You are where you are right now — and it’s your specific journey. You didn’t “waste time.” Don’t judge yourself based on someone else’s path. Comparison is the root of all evil!
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing BEVERLEE.
BEVERLEE (fka: Abby Diamond) — award-winning ‘Best New Writer’ at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and writer behind the Billboard #1 Dance Hit “Places” — just released her debut album Purple Violin, a proudly queer, left-of-center pop collection that celebrates unheard voices. Purple Violin shares stories of women stuck in a liminal space, somewhere between who they are and who they’ve yet to become. Inspired by Diamond’s experience of coming out after ending her marriage, rediscovering her artistry, and embracing her queer identity, BEVERLEE delivers a post-pandemic album that gives voice to a time of collective rebirth.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a tiny town in western Massachusetts called Hampden. We didn’t even have a high school or any traffic lights. My parents moved there from Boston because they’re veterinarians, and had a dream of starting an animal practice in the country. My backyard was a hayfield with a converted barn garage of chickens, ducks and goats. I’m thankful to have grown up in nature and think a big part of my moving to California had to do with having easier access to the outdoors.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have a vivid imagination. I was that creative kid wearing an elaborate outfit while climbing in a tree to sing or write poetry. I never thought of doing anything outside of turning the stories in my head into art. My specific career path has been a winding road, that’s taken a lot of hard work. I began touring with the Barenaked Ladies after college but took a detour to write music for film, tv, commercials as well as other artists.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I came out as gay and realized I needed to begin writing my own music again, perhaps for the same reasons as that kid in a tree — self-expression, to relate to others, and gaining a deeper understanding of experiences.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I had an internship at BB King Blues Club when I was 19 years old, where I met Etta James. She told me that I reminded her of Barbara Streisand and that I should get a nose job. I don’t think she was saying it to be mean; so much of a woman artist’s journey is figuring out how to get people to see you. How do you remove the barrier to be visible? I am a believer in autonomy — do whatever you want to your body. This isn’t about plastic surgery, but the stark reality of what women face in this industry. The world will give you these critiques, whether or not you ask for feedback.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career, someone once advised me to send holiday gifts to people in the industry. So I sent a baby gift to a music publisher I barely knew. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that you actually need a relationship with that person… otherwise it is Rosemary’s-baby-level creepy.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My project, BEVERLEE, is named after my mom’s cousin, who was murdered by her Hell’s Angels boyfriend in 1970. The queer, left-of-center pop project is about uplifting unheard voices. I’m extremely proud of these songs, which focus on navigating feelings of the in-between: shame, desire, horniness, loss, rebirth. One of my songs was featured on Younger last month, and I’m working with a few directors on music for shows now.
I’ve always written music for film and television — the songs on this record certainly have a cinematic quality. However, it’s a completely new experience to be writing as an artist (instead of a freelancer for other musicians or networks). It’s been an incredibly vulnerable and validating process. I spent much of my life hiding behind others because I wasn’t comfortable in my queer identity. Now I’m putting myself out there.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
We have come to a point in film, television, and commercials, where it’s no longer acceptable to have an all-white cast because that demographic does not accurately reflect our world. If there is a queer or Black or differently-abled story being told, we should be creating music with those communities. Only creators from these backgrounds can contribute authentic sounds to support the story.
Honestly, I might have come out sooner if there were greater representation during my childhood. I grew up in the 90s, so there weren’t a lot of LGBTQ+ stories on TV — and the majority of lesbian characters were masculine-presenting — so I didn’t see myself in these shows. Representation is incredibly empowering.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- If someone isn’t interested in you, move on. Full stop.
I have wasted so much time trying to get someone to see me, who simply wasn’t interested. All fulfilling relationships are about balance. If you have to convince someone to work with you, they likely won’t be giving it their all or prioritize your collaborations.
2. Take all advice with a grain of salt — and when seeking advice, cast a wide net.
Many times our loved ones want to protect us without fully understanding our reality. Listen to them, but do your own research, because bad advice may make you feel stuck or ashamed. A fellow songwriter once told me not to release my own album, because it would impact my hire-ability with studio executives. The opposite was true. Networks want to work with me more now that I’ve done BEVERLEE because they see my point of view.
3. Have compassion for yourself and meditate daily. Both of these practices go hand-in-hand and have helped me navigate the ups and downs of being in music.
4. You are where you are right now — and it’s your specific journey. You didn’t “waste time.” Don’t judge yourself based on someone else’s path. Comparison is the root of all evil!
5. Treat your art like a business. Schedule your time, with specific days devoted to admin work or writing sessions. Budget for resources because you won’t have time to do everything yourself (and do it well). However, I do recommend learning to produce music. The act of producing will help you become a better writer, singer, and communicator with other collaborators. All of this takes a TON of money, so don’t feel the need to do everything at once. Just stick to your work, never stop learning, and always seek new information. Information is power!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make sure to take at least one day off a week. If you aren’t living, how are you going to make good art?
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m interested in the idea of power — specifically when it comes to songwriters, women, and LGBTQ+ rights. I would love for these artists to have a safe space to create and to be included in the greater conversations of the music industry. It’s about balance and respect. When someone gives you a seat at the table, what they’re really saying is “I hear your voice, you exist”. Pulling up a chair isn’t easy, and when a powerful person acknowledges you in that space, it means the world. That’s allyship in action.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Bryan Senti, a friend and the composer behind the BAFTA-winning show Save Me, has been a continued supporter of my journey — both as an artist and businesswoman. He’s the ultimate feminist, who continuously empowers me by assuming greatness. Releasing an album is a vulnerable act, particularly this album which is a lot about shame. I’m grateful for Bryan, along with so many other friends, who have validated my art and made me feel seen every step of the way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Always use a bathroom before a road trip, even if you don’t think you have to.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
St. Vincent — I gasped when I was on a Billboard list next to her. I’m such a fan and love her production and writing.
How can our readers follow you online?
Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok: @beverleemusic
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!