After living all over the world and writing songs for other artists, Ana Diaz has returned to Stockholm to release her own music — a hybrid sound of slow trap and highly personal pop that will keep you listening. We catch up with her as she dives headlong into the new direction her career is taking her
Ana Diaz has a lot on her plate. Since the release of her debut album, Lyssna del 1, in early February, she has done tons of interviews and photoshoots, all while still working as a songwriter and running her own label, WINWIN Recordings. When we meet, it’s in an industrial studio, where one of these many shoots has been going on for at least four hours, and it looks as as though she’ll be there for several more. When she breaks for lunch, I ask what she thinks of the clothes, which at that stage of the shoot means an all-white ready-to-wear outfit. “If I could take this with me, I would,” she says. “I usually just wear black and comfortable clothes. I know what I like, but I have no interest in searching for it.” She enjoys the transformation, but couldn’t imagine the life of a model, being constantly judged by appearance. The relaxed, natural feel of Lee Jeans she wore for The Forumist’s shoot seems a perfect fit for her in more ways than one. “It’s interesting, a different perspective on the music business,” she says while we wait for the photographer to return to the desolate studio.
Diaz has written songs for international artists for years, including Wyclef Jean, Sounwave, Britney Spears and One Direction. She talks about their “sessions”, the meetings with other writers, where their mutual talents fuse together. It can be an intimate moment, writing with a stranger, who is then replaced with a new stranger the next day. It sounds intense.
Diaz has lived in Detroit, London, LA and Seattle, but has now moved back to Stockholm, which she calls “a mother”, a comforting place for her. Does her writing change depending on the city she is living in? “No, I don’t think so. The colleagues change, but I stay the same. I still recognise my own work, although I’m a part of all these different constellations. I’m always good at starting collaborations up,” she says. “Detroit sometimes feels grimey and London can be draining, Seattle is quite peaceful. One thing I love about London, which I don’t see as much of in Stockholm, is the diversity. In London you can hear 13 languages on your way to work in the morning.”
While living in London, Diaz booked visits back to Sweden for writing sessions for her solo work.
The poet Daniel Boyacioglu was one of the main collaborators for what eventually became Lyssna del 1, a pop record with trap elements and revealing lyrics in Swedish. Boyacioglu, who features on the track Simma Själv, has previously released music through Robyn’s label, Konichiwa Records. He’s a talented poet and artist who could be called Sweden’s answer to Saul Williams, the American rapper known for
his blending of poetry and alternative hip-hop. Diaz thinks so, too, and says that boosting Boyacioglu’s music career might be the next item on her to-do list.
Before that can happen, though, there are many things still on the agenda: the follow-up solo album is being finished – shaped by about 12 producers; and she is working on Snow Culture, a duo she has formed with Oskar Sikow, a former member of electro group Kate Boy. Diaz plays a Snow Culture song on her phone and we remark how the Kate Boy sound in the industrial electro pop seems noticeable.
“I think it is Oskar that is noticeable,” she says, encouraging us to listen closely as the track goes in to a Phil Collins-esque guitar solo. “We’re shooting a music video in LA in March and then I’m coming back to Sweden for the release of my second album. After that, Snow Culture will do an EP.”
Diaz describes the work of a songwriter as “being Robin to someone’s Batman”, assisting someone else with your own talents. Ever since she chose to start making music of her own, instead of being the eternal Robin, she has been asked the same question: “What’s it like being known now?” Just because Diaz has stepped into the limelight and put on her Batman suit, it doesn’t mean we know anything about her.
“I am in constant motion, I’m changing all the time,” she says. “No matter how much of me I share, my inner sphere will never be seen by anyone but myself. I could publish a diary and still not be seen for who I really am.”
For her, this recent rise to fame has been a welcome thing. When we speak, she has performed music
from her new album live only three times. She has a few tour dates planned, which include opening for soul songstress Seinabo Sey, and she’s looking forward to it, though she will admit to a little fear mingling with the anticipation. But as she says: “Challenging yourself and doing things you’re afraid of is important.”
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by Oskar Gyllenswärd
Styling by Emma Thorstrand
Hair and Make-up by Lillis Hemmingsson
Special thanks to Lee Jeans
5 Oversized Lee Tank Top with stripes
All items are available at Lee.com