Kimaya Diggs writes music that speaks to the soul. Her lyrics combined with her tone and personal energy bring music that holds you tight and moves you forward. Recently, Kimaya released her first album here at Gateway City Arts. Kimaya is also a teacher, an actor, a writer, a bartender, and more. Recently, Kimaya took some time to answer some questions and share some insight for our blog.
Hi there Kimaya, thank you so so much for taking some time to answer some questions for the GCA Blog! Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been playing music in The Valley?
Hi! I've been playing in the Valley as a solo artist for just under two years, but I've been performing in various groups and projects in the area for at least 20 years. I'm a teaching artist, collaborator, writer, bartender, and wear many other hats.
You are primarily a solo artist these days, what other projects have you performed with?
I grew up doing musical theater in the area, and I toured for several months with the Northern Harmony ensemble, teaching and performing music from around the world. But it all started in my trio with my sisters, when we recorded and toured with our world music act about 15 years ago.
You recently released your album, Breastfed, here at Gateway City Arts. Do you mind telling us about the concept behind this first album?
Breastfed was an exploration of family dynamics in the context of serious illness--how power balances and directions of caregiving shift foundationally during a crisis. Most of the album was written when I was in college, and then recorded by my husband, Jacob Rosazza, at his band's (LuxDeluxe) studio.
What types of themes generally influence your writing?
I prioritize storytelling as a vocalist, so when I write, I'm always searching for a narrative that will carry my voice naturally through its arc. I feel very comfortable blending fact and fiction--I don't by any means think of my songs as concrete accounts of things that have happened to me, rather, my primary goal is to write something that conveys the emotional truth of my experience to my listeners. I am drawn to exploring themes of loneliness, unmoored shifting, grudges, and emotional labor.
What sparked your love for music and writing? Who are some of your musical/artistic role models and inspirations?
I've always written short stories, and I'm really grateful to that genre for shaping and supporting my writing craft. My first gateway into music was Ella Fitzgerald--my parents played her around the house, among so much other music, and I remember being captivated by the horizontal playfulness and the humor she used to support her storytelling--that approach to melody was so inspiring that I think it's inextricable from my own style at this point.
You are also an educator. How has this career influenced your own music? How do these two passions interact?
I think that singing together is the best way to build lasting community. Our culture doesn't have much room for communal singing--there is a huge emphasis on quality of voice, to the point that many of my students (children and adults) are nearly unable to sing, due to fear. Most of them cite a moment when someone in their life told them that they can't sing. My goal as an educator and a performer is to center the story and the connective aspect of music.
I loved your video for 'How am I sposta know?" I found it to be visually lovely and also super empowering. What was the idea behind that?
Thank you! It came to me in a dream! It was lovely to work on--Eleanor Levine filmed it, and my sister Makeda Diggs produced it. Without spelling it out too much, I will say that the story in the video and the lyrics of the song seem to be unrelated, but to me, the emotional center of the song is the same as the emotional center of the story in the video.
You perform in this area and beyond quite a bit, you're performing here on September 8 as part of Rubblebucket's Dream Picnic and you recently opened for Mason Jennings here, it seems like you have been growing and moving at a fast pace since this recent album. Are you writing and recording at all these days?
I'm writing as much as I can, now that my schedule has freed up for the summer, and I'm slowly scheming for the next album...the first one took almost two years to record from start to finish, so the dream is to do the next one live in three days. We shall see...
What other creative endeavors involving you can we look out for? You recently starred in a movie, right?
I did! It was a 70's musical about a vigilante girl gang that takes down a drug lord. It was written and directed by Eleanor, who did my music video. It was super fun. I'll also be in an opera (VLO's "The Gondoliers") in November, going back to my classical training, which I'm so excited about! Throughout the summer and fall, I also update my fb/music inta (@kimayadiggsmusic) with all the other places I'm playing.
If there was a defining characteristic about The Valley's music and art scene what do you think it would be? Do you think there is something unique about this community?
I think there is something unique about Valley's music community, and I think that GCA is a really important part of its future. When I moved back to the area after college, I felt like an island, being a brown woman playing the kind of music I was playing. It's always been difficult to find consistent programming of women, people of color, and music that wasn't tokenizing in the valley, but with GCA in the mix I"m really hopeful for the future.
If your music had a mission statement or mantra attached to it, what do you think it would read?
Uh..."Kimaya Diggs loves singing more than anything, she also makes a lot of jokes. Also the other half of the duo is her husband but she sometimes feels like that would be too gimmicky to say on stage. She loves you."
(Above: Kimaya's video for 'How Am I Sposta Know')
You can catch Kimaya at Rubblebucket's Dream Picnic (Live on Race Street) here at Gateway City Arts on September 8th. Grab your tickets here.
To learn more about Kimaya's music and keep up with her journey, visit her website.
'Like' Kimaya's Music on Facebook.
Follow Kimaya on Instagram and Spotify.