How Music is Helping This Texas Artist Heal From Addiction

From Girl in a Coma to her first solo album, Nina Diaz is finding her voice.

By David Brown & Leah ScarpelliOctober 28, 2016 10:53 am,

Growing up in San Antonio, Nina Diaz was one of those kids who spent a lot of time in her bedroom, singing along to the Smiths and imagining the world beyond. Then she got swept up into the music when her sister and a long-time friend asked her to form a rock band, Girl in a Coma.

Her first show came a week before her 14th birthday, and the band quickly outgrew its Texas roots. Drawing from a variety of musical influences ranging from the Ramones, to the riot grrl groups of the 90s, to the conjunto singers their parents loved, Girl in a Coma won over critics and famous fans like Joan Jett – who became a mentor.

Now, after a battle with addiction to alcohol and drugs, Diaz is out on her own for the first time with an album that’s as much autobiography as a declaration of independence: “The Beat is Dead”.

“I come from Girl in a Coma – that’s where I’ve gotten a lot of my success from,” she says. “I would love to just be able to be like, ‘Here’s Nina Diaz.’ But I’m like a baby when it comes to the solo stuff.”

The album title comes from her song “Queen Beats King.” Diaz says she likes how the words sound together – they’re melodic.

“That whole song is about one of my dark times – a relationship I was in as well – and getting out of that,” she says. “To me ‘The Beat is Dead’ means to victimize yourself is done, that story is over.”

Diaz has been sober for three and a half years and is going strong. She says she got sober through 12-step meetings.

“Because I’m so vocal about my sobriety I figure ‘Oh this is my way of giving back and this is my way of checking myself,’” she says. “So in a way I’m open about it for me, but also I don’t want it to be such a taboo subject. … To me, I feel like that’s where I’ve gotten a lot of my strength.”

That’s the positive side, Diaz says. But the negative side, she says, is how real everything feels.

“It’s my bratty way of saying I have to feel this,” she says. “There’s that thing inside my brain that wants to run away sometimes. So now it’s really looking at myself in a mirror and seeing everything. That’s the scary thing.”

Diaz says she’s still finding her voice as a solo singer, and her journey recovering from addiction has become a part of that.

“When I’m crooning – that’s when I’m conjuring other people more, that’s when I’m thinking of Jeff Buckley or Michael Hutchins,” she says. “When I get to the belting part – that’s completely me. … And now whenever that time comes in a song where I’m just letting it out, I think it does come from everything that I’ve been through. So when I sing that’s my time. That’s my therapy.”

Diaz says she plans to continue her solo career alongside her work with Girl in a Coma.

“I can’t see myself stopping this,” she says. “I finally feel like I’ve found this is what I needed. That balance. Because I feel like do have two different personalities inside of me. There’s that rocker side that just wants to play my guitar, hide behind my hair. And there’s that complete entertainer side that wants to pull my hair back and look at the person and engage with them more. So I feel like I’m satisfying both of those itches inside of me.”

Post by Beth Cortez Neavel.