It began as a regular day in early September and then I heard something on the radio that resulted in the discovery of one of my favorite albums of the year. Nashville-based singer-songwriter Madi Diaz was being interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered and was talking about her new album “History Of A Feeling.”

Diaz is opening a pair of sold-out shows for red-hot folk band Caamp next week at the State Theatre. First off, if you’re desperate to catch one of the shows, keep an eye on the State website and social media as sometimes last minute tickets get released. And to those of you who already have them, be sure to arrive on time because you don’t want to miss Diaz’s set. She’ll also be embarking on her own headlining tour next year, and I’ll do everything in my power to manifest a Maine stop.

During the conversation on NPR, snippets of the songs “New Person, Old Place,” “Nervous” and “Woman In My Heart” were played. I had absolutely no idea who Diaz was but made sure to remember her name because I was so struck by her vocals and lyrics. Later that day and for several that followed, I streamed the album countless times. A few weeks later, I bought it on vinyl at Bull Moose.

There’s something acutely authentic when an artist opens a vein and lets their truth, which is more often than not painful, flow freely into their music. It’s why I’m such a massive fan of Allison Russell’s “Outside Child” and Roan Yellowthorn’s “Another Life,” both also released this year.

“History Of A Feeling” is Diaz’s first album in seven years, and I spoke with her from her Tennessee home about it. The first thing I did was compare the album to Tori Amos’s 1992 “Little Earthquakes.” Diaz was hugely flattered by this. “I am so in awe of Tori’s career and who she is and what she represents,” she said.

Diaz was born in Connecticut and grew up in Pennsylvania. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and has been releasing music since 2007. She said that, since the release of “History Of A Feeling” in August, there’s been more movement in her career than there had been in the past five years, calling it “a wonderful tidal wave.”

The central thread running through the album is the heartache Diaz experienced during a breakup a couple of years ago. The song “New Person Old Place” is an example, with these lines: “You used to be able to dictate each feeling inside my head/Drag me through every trauma over and over again/Cause if I was crazy then I’d still be yours, I’d always come back/You used to be able to, now you don’t do that.” Then there’s “Crying In Public” which paints one of the most heart-rending portraits of heartbreak you’ll ever hear.

On her website, Diaz said she tried to visualize her feelings once the pain and loss she experienced wasn’t so fresh. “I thought maybe if I visualized it, and if I sang about it, I could talk myself into healing.” When I asked her if this had worked, Diaz said 100% and that it’s essential that she is able to stay emotionally connected to the songs. “With all these songs I made sure from start to finish that it was gonna be there.”

Halfway through the album, you’ll come to “Think Of Me,” which recalls the palpable angst of DiFranco’s “Untouchable Face,” in both sentiment and expletive-laced refrain. “It made me laugh out loud the first time I played it, everybody was screaming by the time it finished,” said Diaz about it.

Diaz co-produced the album with Andrew Sarlo in the fall of 2019, and the mixing process took another six months. Another nine months went by before she struck a deal with the label Anti- to release it, and in the midst of all this, the pandemic happened. “It’s just like the biggest, longest trust fall,” said Diaz about the timeline.

I asked Diaz what her favorite track on the album currently was, and she chose the last one, “Do it Now,” because of the melody she describes as being “big and unrelenting.” She’ll get no argument from me as the piano-based tune cuts to the quick: “I’ve never not been good at beginnings, good at undressing, better at feeling, better at trusting / I’ve never not been, all of a sudden all of me shutting down.”

Over the course of the album’s 11 tracks, you’ll hear a quiet acoustic guitar, a fierce electric one and a piano. But the real star of “History Of A Feeling” is Diaz’s blistering honesty and vocals that are sometimes tender and sometimes ferocious. You can make out every word, and with an album that wields words like swords and also hands them out like peace lilies, it makes for an extraordinary listening experience.

Diaz visited Maine a number of times as a child when her father took her and her brother camping in his Volkswagen camper van. Although she couldn’t recall the exact spot, she raved about how gorgeous the state is. She’s very much looking forward to spending a few days in Portland.

Caamp with Madi Diaz
8 p.m. Dec. 7 & 8. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $30 in advance, $35 day of show, $55 two-day pass. SOLD OUT. statetheatreportland.com


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