Diane Birch makes waves with ‘Valentino’ 

There’s justice in the fickle rock world. “Bible Belt” — the overlooked 2009 debut from old-school R&B singer Diane Birch — is finally getting noticed, thanks to the funky new hit single/video “Valentino” plus the keyboardist’s recent tour opening for Nick Jonas. Stardom befits the Michigan-born Birch’s world-traveler status. With her preacher father, she moved to exotic places such as Zimbabwe, Sydney and South Africa as a kid, learning piano via the Suzuki Method.
 
So no matter where you lived, no secular music was allowed in the house? Not really. And I didn’t know any different, so for me it was totally normal to sit and watch the grass grow. And if you don’t know any different, you’re really satisfied with simple things. I had a turtle and pet silkworms in a little shoebox with mulberry leaves, and they’d spin cocoons. Now, looking back, I realize I was actually bored a lot of the time.

So of course you snuck records in. What was your first successful contraband? I can’t remember. But I was into goth music; I went through that phase. And I was a really killer goth, I must say. I wore wedding dresses, wigs and I fanned myself all the time. I had a parasol, never went out in the sun, wore nothing but black lipstick and MAC white face powder, and listened to Bauhaus, The Cure and Sisters of Mercy. I was pretty hardcore.
 
How did you hide this from your folks? I have a song called “Don’t Wait Up,” inspired by how I’d sort of get ready before I’d leave, but then I’d do even more intense makeup once I was out of the house. But my parents would sometimes wait up for me when I’d come back, so I’d be like, “Don’t, because you’re going to freak out!” But once they found my Christian Death albums, it didn’t go down too well.
 
Why didn’t you play goth music yourself? The goth thing was so fun and incredibly outlandish, at one point I started looking like a drag queen. But I was a really eccentric child — still am, really — and I didn’t stay in one phase for too long.
 
Who is this “Valentino”? Valentino was my lover from a former life in the 18th century. And I strongly believe that I was misplaced in this era; I wasn’t made for these times.
 
But your look today is almost 1920s, right? I went through that phase too! I had the Louise Brooks haircut and everything!


IF YOU GO
Diane Birch

Where:
The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $20
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketweb.com

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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