hen I spoke with singer songwriter and guitarist DIANA REIN in the two weeks prior to the release of her new album QUEEN OF MY CASTLE, she was kicking back in her hometown of Chicago and celebrating her parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Fifty years of wedded bliss takes a rare dedication and it is the same dedication I had recognized in REIN when I first profiled her in ROCKWIRED two years ago in regard to her 2017 album LONG ROAD. On that album, REIN embraced the blues in an earnest and sincere way tht wasn't overly studied or heavy handed - just natural. Now, REIN proves that her embrace of the blues is still both genuine and heartfelt with QUEEN OF MY CASTLE - an album that showcases REIN's guitar chops and songcraft on such stand out tracks as HEAT, PURE SOUL and GET DOWN. Two years is a long time to get an album ship shape but when I spoke with REIN, this latest album was a true labor of love with quite an evolution.
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"It feels awesome to have this album about to be released for everybody to hear." Says REIN over the phone. "It was fantastic working with MICHAEL LEISURE. I had most of the songs for this album written a while ago, around November 2017. They were all arranged and everything but I felt that I needed to hold onto them a little longer and see if anything else needed to be tweaked. And then twelve months later, I wrote more songs and I had more material to consider in putting this new album together. I eventually settled on 15 songs. Some people felt that 15 songs was too much but I felt that it was just right. I'm very happy with how this whole album came together. The whole process in getting it done took about a year and a half. It was to be an independent release at first but then the label GULF COAST RECORDS took interest and now they've got my back. Now it's a whole new journey for me. It feels great."
According to REIN, QUEEN OF MY CASTLE marks the first time that she has worked with a musical collaborator. Producer MICHAEL LEISURE is a drummer for the WALTER TROUT BAND and for the recording sessions for QUEEN MY CASTLE went above and beyond the title of producer.
"I have never collaborated with any one before." Says REIN. "I have in terms of recording but not when it came to the actual music. For the album LONG ROAD, it was just me. A couple of years before I released LONG ROAD, I went to see WALTER TROUT and playing in his band was MICHAEL LEISURE. The performance was great and afterwards I got to meet MICHAEL and he gave me his card and for the next five years we stayed in touch and then it came time for me to to work on putting this new album together. In working with MICHAEL I've learned that it's really important to have that person in your corner who knows about arranging and getting a song executed properly and MICHAEL has this incredible sense of music and song and because of him, songs like PURE SOUL really came alive in the studio. MICHAEL was there every step of the way. There was no autotune on this album and if something didn't come out right we did it over and over again until tit was right. I truly appreciated MICHAEL for his musical knowledge and his feedback. It was fantastic having him involved."
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The release of QUEEN OF MY CASTLE marks another first for REIN. Instead of self-releasing the album, REIN was able to secure some backing with this release through GULF COAST RECORDS, an independent label founded by blues rock artist MIKE ZITO.
"The plan was to make this album a self-release without the help of a record company." Says REIN. "As we were putting the album together we ran a crowdfunding campaign to get the album finished. By April of this year, we had raised all of the money and it felt great be in a position to get this album released and then my publicist (DOUG DEUTSCH) helped open the door to GULF COAST RECORDS which is this wonderful label run by MIKE ZITO who is like the golden boy of the blues and I am super grateful to have him in my corner. He is a truly successful musician who built his career and this label of his from the ground up. I'm also pleased to have his business partner GUY HALE who is based in the UK. He is such a warm hearted guy. I'm really excited to be working with this amazing team of people."
To our ears, QUEEN OF MY CASTLE sounds like an album with a message. REIN shared with us the inspiration for the songs on her latest album.
"I really wanted to make a cohesive blues album." Admits REIN. "When you listen to the album you will here some blues rock elements but it is largely a straight ahead blues album. It is the music that I love and it's a part of my DNA having come from a town like Chicago. Things have changed so much for me from the first batch of songs that I had on the LONG ROAD album. This set of songs is all about relationships and reworking and reconciling things in my past and realizing my worth as a woman. A lot of insecurities are addressed on this album and I feel like I'm moving on from the times when I didn't know my purpose and and had no idea how to be an independent person. I started putting these songs together in 2017 and that was when the #metoo movement was getting started. QUEEN OF MY CASTLE is my own personal statement. It's an album about knowing my worth. It's about being a strong woman."
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In the two weeks before the album's release, QUEEN OF MY CASTLE was already getting some favorable notices. We asked REIN if there were any responses to the album that had surprised her.
"There has been a lot of positive feedback and I'm super excited by it." Says REIN. "If the first review is an indication of things to come, this could be the album that puts me on the map in a big way. There was one notice about the music video that we put out that complained that the video was too serious (laughs). That was strange because we had a great time putting the video together. It was a fun song. We were actually able to incorporate some dance into that video. You don't see that too much in a music video for a blues song. A lot of my theater background from high school came in handy with that video."
With such an inspired collection of songs, we had to aske REIN what songs from her album stood out for her the most.
"The song HEAT is so different from everything else on the album. People have said that it's a heavy metal song but I don't think it is. It certainly wasn't something that I was going for. I can hear a little bit of an OZZY influence but the song is more grungy. I will say that it's a hard rock song. The song PURE SOUL is completely inspired by STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN. It's got this incredible driving beat, a pwerful rhythm section and the craziest guitar solo. CHILL OF THE NIGHT is about the floods that happened in Texas."
At the top of my phone conversation with REIN, she made it clear that tour plans were in the works to help promote the album. From here, it looks like QUEEN OF MY CASTLE is set to be an important release for REIN and just might be one of the year's most memorable releases. We asked REIN what she hoped people would come away with after they hear this impressive set of songs.
"There are a lot of good songs here. Some of them are songs that people can hum a long to and there are some songs that are really going to make people think. All throughout the process of making this album, I've realized that I really love writing songs and with this album I hope people will find something in the message of the songs that they can relate to."
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