to music. It was my escape from very early on and I was always recording myself. That was how I played more so than with dolls. I had my share of toys too but I was way more attracted to tape recording myself and video recording myself since I was 4 or 5. But the first time I ever heard a guitar that seared into my soul was when I watched the Moscow Peace Festival on Pay per View with my family and I heard Tom Keifer of Cinderella playing the guitar intro to Nobody’s Fool. I will never forget that moment. It felt like it was the sound of God soaring from this instrument into the Heavens. I didn’t understand how to make sense of it all at that time and it took me quite some time to figure it out. But the good news is that I finally did. Even if listen to that solo now, because it is thankfully on youtube, it brings me to tears. The emotion is still so strong in my heart when I hear it and it makes me so grateful. I finally found out the answer : that the guitar was the tool that would help me reach my purpose in this life.
You have an amazing ability at picking up almost any guitar and playing it with ease. I’m sure it wasn’t always like that. What is your favorite guitar? What makes it so special?
I don’t have many so they each serve a purpose. I have my #1 named Stevie which is also my husband’s name. It is a 1962 reissue hot rod strat. I love it because of the thick baseball neck on it which gives it such a great tone and fits me like a glove even though I have small hands. It is so easy to play. No other guitar has compared to it regarding feel. Fender doesn’t make necks like that anymore and they discontinued this model so I suspect that if I ever introduce another guitar into my family, I will have to get it custom made because I can’t go back to a thin neck after playing this particular fat neck.
Then I have a red Cali strat that is 20 years old. My father bought it for me 10 years ago and because of that it means a lot to me. He also bought me a Les Paul Epiphone at that time that I have dusted off lately and started using it for slide pieces. And even though it needs some work, I am so reluctant to take it in because it has this really haunting qualtiy to it that I don’t want to ruin somehow.
I absolutely love some of the artists you have covered like Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for your You Tube series. As a Pearl Jam fan I was really surprised to hear your version of Immortality. Your slide guitar work is brilliant and it is a fitting tribute to your friend. Is it safe to say you find inspiration in other genres or influences such as rock, pop, R&B and folk? It must be fun to play something outside of your comfort zone?
Thank you! Growing up, I listened to everything and there was a time in my early career that I was really interested in Country. I do love all music. It just so happens that I get to do more expressively on the guitar with the Blues and it’s hard to beat that. I am not a blues purist, I love inclusivity and opening people’s minds to collaborations of sound. I love the challenge of making a song my own. With my album Long Road I wanted to prove to myself that I could finally create a Blues Rock album which was a goal for 10 years that I never thought I would realize. And now I am softening a bit to remember all of the great songs that I wrote before this album that never saw the light of day that may play a little with Country or Folk or Americana. Being an Independent Artist gives me that luxury to explore and “Play What I Want to Hear”. And now with the advent of kundalini yoga making such an impact in my life….it will be interesting how that will infuse itself into my new songs. I don’t want to close any doors. It wouldn’t be fair creatively to do that to myself.
Finally, can you indulge us on anything you are working on at the moment?
Right now, I am working on my live show….in particular my one woman band show which is so unbelievably fun and fulfilling. There’s nothing like creating sounds on the fly as you go and being in control of that ship. Not to mention that it can be a family affair where I can have my husband and son with me on the road while I do it. But as of now, I am doing live shows in my area and branching out slowly from there. I am also doing Facebook Live shows because it’s really important to get my music out there in all possible ways and right now, social media is where it’s at. So you can catch me live from your smart phones on FB or if you live in California you can catch me live mainly in Southern California right now. As demand grows, I will grow with it wherever it takes me. Thanks so much for interviewing me and blessings to you and everyone that has read this.
Diana Rein’s latest album, Long Road is out through Rude Mood Records. You can connect with Diana Rein via her Facebook page or Twitter feed @dianarein. You can also visit or contact Diana Rein via her website.
Photo credit: The press photo of Diana Rein at a Tedx event in Temecula is supplied by Doug Deutsch Publicity Services. It cannot be used without their expressed permission. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.