Diane Gentile Is An Optimist

The NYC singer talks about the Motown-inspired song she wrote in the wake of COVID-19

Diane Gentile (Photo: Miss Guy, Art: Ron Hart)

With her ever-present shades and easy between-song banter, singer-songwriter Diane Gentile exudes cool as she hits the stage on May 8 at Bowery Electric in New York City’s East Village neighborhood.

She plays a set consisting of new songs only. It’s a bold move, because audiences can become impatient or distracted when sitting through unfamiliar material. But Gentile easily keeps the crowd engrossed, especially when she plays “The World Is a Goner” (released as a single on May 14 via Velvet Elk Records).

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

The evening after the Bowery Electric show, Gentile settles into a booth in The Letlove Inn, a funky bar in Astoria, the neighborhood in Queens that she has called home for many years. Two years ago, she filmed the video for her single “Perfect People” on the tiny stage in the corner. The bar’s owner and others greet her warmly – it’s clear that she’s well-known and liked around here.

As she sips a beer, Gentile explains that despite its title, “The World Is a Goner” isn’t a depressive or angst-ridden track. In fact, it actually has a breezy, easygoing quality, with strong overtones of classic Motown to it. This isn’t surprising, as Gentile says that she wrote it after the current COVID-19 pandemic led her to go on a week-long kick of listening to artists such as The Supremes and The Four Tops.

“One morning I got up and I started to think about how everybody that I’ve been talking to during the pandemic is so depressed and so worried about our world,” Gentile says, “but I kept thinking about the idea that human beings are capable of almost anything. I kept saying to myself, ‘This pandemic is really bad. It’s going to kill a lot of people. It’s going to hurt our economy. But it could be worse. And I have so much faith in people – I know that they will find an answer to help get us out of this. I know it. And so I was feeling really positive in a really negative place.”

It was the breakthrough that Gentile needed. With this song, she says, “I reminded myself that I actually could write again. Normally, I write all the time, but I hadn’t written a song before that in about a month. Once that song came, that started me on a whole writing streak.” That resulting batch of songs, which she premiered at the Bowery Electric show, will go on her next album, which she plans to record this summer.

That new album will likely continue the impressive streak Gentile began with her debut record, 2015’s Caught in a Wave. The next year, she released the single “Motorcycle,” which was produced by Dream Syndicate frontman Steve Wynn. Singer-songwriter Jesse Malin produced her 2019 EP Little Things (and also took Gentile along as his opening act for an extensive European tour). The White Sea followed in 2020 – this time, Wynn and Malin shared production duties.

Diane and the Gentle Men The World Is A Goner, Velvet Elk 2021

This is, Gentile says, the kind of artistic career she’d dreamed of having since she was a child, growing up in a musical family in the Flushing neighborhood in Queens. She began playing the piano when she was eight years old, and started writing her own songs soon after that. She says she was particularly inspired by her older siblings Eddie and Elda, who were both musicians. However, she also adds that watching them taught her how precarious a music career can be, and that scared her off going down the same path.

“Seeing that made me really afraid,” Gentile says of her siblings’ struggles. “I like to know that I’m going to be able to have a meal. I like to know that I have a roof over my head and not be in danger. I don’t think that that’s anything bad.”

As a result, Gentile took a different approach, though she still worked in the music business. She worked in the promotions department at a couple of record companies before becoming a successful artist manager. In that capacity, she worked with Jesse Malin, who later hired her to book acts for The Bowery Electric (which he co-owns). But as much as Gentile liked these jobs, “It was a double-edged sword because I would be so inspired by these amazing artists, and then go home and cry because I wasn’t pursuing my own art,” she says.

Finally, Gentile made the leap to becoming a full-time musician. “After spinning my wheels for years and years, I realized that I was just going to continue to be unhappy unless I decided to play music,” she says.

Now that she’s finally on the path she feels she was always destined to take, Gentile is optimistic about her future (and the world’s, as she proves with her optimism on “The World Is a Goner”).  

Find out more about Diane Gentile at www.dianegentile.com/

 

VIDEO: Diane and the Gentle Men “The World Is A Goner”

 

 

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Katherine Yeske Taylor

Katherine Yeske Taylor began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the late '80s, when she interviewed Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has done hundreds of interviews with a wide range of artists. She has written for dozens of magazines, including The Big Takeover, Aquarian Weekly, Stomp & Stammer, Creative Loafing, Jam Magazine, Color Red, Boston Rock, and many others. She contributed to two books (several entries for The Trouser Press Guide to the '90s, and a chapter for Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama). Additionally, she has written liner notes and artist bios for several major acts. She currently lives in New York City.  

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