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Videos: Diane Birch, still in her pre-disco stage

January 29, 2010 | 12:55 pm

When teen star Nick Jonas first announced that he'd be touring with former members of Prince's New Power Generation, there was one quick way to know that his side project was more than just child's play. One need look no further than his choice of an opening act in Diane Birch. The young Brooklyn singer with an old soul had been gradually winning a following on the club circuit, playing to a far more adult crowd than the one typically screaming out their voices at the Jonas Brothers.

"I definitely had to raise my game, I've realized," Birch said."It's really important that you have this kind of energy, because playing to all these fans who don't really know my music as well, you have to keep their attention level. ... You don't want someone to be yawning." 

Pop & Hiss spoke to Birch when she performed at Spaceland in September, and she stopped by The Times' offices on Wednesday to perform a few songs, including her latest single "Valentino," above. Her debut, "Bible Belt," pays homage to the sounds of the South -- "Photograph," for example, sways from a comfortably floral orchestration to a full-on gospel coda, and famed gospel-soul singer Betty Wright was an executive producer.

Working with Wright is one of the many topics Birch touches on in the interview below. Based in Brooklyn, the mid-20s artist was raised with a conservative religious background -- her father is a well-traveled preacher -- and much of "Bible Belt" deals with rebelling from that sort of background. "Don't Wait Up," for instance, is a bluesy romp that reminisces about Birch's days as a teenaged goth, albeit with graceful backing vocals fit for a church choir.

Birch is in town for one more sold-out show tonight at the Wiltern, opening for Jonas and his new band the Adminstration. It's a homecoming of sorts for the artist, who did some time living in L.A. and working at hotel bars before relocating to Brooklyn. But it's not a time she remembers fondly.

"When I lived in Los Angeles, it was kind of the dark period of my life," she said. "I guess I felt pretty misunderstood. I felt I didn't know where I fit in any category here." 

Expect Birch's genre lines to continue to blur. Asked on the way out of the interview what her next album may sound like, Birch quickly said, "Disco is the way to go." While one shouldn't necessarily expect a full-on dance record, Birch did clarify. "More funky," she said. "Funky and dark."

In the meantime, watch Birch perform "Ariel" from "Bible Belt" below:

--Todd Martens

Videos by Tim French and Don Kelsen.