by Lou Mancinelli
Inspired by a group of eco-friendly businesses and the eco-conscious environment in Mt. Airy, local resident and singer/songwriter Rosa Diaz wants to use the green approach with Fruit Tart Records, the record label she is working to create. To do so she’s launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $7,600.
When Diaz released her first album, “WHIM,” in 2012, it was with a green approach. CDs were packaged in a way that left no carbon footprint. To afford it, she quit her job with a non-profit and took a hellish job in the corporate world at a Center City firm that specialized in handling 401(k)’s.
“At the time it wasn’t 100 percent intentional, but I was in an environment where that was important,” Diaz said about her green approach.
The environment she refers to is in Mt. Airy, with places like Weavers Way and Earth Bread + Brewery, where she’s met many local musicians and people who advocate and practice eco-friendly business approaches. Even the corporate office she worked in was paperless.
Like many contemporary musicians who are attempting to jumpstart their careers, Diaz, 33, has taken matters into her own hands. The goal is to create an official legal entity that can provide local artists with the capital and resources they need to take their music careers from recording in the basement to the studio.
In the past two decades home recording has revolutionized the music industry. Advances in technology have created a reality where musicians can use programs like Ableton Live, Pro Tools or GarageBand (which comes free with Apple laptops and desktops), the same programs used by professionals, to produce records at home.
If the crowd-funding campaign, which concludes Aug. 12, succeeds, the money will be used to fund records for other acts Diaz has met in the Philadelphia music scene. Like her, they are smaller acts that need more money to be able to produce a high-quality record that meets industry standards.
“I had the idea for it and kind of put it away for awhile,” said Diaz, about forming the label, the name of which she formed based on a friend who always bakes or brings snacks for music practice, often fruit tarts.
Diaz’ music career took a lucky turn in the spring of 2013 when she performed at the iMPeRFeCT Gallery in Germantown. Someone with connections to Afrotaino Productions, a management company that focuses on promoting Latin-American music, was at her show and liked her music.
One thing led to the next, and now she is represented by the company, which helps her book shows with larger acts like Sound of Brazil, whom she played with in New York this April.
The partnership brought her to last year’s Latin American Music Conference (LAMC) where “WHIM” was selected as one of the best albums of 2013 by NPR’s alt.latino program. Diaz recorded the album in 2011 and 2012 in the basement of a friend’s home, Joe Baldacci, a local producer and musician.
”I don’t know anything about her… but this is what I do know… she has a beautiful voice, it’s a very minimalistic arrangement, but her voice is an instrument in itself, and [“WHIM” is] a gorgeous album,” said Jasmine Garsd, of NPR Alt.Latino, after Diaz’ appearance at last year’s LAMC.
But with Fruit Tart, Diaz is looking beyond just her own music. “My friends have the same amount of talent and that same vision [as I],” said Diaz, who has a degree in psychology from Ursinus College.
Diaz was born in Puerto Rico and moved to North Philadelphia at the tender age of 3 with her parents and two older brothers. Music has always been a fixture in her life since her father is a musician, and her mother was a choir director. Rosa has been singing and playing instruments since she was 8. The family moved to Olney, and Rosa attended Central High School (Class of 257, graduated in 1998), and also studied at Settlement Music School.
At the age of 26, the Mt. Airy resident (since 2008) had an accidental fall that left her back, pelvis and bones in both feet broken. The medical team that worked on her at Einstein Northern Medical Center “was not sure if I’d live, let alone walk,” said Diaz.
“It took me about a year to fully walk again. I’m very fortunate. The head of orthopedic surgery (at Einstein) happened to be doing his once-monthly ER shift. The whole team did a great job. I get compliments from podiatrists and other doctors on the work they did.”
Diaz hopes that Fruit Tart Records will also help fund her second album, “For Boys Who Like Bukowski: A Healing Album For Broken Men.”
“It’s kind of like working on your own car,” she said, about finishing the album. There’s only so much she can do by herself. She needs more resources to be able to finish. Then, “I need to sit down with my car guy.”