Wherever he’s lived or worked, singer-guitarist Nick Diaz has made a concerted effort to tap into the given area’s musical environment.
Living in New Orleans, Diaz experimented with funk. During his six years in New York, he dabbled with indie-rock sounds. And in his brief time in San Francisco seeking some head-clearing space after what he calls a “monster breakup with a fiancée,” Diaz says he picked up on a mellow, West Coast style of playing.
A native of Houston, Diaz moved to Austin, Texas, about two years ago, and it looks as though he’ll be sticking around for a while.
“I kinda feel like I’d end up there at some point,” he says. “I’ve always listened to all the guitarists who have come out of Austin — like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall II and Chris Duarte.”
Diaz’s return to the Lone Star State essentially coincided with him embracing the Texas blues-rock style of guitar that’s always been at the core of his playing.
“And embracing it has really allowed me to focus the songwriting more around that, and also incorporate it better into the songwriting,” he adds.
Diaz is currently the leader of Buenos Diaz, and the group’s latest is The Love Balloon, due July 15. Here is his breakdown of the EP’s five songs.
1. “Out of My Arms”
“I messed around with a few different styles; [one has] a Rolling Stones straight rock ’n’ roll feel to it. Once I got out to California, there’s this laidback something in the air, and it lends itself to just a little bit more of a laidback sound musically. … I think that seeped its way into ‘Out of My Arms.’
“When I got to Texas, we tracked the song in Houston. It was pretty bare-bones — just guitar, bass, drums and vocals. I found the space to layer it with more of a soul sound, with organ, tambourine and the horns.”
2. “The Love Balloon”
“I was dating a girl in San Francisco whom I met in New York. I was going back and forth from San Francisco and New York, and one of the times she picked me up at the airport in San Francisco, she had a heart-shaped balloon to give to me. So we kept that balloon, and I tied it to the headboard of my bed. So that’s [the inspiration for] ‘The Love Balloon.’ ”
3. “My Love”
“As a going-away present, a friend of mine gave me some free studio time [in New York, where this song was recorded]. … I remember writing ‘My Love,’ and my roommate was in the kitchen. He said, ‘Change that rhythm guitar to this — now you’re writing dancing-in-the-kitchen music.’ I want to write music for myself [that reflects] my identity, but as a songwriter, you always have to remember: We’re entertainers, too. You’re writing music for other people.”
4. “The Love Device”
“I was listening to a lot of Texas country-western swing stuff [at the time I wrote this]. When working out the arrangement, I said to the drummer, ‘Use brushes all day long — just stir the pot.’ ”
5. “Santa Cruz”
“When I was in San Francisco, we would take trips to Santa Cruz. We’d walk along the boardwalk and eat some fish sandwiches. The pigeons out there are relentless. That might be the first time I had ever seen surfers. So there were elements of life in Santa Cruz that I had never seen before.
“When we returned to San Francisco, I started writing this instrumental piece, and I had all this imagery in my head, so I had to call the song ‘Santa Cruz.’ ”
— By Chris M. Junior
Buenos Diaz on tour (schedule subject to change):
* July 8: Snackbar — Austin, Texas
* July 10: Maria’s Taco X-Press — Austin
* July 12: Hole in the Wall — Austin
* July 13: Sahara Lounge — Austin
* July 15: Snackbar — Austin
* July 19: Hole in the Wall — Austin
* July 22: Snackbar — Austin
* July 26: Hole in the Wall — Austin
* July 29: Snackbar — Austin
* Aug. 8: Johnny D’s — Somerville, Mass.