The Defiant Optimism of Madi Diaz

Fresh off touring with Harry Styles, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter blends striking vulnerability with raw hopefulness on Weird Faith

Madi Diaz in front of bare trees

Photo: Muriel Margaret

Madi Diaz.

Madi Diaz is feeling hopeful. Kind of. “I am cursed with defiant optimism to the death,” the Nashville-based singer-songwriter says with a laugh. “I think we all probably have to be to some degree, just to keep gas in the tank.” Diaz’s optimism doesn’t manifest itself in saccharine lyrics or flashy, bright instrumentals, as longtime fans of her gut-wrenching songwriting can attest. It reveals itself in an unfailing willingness to try again—a quality that really can feel like a curse and shows up as often in her most devastating songs as it does her sweeter ones.

“Don’t Do Me Good,” the lead single on Diaz’s new album, Weird Faith, which is out today, muses on that weightier side of hope. “Every time I try to walk away, I stay. You knew I would,” she sings. “I know loving you, it don’t do me good.” The song—a duet with Diaz’s pal and antiques-shopping buddy Kacey Musgraves—is about staying in a relationship that you know isn’t good for you because you believe it will someday get better. Diaz says it’s also something of a metaphor for her relationship with the music industry. “Music is my worst gambling habit,” she explains, recounting the years she’s slogged it out. “No matter how much it hurts me, if something goes well, I’m going to still put it all back in.”

Diaz began making music as a child in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, learning piano from her dad before transitioning to guitar as a teen. After a brief stint at Berklee College of Music, she moved to Nashville, then to Los Angeles, and then back again to Tennessee, building a reputation as a brilliant songwriter while trying out new sounds along the way. “I feel like I’m still trying to shed the shame that comes with having gone through so many different phases or metamorphoses,” she says. “When I was young, I knew that I loved music. I knew that I was good at music. I knew that I loved performing and loved writing. But it was such a battle to rise above the noise. I was trying so hard just to figure it out.” When she returned to Nashville in 2018—ten years after she first arrived as a young recording artist—it felt like coming home. “Nashville was always a place where I was able to come back, to be a part of things and find myself and have a voice,” she says. “It’s always built me back up.”

Weird Faith.

It’s easy to see why Diaz felt a warm welcome in Music City: If you’re not already a Madi Diaz fan, your favorite artist might be. Just in the last few years, she’s collaborated with Joy Oladokun, Courtney Marie Andrews, and S.G. Goodman on a gorgeous cover of Patty Griffin’s “Be Careful.” Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson, and Wrabel joined forces with Kesha in 2019 to record “Resentment,” a number Diaz co-wrote and later released both solo and as a duet with friend and tourmate Waxahatchee. And Harry Styles loved Diaz’s sound so much he brought her on as an opener for several dates of his Love on Tour in 2023—then brought her back for more shows as a member of his band. The experience changed Diaz, and not just as a performer.

“I had this moment onstage: I’m with a maraca and I’m singing, and I realized that with my whole body, I was still bracing myself for something horrible to happen,” she says. “I had this crazy awareness that just came over me. I was like, ‘Just look at where you are. Look at how far you’ve come in the last two years, ten years, fifteen years. You can be here. You get to be here. What would it feel like to just enjoy this moment?’”

The thrill of enjoying the good, of daring to believe it will all work out, shows up on Weird Faith, too. “Everything Almost” envisions what it would be like to have a family and shared future with a partner. On “Same Risk,” Diaz questions whether a love interest is as all-in as she is with a frank, no-frills proposition that she swears is a lot more romantic than it sounds: “Do you think this could ruin your life?” she sings. “Because I could see it ruining mine…I’m just making sure we’re taking the same risk.” It’s an acknowledgement of what’s at stake when you put your heart on the line, but that the risk can be worth it. “I titled the record Weird Faith almost as a forever sort of time stamp,” she says, “to remind myself that if I’ve had it once, I can find it again.”

Beyond music, Diaz has been working on staying grounded, leaning into the friendships and the spaces that have filled her cup for decades—and finding time for a little nesting and antiquing. “I bought a house for the first time a year and a half ago, and making my home has brought me so much joy,” she says. “Having downtime and being home and thinking, ‘I really want to paint the whole room coral’ or ‘I want this cotton candy cloud wallpaper in the kitchen’ or ‘I want a Virgin Mary statue on the refrigerator’ and being like, ‘Yep, I did it.’ It’s just been the best.”

Weird Faith feels almost like an extension of the eclectic home Diaz continues to build for herself. Plucking little pieces of inspiration and intensity from all kinds of places, the album combines big feelings and bold sounds in a way that feels uniquely hers—with plenty of nods to the influences that have shaped her. “I think I finally woke up to who I’m the most myself with,” she says, praising the creative community and female friendships that have helped guide her to this moment. “It’s a funny thing to just suddenly be aware of who you’ve been the whole time.”

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