Art Maker: KimayaDiggs, singer-songwriter

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  • Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs, seen here in her Easthampton home, says that though creating music “is beautiful and important, the process itself can be irreverent and lighthearted.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs, seen here in her Easthampton home, says that though creating music “is beautiful and important, the process itself can be irreverent and lighthearted.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs, seen here in her Easthampton home, says that though creating music “is beautiful and important, the process itself can be irreverent and lighthearted.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Diggs played classical piano ands cello as she was growing up and has since added guitar to her repertoire. But she calls singing her first musical love. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Diggs played classical piano ands cello as she was growing up and has since added guitar to her repertoire. But she calls singing her first muscial love. Photo by Hannah Rose Photography LLC

Published: 11/7/2019 3:31:35 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 3:31:24 PM

Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs of Easthampton released her first album, “Breastfed,” last year, a disc that features dreamy folk- and jazz-flavored tunes built around acoustic guitar and some cello, rich vocals and harmonies and what the singer calls “a bittersweet chronicle of growth toward the light.” She also sings pretty impressively in French on the track “Je t’aime.”

Diggs, who also teaches music, works to put her own work in perspective as well. “I try not to take my creative process too seriously. When I do, that’s when I get stuck. It helps to remind myself that, while creating music is beautiful and important, the process itself can be irreverent and lighthearted. I get the most meaning out of difficult situations by allowing myself to find humor where it exists, and typically that gets me back on track.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Kimaya Diggs: I’m currently preparing to record my second album this winter! At the moment, it’s all logistics — solidifying arrangements, making budget projections, and laying the groundwork to help the process go smoothly. It will be quite different from my first album, and I’m really excited to share it when it’s done!

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

KD: I have a lot of houseplants, and lately I’ve been quite inspired by them. I love how they grow so wild during the summer, then pause during the winter, maybe lose some leaves, just gathering what they need for the next year of growth. I find that cycle so inspiring and reassuring to witness. It feels like my own life cycle, reflected back at me.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

KD: My favorite thing about songwriting is storytelling, and I love recording because it’s a chance to deepen the story. In the 15 years before I started writing songs, I was writing stories, and I’ve always enjoyed finding a story’s boundaries. Often, that involves pushing past where the story should end, and then being willing to get rid the excess, even if that means cutting something I love. It’s not easy, but it is very satisfying.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

KD: In recent years, I have been loving Lianne La Havas. She is an amazing guitarist, and her playing has really inspired me to give my playing more time and dedicated attention. I also love Joni Mitchell because most popular music right now that’s sung by women is very earthy and strident, and her voice, high and light, reminds me that there is still great power and emotional depth in a voice that’s more like air than earth.

HL: What’s the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you’ve attended and enjoyed?

KD: I saw Christelle Bofale in Boston a few weeks ago and was so moved. The Valley can be a difficult place to navigate when you are a non-white, non-male musician, so it was a really special experience to see a young Black woman playing guitar. It was kind of a relief, remembering that the world is wide, and that there is a community of peers out there, even if they’re far away.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

KD: I think I would be a couples’ therapist or an event planner. I really enjoy high-stakes work, and improvising when unexpected things come up!

HL: Dream dinner party — who would you invite?

KD: I would invite Jane Fonda, Solange, and my grandmother Beryl. If I could invite ghosts, I would invite Ella Fitzgerald and Keely Smith.

HL: What’s your go-to snack while you’re working?

KD: I love snacks!!! Pickles. Salt & vinegar chips. A plain tortilla rolled into a tube. Carrots. A coffee mug of sauerkraut and a fork! Basically anything salty, fermented, or pickled. My microbiome is probably in good shape.

— Steve Pfarrer

Kimaya Diggs will open for Ona Canoa at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and additional information can be found at sheatheater.org. Diggs also plays Progression Brewing Co. in Northampton Nov. 23 at 2:30 p.m. Her website is kimayadiggs.com.




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