Interview: Brendt Thomas Diabo
Influenced and Inspired by His Musical Icons
Born and raised on the Mohawk Reserve of Kahnawake just outside of Montreal, Quebec, emerging artist Brendt Thomas Diabo’s music is an infusion of old-time country, rockabilly and blues. Brendt has independently released numerous singles, an EP, is set to release another this year, has airplay on various radio stations and has also been making his mark touring continuously throughout Quebec, Ontario and New York. His most recent career highlight was opening for GRAMMY-winning band, The Kentucky Headhunters playing to a sold-out show on the very Reserve he grew up on. His latest EP “Something’s Gonna Change, Something’s Gotta Give” can be downloaded via iTunes. Currently putting the finishing touches on his next album, keep an eye out for it to be released in the coming months.
SoCalMusicToday.com’s Harriet Kaplan interviewed Brendt Thomas Diabo about how his career begun, writing songs, his influences, latest projects, making videos, playing live and performing at Bordenwoodstock.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a singer/songwriter?
I think my interest in songwriting peaked when I was about 21. I played in a lot of angst teenage punk rock and heavy metal bands from about 16-20, and I always had a lot of creative input in our writing process. It wasn’t until I went out on my own as a solo musician that I decided to start singing and writing all of my own lyrical content.
Do you come from a musical family?
Not really. I mean my father used to play guitar in a couple of bar bands when I was growing up. I was too young to get into the venues he’d play at. So there were always guitars laying around the house, and he had a pretty decent record collection that I would steal albums out of from time to time.
Your sound is influenced by Johnny Cash and Elvis. Are they your biggest influences and why? Are there more you draw upon?
Well when people ask me what type of music I play, Johnny Cash and Elvis are my go to as a reference because they’re the most common musical icons in rockabilly and country music that everyone knows. They were huge influences on me when I was first trying to hone my sound. Nowadays, I draw a lot of influence from people like Steve Earle. I think he’s one of the best singer/songwriters still working today.
What inspires or informs your lyrics?
I’ve been told by my peers and other songwriters that you should write about what you know and know well. And, I don’t mean to sound sappy, but love and heartbreak are always a go to topic for me (for many songwriters I would think). It’s something we’ve all experienced at one time or another. I also write about the places I’ve lived and the surroundings that come along with them.
Do you enjoy recording music as much as playing live? Or do you have a preference and why?
I enjoy both, but they each have their pros and cons. Being in the studio is really meticulous, costly, time consuming and can become frustrating, but when you get the finished product and it sounds just the way you wanted, it’s all worthwhile. When I’m playing live with my band, and we get really in the groove, the crowd is having a good time and people are dancing… the amazing energy in that moment is my favorite thing about playing music.
How much creative input do you have into making your videos?
I recently shot a live video for the lead single off of my new EP coming out this summer. The song is called “Coming Back Home To You.” I had most of the creative input during that shoot. We shot on location at one of the bars I frequently play at in Toronto called Amico’s.
The current album you have coming out is it different thematically from your other releases?
This new album has a variety of songs that touch on the topics like love, heartbreak and my hometown. Thematically I think it stays true to the topics I’ve always touched on, but this album is definitely more mature and seasoned lyrically and musically than any of my previous records. I would say that this album is truly me coming into my own as a songwriter and musician. I had a great team of people that helped me pull off this album, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. I can’t wait to share this new album with everyone.
How did you get involved in performing at the upcoming Pan Am Games in July?
The Pan Am Games gig came about through the Indigenous arts community here in Toronto. Word traveled through the grapevine about my music and what I was doing around the city and I landed the gig! I’m very excited about the event and look forward to sharing the bill with Crystal Shawanda at the Aboriginal Pavilion on Sunday, July 26.
You also performed at Bordenwoodstock? What was that experience like?
Bordenwoodstock was great. I met the owner/organizer of the festival Phillip Blundell at a gig I play frequently in Toronto called The White Elephant. He enjoyed the style of music I was playing and asked if myself and my band would be interested in driving up for the weekend and playing the fest. We did and it was great, very laid back vibe in cottage country. Phil puts on the event every year hosting the local community for good times and good music. We would love to play it again next year!