Beyond the Siren: Diana Rein is the Queen of Her Castle and Her Guitar

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Photo credit: Steve Polacek
       

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 3 – Ladies Rock the Blues – June 2018

With this last iteration of my one-woman act, which is pretty complex, it took me about nine months to form and plan out the right equipment that would help me express myself the way I wanted to.”

“I don’t think that anything can touch the undeniability of practice and the confidence that it gives you.”

A few simple questions can bare a world of complex conversation, especially in regard to music, social responsibility, creative integrity, and a deeper and broader vision for generations to come. Guitarist and songwriter Diana Rein recently opened up to Guitar Girl Magazine about her experience as a powerhouse female artist in the music business, DIY ethics, modesty, and responsibility as a mother and role model to young aspiring artists. All of these topics have played into her efforts to fund and produce her newest record titled Queen of My Castle, which is comprised of 15 infectious blues tracks.

Beyond the new album, Rein tightens her grip on the shortcomings of an industry notoriously run by men and snaps the false reality of where their true power is held. She is more than the Six String Siren. She is a majestic and musical matriarch with an authentic devotion to the blues, her family, and her guitar.

What inspired the one-woman show that is your current act?

I think a lot of things played into it– I’m trying to think of, consecutively, how it happened. This could get really deep [laughs]. So, over my career that’s spanned on and off for 11 years, I always thought it would be great and important to do your own singer-songwriter shows and get hired on your own. Being in a band can be challenging in many ways. Like scheduling everybody and making sure everyone is available. Making sure everybody is on the same page– I’ve always written my own music, so I think it’s important that you pay a band if you’re a solo artist and they’re playing your music. If you’re not playing enough shows or the types of shows that warrant paying the band, then I always thought that you should do the solo thing until you make enough money to be able to pay the band whether the venue pays you enough to cover it or not. I always want to make sure the band is happy and comfortable. Honestly, the pay for bands has not appreciated in 11 years. It’s pretty much the same amount of money that I was getting 11 years ago and hasn’t gotten that much better. 

Having a band is challenging, and with being out there and wanting to make and share music, you just have to figure out how to make it happen and do it artistically and not just throw something together. With this last iteration of my one-woman act, which is pretty complex, it took me about nine months to form and plan out the right equipment that would help me express myself the way I wanted to. I came up against a lot of roadblocks and challenges, and the reason why it took me so long is because I would buy different stuff to try out– digital pedals and stuff. It never sat well with me because here is this huge piece of equipment that my whole show fits into– if it craps out during a show, then I don’t really have a way to continue the way I’m doing it. So, I’ve tried to find more analog stuff– things that could be easily replaced. I feel like I’m really happy where it is right now. It’s a nice feeling as an artist to be able to create something on your own and have the option to add people to it when you can.

Can you tell us about your current setup and what you’re rocking these days?

Right now, I’m operating with my Fender Stratocaster or– I just got a Guild Black Starfire 5. I have two amps. One is a Fender Blues Jr. Then between the guitars and the amps, I run my guitar pedalboard that has two sides to it. One side goes to one amp, which I call my rhythm guitar amp, and the other pedals go to my lead guitar amp. I switch back and forth when I play so I don’t mix the rhythm and bass sound in the same amp, otherwise it starts to sound pretty muddy. So, on the rhythm guitar side, I use a Boomerang looper, which I really like because you can have one track that keeps your beat and then use a drum pad to program live drums for each song on the spot. There are two other tracks, so I can do different things with the verses and choruses between rhythm and solo stuff. I also have a Nano Pog that helps me get a bass tone and an Ibanez Tube Screamer. I use a switcher to go back and forth. Then on my lead guitar side, I use a Little Fuzzy drive, an EP Booster, and The Dude made by J. Rockett Pedals, and a Wampler Tape Echo Delay. It’s not crazy or a ton of pedals. I wish I could condense even more [laughs]. But I use my own mixer. It’s a lot of stuff– a lot of equipment, but it’s probably the equivalent of what a drummer usually has to bring [laughs]. 

A lot of fans know you as the Six-String Siren, which is rad, but it is also really gendered. What kind of marginalization have you experienced as a woman in the music industry?

Yes [laughs]. I was gonna get in deep with this earlier, but I feel like it’s way more appropriate right now. I remember going to NAMM and there was this panel of women talking about how being in bands as the only woman they would overhear jokes or just hear weird comments that, in the moment, you might kind of just laugh off or sweep under the rug, but they really affected you. Once I heard that, I was like “wow.” Something just clicked in me and I felt like I had found my tribe. These women understood. They’ve been where I’ve been, and I just couldn’t vocalize it completely. In the moment, I was a lot younger and couldn’t quite understand. It’s like I was playing along with it. If it was me now, I would probably quit the band right then and there, because that’s how serious it was. I feel like in every band situation I’ve tried to be in — hence the one-woman band — there’s been a lot of extra junk that you have to deal with that really messes with you. It’s too much crap to even have to deal with when all you want to do is play music and play guitar and have a positive experience. I was sick of the situations I was in creating a negative experience, and one of my last band situations I remember always — this is hard — as a female, sometimes people think that you are where you are just because it’s rare to have a female that plays guitar. It’s not as rare nowadays, but when I first started, I felt like I was used in a way by the bands I was with as eye candy. But when it came to making me feel like I actually had something musical to bring to the table, I was diminished. I always felt like I was hearing, “Oh, I’m the guy, I’ll take care of this. You just do that…” You know? It’s like this really weird power struggle and “put you in your place” and “this is the hierarchy” kind of thing. I just want to play music. I’m the captain of my own boat. I get to play whatever music I want to play. I get to compose whatever music I want to compose. I get to play whatever solo I want to play. And I get to see how that rises. The cream rises to the top. I don’t know if it’s a vendetta thing for me [laughs], but I really feel like I’m out to prove something more to myself. I feel like, in a way, I was damaged by all these experiences I was a part of, and now I need to do all of these things to prove that I’m not associated with any of that stuff anymore.

What are some responsibilities you’ve given yourself as a strong female artist?

I don’t think that anything can touch the undeniability of practice and the confidence that it gives you. If you show up every day with your instrument and practice, over time, no matter what anybody says, it can’t touch you. Unlike acting, which I was a part of a long time ago, it’s not as quantifiable as someone that knows — really knows — how to play their instrument inside and out. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, who knows what — it doesn’t touch the undeniability of the relationship that you have with your instrument. So, one of the responsibilities that I have adopted is to show up and spend at least three hours with my instrument. I’m an indie artist, so the business side can kind of take precedence. I don’t know what happened but there was like a switch in me about two months ago that said, “You know what? The business side can wait. You just have to keep creating.” That’s another responsibility I’ve given myself– keep creating. Nothing is better for a musician as food for the soul than creating is. Make cover videos, try out new gear, try out new sounds– just always be in that creative mindset. The business side is going to have to be an afterthought. If I just do business all day then I will crack [laughs]– all systems fail. Another responsibility I’ve given myself is to not lead with overt sex appeal. I feel like it’s outdated. There are so many people and women in my genre of music that lead with that. Maybe it’s me being a little bit older– me being a mom– I don’t know what. I’ve always had a sense of modesty, and if you don’t like me for my guitar playing, then I don’t want you to like me for anything else. I feel like I can emotionally express myself best with my guitar and don’t want to be known for anything else. Be modest. Have a sense of respect for yourself. There is this whole antiquated thing that sex sells, and maybe it does, but I don’t care. I feel like we need to create change, and it starts with us.

Are you interested in helping Diana Rein fund her next album? You can still chip in and receive some awesome rewards in return, including an instant download of 3 songs! Visit her official website to contribute to her campaign and help bring Queen of My Castle to life! www.dianarein.com