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Nina Diaz Is On The Other Side

"We want so badly just to confess everything when we're deep inside of our drug use," Nina Diaz says. "We want so badly to get caught sometimes."
Jade Hernandez
Courtesy of the artist
"We want so badly just to confess everything when we're deep inside of our drug use," Nina Diaz says. "We want so badly to get caught sometimes."

Nina Diaz joined the punk band Girl in a Coma when she was just 13 years old. It was her sister's band, but she quickly made a name for herself as a fierce and magnetic vocalist, guitarist and songwriter. Around that same time, she also started drinking. Then came drugs. It wasn't long before she struggled with full-on addiction to alcohol, cocaine and meth. Now Diaz is clean, and she's just released a new solo album, The Beat Is Dead. The record chronicles her addiction, her sobriety and all the stops in between.

When you're 13, being a punk frontwoman can be both terrifying and thrilling. "At first, it was just a big rush, you know," Diaz says. "Ultimately, it was something very self-destructive to me, but I gained a lot out of it. I'm actually kind of happy things happened the way they did, because now I am the woman that I am today."

Diaz, who's now 28, wrote some of the material on The Beat Is Dead while she was still using drugs. She says it's rewarding to come back to those songs now. "After getting sober, I was really able to give them the attention they deserved," she says. "It was very liberating to go back to them and just give them the love that they needed."

One of the songs on the album, "January 9th," addresses a critical moment for Diaz. Her grandmother, with whom she was close, passed away on Jan. 9, 1998. On that same date in 2013, not long before she stopped using drugs, Diaz was working on a song. "It happened to be a very eerie kind of night," she says. "And I was recording [the song] on my phone, and I swear you can hear whispers in it. ... It's as if something was in there, kind of telling me what to say." She says felt the presence of her grandparents — and later realized what day it was.

Diaz says she's been sober for three and a half years now. Being on the road, around a lot of drugs and alcohol, can present its challenges, but she says her band is supportive.

"They respect me and they understand what kind of message I'm trying to show in my music," Diaz says. "And if I ever do feel awkward in a situation now, I just walk out. ... I'll just go outside and have a smoke and wait until I feel ready to go back into the crowd."

Hear more of Diaz's conversation with NPR's Scott Simon at the audio link.

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