Entering the fold in Los Angeles

Winnipeg-born songstress Diana Pops talks about living in L.A., writing songs for Miley Cyrus and her own upcoming releases

Diana Pops will release three EPs over the course of seven months. The first will come out in March. Helen Shaw

Working with the guy who produced My Heart Will Go On, living next door to the lead singer of Paramore, pitching songs to Josh Groban – Diana Pops’ stories might sound like they’re made up, but they’re very real.

After three years of dividing her time between Winnipeg, Nashville and Los Angeles, the local singer-songwriter settled in L.A. this past July to further her music career.

“It’s like night and day,” the 24-year-old said by phone from her parents’ North End home last week while packing up to go back to California after an extended Christmas visit.

“I feel like when I’m here I check out of life there, and when I’m there, I check out of life here. There’s not a lot of overlap.”

The latest development in Pops’ career is her decision to form a production team with another Winnipeg expat, producer Adrian Bradford, and a Kansas-born singer-songwriter named Chris Mann.

Working under the tutelage of Grammy-winning producer Walter Afanasieff, whose credits include work with Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, the musicians – who have dubbed themselves The Fold – are busy writing and pitching songs to the likes of Miley Cyrus, Il Divo and the aforementioned Groban.

“Depending on the project, you get pitch lists,” Pops explained. “For example, [a label] will send us a list of songs artists are looking for, like ‘Britney Spears needs a new song about egos, and it has to be upbeat and it has to be humourous in the second verse.’ There are all these specs.”

The trio then writes a song accordingly. The writing-on-demand style has been an adjustment for Pops, who says the process is different when she’s writing her own material.

With a taste for the melancholy, Pops writes piano-based pop songs in the vein of Sarah McLachlan. What really stands out is her voice, a rich alto that’s always been mature beyond her years.

Her self-titled debut came out in March 2006, which quickly led to a development deal with Aware, the Chicago-based record label that discovered John Mayer.

Pops began working on her second CD with Bradford, but ultimately decided to part ways with Aware – a split she describes as amicable.

“It was one of those situations I never thought I’d be in, where we both realized it was not the best fit,” Pops said. “I think I wanted to be a little more off-kilter than what they were looking for.”

Now she’s working with a manager named Mike Savage and getting ready to independently release three digital EPs. The first, titled The Good Time Had By All, will come out in March.

In the seven months that follow its release, she’ll put out The Multitude of Sins and The Touch and Go. If all goes according to plan, a box set of all three EPs, accompanied by a collection of B-sides, will follow.

While adjusting to life in L.A. hasn’t been the easiest, Pops says it’s been nice to meet people her age who have also come from different parts of North America to L.A. to try and make it as musicians.

“You can instantly make friends because everyone’s away from their family, they’re away from home where they have security – everyone’s living in apartments as starving artists,” Pops said.

“There’s an instant camaraderie, which is really cool.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2010)

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