Ahead of the worldwide release of her highly anticipated new album “AgirLnaMeKING”, international Jamaican-born singer/songwriter Diana King talks with Pree Jamaica about what fans can expect from her latest opus, while also giving insights into her musical journey, personal struggles, the therapeutic power of music, touring the world and reconnecting with her original fans in her homeland.
1. The name of your new album is “AgirLnaMeKING”. What inspired this title and when is it scheduled to drop?
“King” has been a nickname since childhood, so I’ve had this name in mind to use for a long time. I am a girl name KING…my real name being Diana King and when I said it out loud “AgirLnaMeKING” about five years ago, I immediately went and bought the website name and the rights to it because I knew this day would come. I believe it has a unique and mystique ring to it.
The release date for the album differs in each territory. For example, it came out in Japan a couple months ago and is doing really well. It will be out in parts of Europe in July, so by October 2011 it will be out worldwide. Since I am now recording on my own label [ThinkLikeAgirL Music Inc.] launched October 2010, and am the owner of all my intellectual properties, I can do whatever I want. For now, it’s all digital so it’s easier to control the release dates in each country, continent or region.
2. What can fans expect from the new album?
I’m bringing the same ingredients that made them love me in the first place. I continue to stay true to myself. A smooth brew of R&B/Soul and Dance seasoned with Reggae and my Jamaican dialect. The only difference this time is, I wrote and produced all the songs myself. It’s all me. I do believe as an artist, if it’s not broke, leave it alone. Improve on it but never do a 360º.
My style has made me a standout artist. Most artist sound like someone else, but I don’t believe I do. It’s great not to have to worry about competing in this way and I take pride in that. There’s no disappointment with these imperfectly perfect songs. I’m very proud of them. I’m still learning but I can only get better at it.
3. What will the new album reflect in terms of where Diana King is today as an artist and a person?
My songs always echo where I’m at in my life or in my head. “Tenderness”, “L-L-Lies” and “Love Triangle”…you can always tell what’s going on. I woke up one day and couldn’t walk. After months of tests, I was diagnosed with MS [Multiple Sclerosis]. I thought my life was over. I felt dead inside, just still breathing.
After a long while, I became upset with myself for allowing this disease to make me feel so down and unlike myself and I needed to feel better. I had to change my attitude. So I wrote “Warrior Gurl”, which is about strength…and it worked, so I kept going. I literally healed myself song by song without taking one pill. I know music affects people’s mood and vibes. And your state of mind, your outlook and how you feel dictates your life and what you may be going through so I consciously do one thing – I write and sings songs that make you feel good and uplifted. Songs that everyone from one to one hundred years old from every class and creed can listen to, bounce to and relate to in some way.
Though I’d love it, I don’t focus on it being a hit. My aim is to bring people closer who would not normally come together. I want them to dance and sing together and have yet another thing in common…”ME”…Music is the cure and I’m right where I need to be. I’m a part of the healing.
4. What influenced your decision to release much of the new material on this album in Japan first?
I love all my fans all over the world. There’s no me without them, but Japan was the first country to embrace me internationally. I’ve toured there every year for the past 15 years, even when I did not have a current hit or new release to always sell out shows. They are organic fans, the ones you never lose or want to lose. It was the least I could do to show my love and appreciation.
Another big reason was that Warner Music Japan was the most excited about my new songs when I sent them out to be reviewed by different labels. They loved them immediately and supported me being independent and wanted to be apart of it. It goes straight to the heart when you are respected and appreciated like this. So through a licensing deal with WMJ, I launch my own label ThinkLikeAgirL Music Inc. late last year. This is a dream for many artists like me. To own and have total rights and control of the music you write, sing and or produce.
5. Given your huge fan-base in Japan, how has the recent tragedy of the earthquake there affected you?
It’s been more than hard to watch everything unfold. My heart goes out to all who were directly affected. Everyone I know personally is alright. It’s been a massive blow to the country, the people and their economy. There have been many events for their cause, but I have not been over there since the calamity. I did a song “Shima-uta” (Beautiful Island) exclusively for the Japanese…it has been included on the album released there. You can listen to it on my reverberation page. I have not been called to task as yet, so for now I’m ready waiting.
6. What are your plans in support the album?
A tour for sure, which may include a mixture of live band performances, radio interviews and TV appearances and some necessary track dates. I started mid-June in Europe. So far I’ve done Switzerland and Dubai…I’m on my way to Paris, Moscow and Hungary. I feel I’ll be doing that for a bit all over the world, especially because it’s been a few years since the last album and my fans are longing to see me.
It’s always a bit like starting over with each new album I release because so far they have come at least 3-5 years apart, but I love it. It gets easier mentally when you’ve been there before, but it’s always hard work and much harder now that I am in charge and do not have the machinery of the big labels. Still, I’m grateful I have the stamina and that people come out to see me every time, everywhere.
7. You recently recorded/released a song with Andru Donalds. How did that come about and is it on the album?
The song “Sorry” with Andru Donalds is actually not new at all. We did it years ago when I was with Madonna’s label, Warner Music “Maverick” label, and he was with Virgin Records, but the song was never released. I decided recently to put it up on my Reverbnation page to see what the response would be and it’s been unbelievable. And now that we are both independent artists, I plan to release it as soon as possible on an EP of collabo’s I have done with fellow local artists like Tessanne Chin and Marcia Griffiths. I guess this song proves that good music never sounds old.
8. Which other fellow Jamaican artists would you like to collaborate with?
I’d love to write and sing with Tarrus, Sean…As I mentioned before, I have already done a song with Tessanne, which we wrote together. I also have much love and admiration for Tanya Stephens and would love to collab. I think she’s a genius. The list is short…I’m afraid it’s very hard to impress me. I’m a lot like Simon on American Idol and Anthony on Rising Stars, but I feel I could contribute greatly as a producer. I am told I bring out the best in people.
9. You recently had the opportunity to reconnect with your Jamaican audience at the Babyface show in Kingston (November 2010) and Jazzfest (January 2011). How was the overall experience for you?
It’s always a pleasure to come home, especially when I get to sing and perform for my original fans. It was actually much much more than I expected. I have travelled the world and to date “my people” are the hardest to please, so I was very nervous even after all these years. But as soon as I hit the stage at both shows, I could feel the love energy, so I just let it wrap me up. I was in the flow and it was magic.
10. What’s the next major move for Diana King?
I’m afraid I’m a bit superstitious and never say what I’m up to, but life is an adventure and has been full of surprises. To think I wanted to become a doctor, but then again music heals, so there you have it. I’ve always liked it that way, the not knowing. They say our dreams are not half as big as what could really be and that when you say this way the universe says that way…so I’m open to all that can happen in a great way. Most times I feel like I’m being led and I trust that feeling and I follow it wherever it leads. That’s the most “major” thing a person could ever do. Follow your heart, doing the thing that you love.