For singer-songwriter Diana DeMuth, one of the highlights of her young career was to open last year for The Lumineers at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
It was late February, and the first of many shows DeMuth was scheduled to perform in as part of The Lumineers 2020 North American tour.
“The show went really well, and we just had a blast,” DeMuth recalled.
“And two weeks later, we were all in lockdown.”
A career in the creative or performing arts is a perpetual emotional rollercoaster, but this twist of fate was particularly deflating for the young musician.
It was one-part serendipity, two-parts pure gumption that DeMuth ended up not just opening for The Lumineers, but working with one of her musical idols, Simone Felice— although she didn’t know him when she approached the producer about collaborating.
DeMuth grew up in western Massachusetts, with James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt, Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell records always spinning in the house. But she counts more contemporary acts as having the biggest impact on her musical career.
“I was living in Los Angeles at the time, listening to albums by The Lumineers and Jade Bird, and I was on my way to this restaurant job I had at 7am one morning, listening to [Jade Bird’s EP] Something American in my car, and I said to myself, ‘whoever produced this record, I’m supposed to make music with this person.’”
That person turned out to be Felice, who is not just one of the founding members of the beloved rock outfit The Felice Brothers, but also the producer on a dozen albums for the likes of The Lumineers, Jade Bird, Bats for Lashes, and Vance Joy.
She pulled off to the side of the road, on that fateful morning sitting in LA traffic on her way to work, took out her cell phone, and sent Felice an email right then and there. “I never thought he’d respond,” DeMuth admits.
“Actually, he didn’t respond, so I sent him another email. Knowing him now, it’s a miracle he ever responded,” she laughs.
Fast forward a couple of months later and DeMuth found herself flying to JFK airport in New York, meeting Felice in person for the first time and heading upstate in the back of his Volvo to record her first album, Misadventure, at the studio in the Catskill Mountains he shares with close-friend and producer/arranger David Baron.
“I had this idea for the album that I wanted to make, and I wanted somebody to help me bring this record to life. Listening to all my favorite artists and realizing that Simone was one of the co-creators behind a lot of them— he’s such a big part of my process now.”
DeMuth quickly fell in love with the region (she’s now taken up permanent residence in the Woodstock-area), and was enamored with the effects that the increased exposure to nature had on her songwriting.
“We’re always recording when we go into the studio, and we’ll do a couple of takes and go outside, and the studio’s up on this mountain overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir, and it’s beautiful. We wrote ‘Photographs’ in eight minutes after jumping into the creek one summer, and it came out of nowhere. It’s my favorite way to write. I used to write in my car, driving around Los Angeles, but being upstate and having the mental space, and time, and also the physical space, is so healthy for the creative process.”
After recording Misadventure, DeMuth was invited to open for The Lumineers. She performed the one and only show in February of last year, just days before the tour was cancelled. It was a bit crushing for someone who is unequivocal when it comes to her motivations as an artist. “I want to go out and play bigger and bigger and bigger shows. That’s my goal in life, to do this as big as I can. Whatever that ends up being or meaning, that’s what it is, but that’s my journey. Very intentionally being like, this is what I want to do, this is it.”
With no live shows to perform, the lockdown allowed DeMuth to find other ways for creative expression, so earlier this year, she filmed her newest music video for her song ‘Photographs,’ the fourth single off Misadventure, at the newly renovated Park Theater in Hudson.
“We wanted an intimate feeling space,” DeMuth explained. “I walked in with my director, Nick [Bell], and we knew right away.” (Bell is the creative director for The Lumineers, having directed several videos for them and designed artwork for the band).
Next week, she’ll be returning to Park Theater to perform her first live show in over a year, opening for Mikaela Davis and her band.
DeMuth knows that there’s a certain kind of audience in Hudson, one that has perhaps a deeper appreciation for the performing arts than in other places. “The first time I visited Hudson was semi-recently, about six months ago. Simone kept telling me to check it out, and finally I came and I love it here.”
On what makes Hudson so unique, DeMuth said that it’s “a cross between the things I love about being upstate, but it’s got a real city vibe to it, too- there’s stuff going on, and the restaurants, the bars, the shops, it all feels so alive. Getting to perform for Hudson, it’s such a creative place and that’s part of the energy here.”
Shanan Magee, the owner of Park Theater, agrees with that sentiment. “What Diana represents, where she comes from, what she sings— it’s about making statements, big, broad, bold statements. This whole project, putting on these live shows, is about facilitating dreams and giving back to the community around me.”
“I really suck at everything else other than music,” DeMuth laughs. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever known where, this is just what I want to do. But at the same time, you have to wake up every day and make the decision that you want to do it. It becomes a very intentional manifestation of your dreams.”
Most of all, she’s just happy to be in front of a live audience again.
“It’s going to be nice to play for faces again, not just my bedroom wall.”
Diana DeMuth plays at Park Theater Hudson’s upcoming ‘Second Saturday Sessions’ on Saturday, June 12, starting at 7pm. The show is free and is being held outdoors at 723 Warren St. in Hudson, NY. She’s opening for Mikaela Davis. Find Diana DeMuth online, and on Spotify and YouTube
Words and photography by Alexandre J. Petraglia— President, Hudson Business Coalition, Inc., and Founder, Hudson City Digital