🏙 PART 1: DIANE BADIE AND NEW YORK CITY 🌇
On the last day of January 2006, I moved to New York. I had no concrete plan of what I was going to do in America but I arrived at JFK with my guitar and a conviction that I would somehow find musicians to collaborate with.
New York City welcomed me into her arms the way only New York City can – within three months of my arrival, I had caught pneumonia and food poisoning, and had been held up at gunpoint outside my Brooklyn apartment. But during those same three months, I also met Diane Badie, who was to have a quietly profound influence on my musical direction for many years to come.
I first met Diane at The Cornerstone, a weekly open-mic held at the New York City Bahá’í Centre and hosted by the ever-encouraging Nasan Fitzhenley, who had a knack for making every songwriter, poet, and local-crazy-who-wandered-in-off-the-street feel good about what they had to offer (even when everyone else in the room didn’t). Diane was a regular contributor at The Cornerstone, singing her favourite songs across multiple genres and reciting her original poems to the delight of an expanding group of participants.
The Cornerstone became the centre around which I built my whole routine in New York and after a few weeks of sharing my songs there, Diane suggested singing something together. It was clear that our voices blended well and we soon found ourselves singing together regularly around the New York open-mic scene.
Around that time I was making my first attempts at setting the Bahá’í Writings to music but it was something I considered as no more than a personal hobby, an ‘exercise in songwriting’ to be done on the side (surely, it wasn’t ‘serious’ music, was it?). But Diane had grown up singing the Bahá’í Writings. Far from being a mere exercise, for her it was natural and rewarding to make melodies for the words and she encouraged me to do more of it. So I chose a few prayers and started making songs with them. Create in Me a Pure Heart arrived one day not long after the mugging. Sorrow Not and The Light of Unity came too. But more and more, I found that the majority of songs were emerging as duets – with Diane’s voice in mind.
Diane was hosting a regular Sunday morning devotional gathering at the Bahá’í Centre and she invited me to come along and sing some of the new songs there. It was largely through singing with Diane at her Sunday devotional that I realized I wanted to spend more time making songs with the Bahá’í Writings.
Every album begins with the songs and the songs on Year of the Nightingale began with Diane. Were it not for her gentle encouragement to continue setting the Writings to music and her unconditional willingness to listen attentively every time I had a new melody and help me work out the harmonies without the slightest complaint, I might never have placed so much focus on singing the Bahá’í Writings.
11 years later and almost every song on Year of the Nightingale features Diane’s soulful voice. It feels like a special gift to have finally recorded the songs we used to sing together on Sunday mornings at the New York City Bahá’í Centre.
To hear Diane’s beautiful vocals, check out Lesser Pieces, her new project with my brother Mike. They have an amazing album in the works and you can hear their first two singles on YouTube: youtu.be/PtXDeDAeu9w and Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/lesser-pieces/you-and-i-no-emergency