Diana Upton-Hill is a versatile performer who began singing with her dad’s band and performing solos for school and church concerts at a young age. She is also an accomplished theater actor who has performed in productions of Beauty and The Beast, and Miss Saigon. Now, Diana's career has taken a new path to country music. She recently released her debut country EP, Do Love Well, as well as the single of the same name. Diana took some time during her radio tour to talk about the album, the single and more.
You have been involved with music since a young age. Did you always know that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
My parents were both very much into music. My dad was a performer and DJ and my mom was a music lover. There was always music on in the house! In seemed like we had all of the music you could ever want! I listened to everything from Pat Benatar to Ozzy Osborne to Madonna. We also listened to singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, John Denver, and Joan Baez; and in country there was Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton among others. Listening to such a wide variety really helped me appreciate all genres of music.
My parents were really supportive of me pursuing music when I was growing up, whether I was playing the flute or singing at church. There was never any question in my mind that music wasn’t an option for me.
Prior to being involved with country music, you performed in a lot of musicals as well as some television shows.
I have taken some detours along the way, yes, but I loved them all. In my studies, I was classically trained, but my teacher was really good about letting me also do theater, as she had a bug for it herself. I performed in a lot of musicals and always thought that I would take the Broadway route. I still love stage work and if someone offered me a musical tomorrow I would love to see if I could make that work.
When did you begin to focus on country music and what drew you to the genre?
About three or four years ago, I took a step back from the music I was making, which was a bit of a variety; from concert based international world music to pop and folk. I felt like I needed a focus, something to put my career in one direction, because I was trying to be everywhere. I went back to thinking about what I loved and where my passions were. Everything kept coming back to country music, which was really my roots going back to my childhood. The honesty in the songwriting and the ability to have a song with a message really drew me to the genre.
Do Love Well is the title of your debut EP which was released in March. How did you become acquainted with Bryan White, who produced the project, and how was it working with him?
We met last year in Nashville and really hit it off. Bryan is a really nice guy and we connected on how we see music and the messages we want to get out to the world. He’s a true vocalist who has a lot of positivity in his music, so I knew that I would like working with him and he would understand what I wanted to do. He produced his last project, Shine, which I loved, and I just asked him if he would be open to producing my record. Working with him was a great experience. He brought in wonderful musicians and in the end we got a great album out of it. I am so blessed by it all.
Why was it important to you that the release of the record coincide with National Women's Day on March 8th?
It was important to me as a woman because I have grown up and come into my own and have seen how different it is for men and women. We all have our own struggles that we have to face day to day, but I feel we need a boost of positivity in our lives. We should realize that life is full of blessings, focus on those and make the choice to put love first. Those are the messages that I wanted to get across.
“Do Love Well,” written by Mitch Goudy, is your debut single. How did you connect with Mitch and get the opportunity to sing the song?
Mitch is a really good friend of mine. We also perform together and are label mates. When he headlines, I’ll provide support as a background singer or featured singer and when I have a gig, he’ll do my guitar work. We’re together more often than not, and last year he asked if he could write a song for me. He asked if I only had one song to share what message I would want to get out there to the world. I gave him ideas of what I had in mind, specifically, the importance of love. He came back to me with the song and it was perfect. He knew and expressed my sentiments so well.
Did you have a hand in writing any of the other songs?
There was one song, “Aim’s Gettin’ Better,” that Mitch and I wrote together. The song has a funny story behind it. He had just gotten out of a relationship and was talking to his buddy who asked him how he was doing and if he missed her. His reply was “yeah, I miss her, but my aim’s getting better.” It was a funny tongue in cheek moment, but it dawned on him that he could get a great song out of it. However, he knew that he probably shouldn’t be singing about shooting a girl. That sort of thing isn’t acceptable in country music, but the reverse is. So he asked me what I thought about the song and if I would help him write it from a female’s perspective. It turned out to be a really fun song, in a honky tonk style that I love singing.
You are currently on a radio tour. How have the fans been responding to the music?
The music has been very well received and I am so thrilled! It’s neat to have people tell me their favorite songs from “Aim's Gettin' Better” to “Southern Gentleman,” and of course people are responding and connecting to the message of “Do Love Well.”
Since you are out on the road so much, is there one album that was released recently to which you cannot stop listening?
I just downloaded Madonna’s Rebel Heart. I listened to it a bit and am loving it! I’m a big Madonna fan, hers was the first album I ever got. You have to give her props for doing what she does for as long as she’s been doing it; she’s amazing!
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