Being a fan helps me keep the magic alive – Diana Leah (Delain)

Delain has been one of the bands closest to my heart for so long, who allowed me to meet a lot of great people, form friendships, travel around to see them. So, of course, it came as a shock to hear about them disbanding. It felt like I was losing a piece of my soul, of the nostalgia of my fangirling youth days. But this isn’t about me or any other “butthurt” fan. Enough time has passed to see everyone move on and do their own beautiful things. 

Right now we have to appreciate we still have Delain, under another form. Though the core is still there. We have Martijn, Sander, Ronald, so that is indeed very Delain. And, of course, new additions Ludovico and Diana.  Needless to say, the most impactful change is that of the vocalist. That’s what could make or break the band, and thankfully, it made it. I wholeheartedly believe Diana is such a good addition to the band, she can do justice to the existing songs and create new exciting ones.

When I first heard rumours of the new singer, someone mentioned her to me as “the Romanian singer”, which intrigued me. How did I not know that a Romanian singer is going to be part of Delain? You can expect that that’s what I started my interview with, asking about her ties to our country:

“Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, the thing is I left Romania when I was 14. Now I’m almost 33. I left the country, I came to live in Italy and I lived in Italy for maybe 10 years or so. I lost count. But after that I went to Canada in 2014. So I lived in Italy from 2005 until 2014 and then from 2014 until 2019 I left and I lived in Canada. I went there just for work. But I did come to Romania a few times in between. Not as much as I wish I could. I still have relatives there. I have uncles and cousins. My dad actually, he’s still there. My mom and my sister are here. So we’re kind of separated basically.

I speak Romanian with my mom, but not always, because we try to speak Italian for the most part since we’re also surrounded by Italians. And if we only speak Romanian, they would not understand us, of course. With that comes the downside of it, which is I cannot speak Romanian anymore the way I used to.  So I can say very, very few things. “

I bet those are still going to come in very handy when Delain comes to Romania again, which we all hope to be soon. This year their tour is obviously already booked, but she says she’s pushing for it to happen next year, so that’s very good news.

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Photo Credit: Andrea Falaschi

But let’s get into it and talk about Dark Waters, the new Delain album. If you haven’t heard it yet, give it a spin. You might find something for you there. I mean, if you’re reading this, you’re obviously interested. The process of making an album is complex and mysterious, so let her explain it to us:

“With every band there’s always at least one main songwriter or two. So in this case, in Delain,  there are two main songwriters now, Martijn and Guus. Guus is not really in the band, officially. You don’t really see him in the band pictures, but he’s a very important part behind the scenes when it comes to the songwriting, since the beginning of Delain, actually.  And then I came into the picture as well. Usually, one of them writes first. So let’s say Martijn writes the structure of the song, or maybe Guus writes the structure. It really depends. It all starts from the structures. Maybe Martijn writes the keys for the song first. He has an idea and then he sends it to Guus, who then adds guitars on top of it, and bass, and stuff like that. Next, he arranges the song. So he makes the main structure: the verse, the chorus, the second verse, bridge, and last chorus, and so on.

Once they have this structure of the song, the demo phase of it, of course, then that version gets sent to me and I work on it. Most of the times, they write the vocal melodies as well, so what I’m supposed to sing. But if they don’t do that, they just send that version to me, the instrumental part, and they ask me to write something on it. I do that and then I record my vocals. I write lyrics. I try to add backing vocals to that song and then I send them back to them.

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Photo Source: Diana Leah Facebook Page

It’s a back and forth process between the three of us. Actually for this album, I flew to the Netherlands to work together, the three of us in the same room. And it definitely is a little bit easier because it’s quicker, because we’re all in the same room, and we can really exchange ideas very quickly. I just step up at the microphone and start recording while they suggest things to me and stuff like that. 

But for the rest of the album, it was just me working here in Italy, and they are in the Netherlands, and they just send stuff to me, and then I record here at home. Once we have the demo of the song with my vocals on it, of course in a very raw version of it, then they work on the song even more, on the arrangements, on the orchestrations, on the choirs. And they just build things on top of it until it becomes, you know, finished. You have to decide at one point, okay, this is it. I think we’re good. We need to stop. Otherwise you keep going and it’s going to take you months for just one song. Once that happens, then they record the instruments in the Netherlands, they record the drums, the guitars, and all the rest. After that comes the mixing and mastering part, where everything gets polished even more sonically, from a sound point of view. That’s basically the business aspect of it.

Now the creative part of it, that’s a little bit trickier, because of course Martijn does write the majority of the songs for the albums. And the creative process can vary, because maybe one day you’re not in the mood to really write music, and so you have to really find that flow of creativity. That’s the trickier part. Even for me, sometimes they send me something and I’m not really in the mood.  I love the song and everything, but nothing comes up. Not a cool melody or something that I really like. So that’s the trickier part, because that takes a while to just get in that flow of the writing process.

This process was really new for me as well, because I’ve never worked with a band before like this and writing a full length album was really new for me. I always worked differently. I would record a song and release it right away. But when you have a body of work with like 10 songs to listen to from the beginning until the end, it’s a totally different feeling. It’s so much more rewarding and satisfying to listen to at the end.

So to answer your full question, I had a chance to contribute with lyrics on this album. I wrote the lyrics for Tainted Hearts and for Moth to a Flame  and I also wrote the melody for Tainted Hearts, like the whole thing. I wrote bits and pieces on Invictus. I think I wrote verses there. Yeah, I really had the chance to, and the freedom, of course, to just express myself a little bit.  And that felt really, really nice, because I love to do that. Really cool.”

With all that going on, what was the most dramatic change of the album? Was one of the songs meant to be something else and then suffered a drastic change? Or anything you liked that was left out?

“ Actually, nothing was left out. Everything that we had and worked on was put on the album. Maybe one song or two didn’t make it. But not too much. And for the other thing… Well, I think Invictus was a really tricky song because it had so many layers. It had so many choirs we have me singing, but we also have two other guests: Paolo Ribaldini and Marko Hietala. That was really tricky for the songwriting part because it’s like a mini opera song, with a lot of things going on. So at one point in our time, we had to cut things off.  Also because we were making his life harder for the mixing engineer because there were so many vocal tracks and so many orchestral parts. The demo phase of that song started really like… It was really rich. It had a lot going on. But then eventually, you have to make decisions and cut things off for the sake of the song to finish it and make it sound good in the end as well.  So I think that was the trickiest song of the album. The other ones went pretty smoothly, I would say.“

Now that the album is done, time to hit the road.  How is getting to sing live with Delain different than what you expected? Or maybe the same?

“Honestly, of course, whenever you join a band, especially Delain, you have your own expectations. I knew people had expectations as well for me and for the rest of the band and that puts a lot of pressure. I didn’t know what to expect. At one point, I was like, what if I get up on stage and people are gonna just stand there and stare at us and be like, oh, we don’t like this. I don’t know. So it was a bit scary, to be honest.  It was like nothing I had ever done before. Even though I had bands here in Italy, where we did play some shows, it was totally different because we never had a fan base like with my other bands. We would just play random shows.  Maybe a couple of people would know who we were. But here it’s totally different because everyone knows the songs of Delain. Yeah, it’s a step up. People know the band. You go on stage and you know that as soon as you step there, people have expectations from you. And that puts a lot of pressure, of course. But eventually I learned to ease into that feeling of fear.

Let’s say it was fear, even though I wasn’t really scared. I was just anxious. So eventually I learned to deal with that and be okay with it. I also told myself, you know what, even if you’re nervous, I think it’s healthy to be nervous before you go on stage. Because it means you care. You care about what you do and about the people. “

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Photo Source: Diana Leah

Since we talked about the existing fanbase, how do you feel about fan clubs now from the other side? Were you ever actively involved in a fanclub?

“I know what you mean. I’ve always been a huge fan of bands, of course, like Nightwish and Within Temptation. But I’ve never been part of a fan club or stuff like that. I tend to be an introvert and I don’t really like to put myself in the spotlight. Even though it sounds weird because I’m part of a band now and I am under the spotlight. How does it feel? Oh, gosh. I don’t know. I still feel the same. I’m a fan of Delain in the first place because I’ve been a fan of the band before I joined. I found out about the band in 2009. That’s a long time ago. So even though I sing in the band now, I’m still a fan. And I tried to be one because it makes me see things differently from a different perspective.

Because when you join a band like this, there’s a lot of things going on.  There’s a lot of business aspects and there’s the music industry. When you’re outside of it, when you’re just a fan of the music and of the band, you don’t really see these things. And once you’re part of it, sometimes a little bit of the magic kind of fades away.  So you really need to keep that magic alive within yourself. So being a fan allows me to keep that magic alive. “

Let’s now step away from Delain a bit and get to know Diana some more.

If you could have a Carpool Karaoke with anyone, who would you choose?

“Oh, wow. That’s such a hard question.  I have one in my mind. That would be Hayley Williams from the band Paramore. I love her. She’s been a huge inspiration for me since I was a teenager.

And I would love to just do that with her and sing. That would be really fun. “

Say your car fits more than two people :)) who else are you taking on?

“I would take Sharon from Within Temptation. And I would also pick… I have to pick a male singer. I have so many. Oh, gosh. I would pick… I don’t know. The Weeknd. That would be very interesting.”

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

“I don’t think there’s… I don’t really eat weird things because if it looks weird to me, then I won’t eat it. But I think it is… You know when you go to a sushi restaurant and they bring the… wasabi? I hate that. I hate what it does to my mouth and to… It’s weird.”

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever had?

“It was probably in Sardinia last year, actually. Well, I’ve been on cool vacations before, of course, but I picked this one because of the location. Because Sardinia is so beautiful.”

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Photo source: Diana Leah Facebook

Are you the kind of person who enjoys her birthday? And what would be a safe bet to get you as a present? Something you might always enjoy?

“Yeah. I don’t like when I… I’m not a huge birthday person. I don’t really celebrate it with huge parties. I usually go to my mom’s place and maybe she cooks a cake for me or a nice dinner or something. But if someone wants to buy something for me, then… Well, I love candles. Like scented candles. And I also love video games. Like World of Warcraft. So, anything Warcraft-related or candles, and I’m happy.“

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