Versatile Songwriter Mark Diamond Elucidates the Unspoken Magic of the "Hummingbird" [Q&A]
Photo: Aleigh Michelle
Seattle-native Mark Diamond is fascinated with hummingbirds. After his project Hummingbird One was released earlier this year, he dropped a bright track a few months later named after the majestic fluttery bird. Now, he has a music video that reflects the glittering haze of the winged beauty.
"Hummingbird" is a new mood for the singer, who finds himself typically falling under more somber, acoustic sounds. The track is filled with falsetto, upbeat percussion, and funky electronics. The video for the track is submerged in pastel colors, with dancers clad in luminescent outfits and Diamond in a Pharrell-esque hat. His nonchalant expressions adds an extra wave of playfulness to the upbeat track – a serious attitude contrasting with the light-hearted tune, showcasing the artist's more comical side.
“Hummingbird" is hard not to love and the video makes the track that much better.
We had a chance to talk with Diamond about moving to LA from Seattle, the meaning behind his newest song, and more.
OTW: So you've been making music for a long time, with songs on Spotify dating back to 2013 and 2014. Could you describe your journey moving from then to the release of your recent EP Hummingbird One and now your track "Hummingbird"?
Mark Diamond: Yeah, I know it’s crazy to think that I was kind of putting stuff out in 2013 that was kind of at that point where I was like, "Okay, I’m going to give this every possible thing I have." I had always loved music my whole life, but it’s kind of a realization that I had like, even a week ago, I was with a friend of mine and it kinda dawned on me that pretty much nothing in my life on a musical standpoint has gone as I planned it or as I thought it was going to. But yet here I am, and I’m making music, and I’m absolutely loving the journey and having the best time. So that’s like, I feel like the best way to sum up my life as an artist, as a songwriter, and as a singer. I feel like I’ve been very lucky.
I’ve definitely put in loads and loads of time, like everyone does who starts to get a bit of success from it. I continue forward with this, and need to expect the unexpected sort of thing and go into it with my eyes open. It’s funny, it’s just the way it all comes together and in hindsight, I’ve kind of been a bit more reflective. I feel like the past couple weeks actually I've been thinking about it all ,and I’m very excited for what’s to come.
OTW: How did moving to LA from Seattle impact the way you tackled your music creating process?
Mark Diamond: It has on a major level. I feel like I’m always going to be a bit more of an emotional Seattle songwriter. I think that’s always going to be home base for me. Not necessarily Seattle specifically, but that sort of mentality when it comes to writing songs. I think I tend to dig deeper into the emotional side. I think moving to California has taught me that it’s important as a writer and a creative person to not have a routine. It’s important to kind of write when you’re inspired. For me personally, I don’t write when it’s forced and I’ve definitely been inspired here in a lot of different ways at both good and bad at times. I am inspired here because it’s a beautiful place to be, in Los Angeles. For the first time in my life I kind of have a community of people around me, and I feel like things have been kicking off.
At the same time, being away from Seattle, I have this feeling, there’s like a sense of emptiness a little bit being away from Seattle and all of that. It's definitely influencing and encouraging me to write some special songs right now. I mean location in general, whether it be a move from Seattle to LA or Seattle to Cincinnati. It’s like you’re going to feel new things, and in turn, as a writer, and as a songwriter specifically, you’re gonna want to get that out because otherwise it’s just going to kind of build up.
OTW: I saw you tweeted a picture of one of the dancers from the "Hummingbird" video with the caption, "Hummingbirds are referred to as glittering fragments of the rainbow." Do hummingbirds hold any symbolism or deeper meaning to you?
Mark Diamond: Yeah, it’s a lot deeper than that. I think it all started with this idea, maybe more and more of a question really that I started asking, because I’ve always loved hummingbirds, but I kind of was looking at a hummingbird and had this ridiculous idea like - "Oh, I wonder if the flower gets sad when the hummingbird leaves." And it’s kinda like, "Ph, that’s a stupid thought," and then you just stop thinking that for a second. And I was like, well, wait a minute, you know, how did I feel in my life when I felt stuck and, someone came into my life, and kind of took what they needed and then left. They kind of flew away on a literal standpoint. They got on a plane and left, and it didn’t feel too good.
So how does that flower feel? Here’s this flower that has potential and so much to offer the world, but yet it’s stuck and, well, does the flower actually feel stuck? Does the flower feel content with where it’s at? … I’m kind of relating myself to the flower and relating hummingbird to the previous relationship I was in with this girl, and then kind of trying to just work through these things. It was a way for me to tell a story without it saying, "Hey, look, this is me." It’s still my story, but I’m telling it through the lens of something else, which makes it easier to tell my story.
I'm more willing to be honest about the story because at times I can be this honest because I’m playing this character. It’s a little bit roundabout, and it's still me being a hundred percent honest, but it’s just a way in my head to make it feel a bit more freeing to tell a story through a different light. I love hummingbirds. I feel like there’s this unspoken magic about hummingbirds. They’re quite mysterious. They’re special, and they kind of follow me around everywhere, but it’s sort of one of those things, it’s like once you think about them all the time, you start noticing them places. They’re very special creatures.
OTW: What does that track "Hummingbird" mean to you?
Mark Diamond: It's freedom to me. As a writer, I think I blocked myself into a kind of sadder acoustic sound. And I love that, that’s who I am. And this track is just a different side of me. It’s not necessarily a different side of who I want to be, it’s literally a side of who I currently am. We made the song in London and when we started playing the chords, I just started laughing. Myself and the producer just started laughing because we were like, "What is this?" We had been working on all these other songs that were around this idea of hummingbird, and I just started singing, it was like, this is so funny that it just came together. We were in London wrapping up some songs, and this song just kind of appeared. We weren’t necessarily looking for it, and when we first started I was like, "I’m not going to show anybody at the label this because it’s like a joke, like singing in falsetto the whole song pretty much." I think that’s why I also fell in love with it cause it was like this self-expression right now. This is how I feel. It’s a story of heartbreak, confusion, and frustration, but at the end of the day it has to be okay. It’s not anything to be sad about, it’s something to maybe celebrate and say, "Look, yeah, things didn’t work out." It was just a moment. But that moment was all we needed.
OTW: What was going on in your head when making the video for the track, and did you have a big picture vision that you wanted to portray to further its meaning?
Mark Diamond: Yeah, I was lucky enough to have some really awesome dancers who kind of represented hummingbird in that way, with what they’re wearing; it was that glittery sort of vibe. When you see a hummingbird, and you see a picture of a hummingbird up close, they do have this glittering effect to them. As far as the idea and the concept of the video that was all put together by myself, and the director, we kind of put this together with loads of other people, like the amazing set designer, the whole team, who were absolutely killer.
The idea for me was more like, I want to show you that I’ll be the first person to make fun of myself. I’ll be the first person to not take myself too seriously. At times I have taken my career so seriously to the point that it has lost a bit of its fun. I think the most important thing is the balance of it. I wrote a song like two weeks ago that is probably one of the most emotional songs I’ve ever written, and I just played it the other nigh at my first headlining show at Hotel Cafe, and I craved the difference, that contrast, between a song like hummingbird and then an acoustic song. I think both are needed.
And the wardrobe for this music video, was put by myself, which was a fun thing. It was a bit nerve wracking. I realized that it was a bit harder to do, and I understand why you pay other people to do things like that, but I gave it a shot and it worked out really well. I lucked out on cool pieces.
OTW: Did you have any particular impact in mind for listeners to pick up?
Mark Diamond: Yeah, I think I wanted people to just kind of see who I am. That’s separate just from the song, it’s like as a whole, I kind of want them to see my personality, and this video feels like it shows my personality. I like having a good laugh. I like having a good time, but at the end of the day, the song is still very meaningful. If you listen to the lyrics, it is an emotional song. It is about heartbreak, it is that whole story. It was wrapped up in a way where it’s like all of this is true, but yet it has to be okay, and that’s kind of just a personality. That’s who I am. And overall impact, I would say is, I think this video is really balancing on this line between people won’t know if I’m being serious or not at certain points, and that’s what I love. I kind of love playing with people’s emotions a bit, where they’re like, "Wait a minute, is he being serious or is he just being funny?"
OTW: Tell us a little bit about what you're working on right now.
Mark Diamond: We have loads of songs right now that are ready to go. I’m just making sure that we surround it with all the fuel that it needs and proper content for me to tell the story to the best of my ability, and then beyond that. To be completely honest, I’m already writing for what comes after this. We have an album’s worth of material done and there’s lots ahead.
I’ve just been writing the last couple of weeks and kind of made the decision that every night on tour I’m going to be playing these songs. I think when I did that at the Hotel Cafe, a lot of people connected with one song in particular. I kind of like the thing where it’s like, if you want to hear it, you gotta be there for it because it’s kind of special. I'll just hopefully hit the road here soon and just start playing these songs and then unreleased songs and see how people feel and what they connect with.
OTW: Would you mind sharing one thing that fans might not know about you?
Mark Diamond: That’s a tricky one, especially in today’s current climate of social media and everybody knowing everything. I would say my like go to and would be that I would say, is I absolutely love playing golf, but I’m pretty sure at this point everybody knows that because I talk about that all the time. I don’t know how to swim, maybe that’s a good fun fact. I’m a horrible swimmer. I hope people still listen to my music knowing that. If I’m in a pool like, okay, cool, that’s alright, I’ll be okay, no big deal. But if you were to drop me in a lake, I probably wouldn’t make it out.
OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?
Mark Diamond: Who I’ve been listening to a ton actually, I’ve been listening to Matt Corby a lot. I'm a big fan of Matt Corby and also Shawn Mendes, I love him, I really do.
Stay tuned for new releases from the growing singer/songwriter, and jam to other releases from Diamond while you wait.