JBL Emerging Interview: Country star DINER on ‘Goodbye To Someday’

In this Emerging Headliner interview powered by JBL, California-based Portland singer, songwriter and musician DINER explains how her hopeful love song, Goodbye To Someday, was actually inspired by the Chicago Cubs.

DINER has been working at her parents’ Portland cafe since she was five years old. When her age reached double digits, serving her teenage school friends may not have been the coolest way to spend a weekend, but it gave her a place from which to daydream, and shaped the future country-pop artist she would one day become.

“When I was two, my parents found this little diner and the owner was lying on the floor, drunk and said, ‘The next person that can come up with the money to buy this place can have it’. My mom bought it and they completely flipped the whole place around,” recalls DINER (real name Madison Hurtado) from her now-home in L.A.

“From as early as five, I was walking around taking orders; I started pouring coffee. It was really easy to run the register, so I started doing that as well. I've been working there my entire life. It's been a really cool upbringing. My parents are still there every day.”

DINER may have moved to Hollywood to pursue her dreams, but she makes sure she’s back home every Christmas to clock in for her shift. “It's tradition that the whole family works on Christmas Eve,” she smiles. “It's cute. My mom is super supportive and she has all these coasters with my face on at the diner, which is really weird,” she laughs.

While DINER was wiping down tables and pouring coffee, she daydreamed about making it as a singer, concocting elaborate scenarios to get through her shifts. “I would picture doing music videos in there, like flash mobs, musical dance scenes and all that,” she shares. “I have this place that I go to in my head – and maybe a lot of people do – when you are working really hard and you invent this dream world where everything's okay. A lot of my music is inspired by that.”

Singing from the age of two and with big dreams, DINER has tried it all: American Idol, – “I biffed it,”– X Factor, America's Got Talent and The Voice.

“I tried out for everything! I tried out for every local musical. I never got the part I wanted, so I was always dreaming of it. I could not wait to get out of there, but it also inspired a lot,” she acknowledges. “As an artist, all you can do is tell your story, so I wanted to talk about growing up in the diner, what it's like to deal with annoying people, creepy men or people that are entitled – all those things that you deal with being in customer service,” she says knowingly. 

“I watched my mom do it every day, my dad has to deal with it and my sister, and that's been such a huge part of my life. It really shaped me. I've had a community of people that basically raised me since before I could see over the counter and a lot of my music is inspired by that. I was the local diner girl growing up, and going to high school, all the kids would come in on the weekends and I'd be serving them and dealing with the aspects of that.”

I've had a community of people that basically raised me since before I could see over the counter.

With music on her mind and her family’s business so integral to her identity, an idea formed: what if she called her future album, Just Your Local Diner Girl? This led to her conjuring up artist name, Local Diner Girl. She settled on just DINER in the end. "I used to hide that I was the local diner girl and that I worked there with my parents, but I found the beauty in it.”

Raised on a horse ranch and inspired by the musical tastes of her parents who had an affinity for country and rock, DINER knew that Portland wasn’t the place to make it as a country star. But it was L.A that was calling for this aspiring country artist, not Nashville.

“There are so many other blonde country artists there! It would be great exposure and connections, but I also don't want to get drowned out,” she admits. “I'm excited to be on the forefront of this music scene here in L.A,” she adds, suddenly remembering a piece of advice she’d been given by a fellow country artist in Nashville. 

“She was like, ‘Don't do it. That's where you go to die. Stay out here and give it a go, and then think about Nashville,’” she laughs. “There's this blossoming country scene happening in Hollywood, and for me, it's like, do I want to be at the forefront of that? Or do I go to Nashville and be drowned out? I decided to make the move and fully commit to music out here. It was the smartest thing to do.”

A lot of her determination, or edge, as DINER calls it, comes from her mother, who formed a band in her own parents’ garage in the ‘80s and went on to share the stage with Black Flag and recorded with The Dead Kennedys.

“My mom was a punk rock star,” she nods, proudly. “She got into a fistfight with Courtney Love – she's such a cool person. We would have CDs in the car and we would all listen to Carrie Underwood, The Chicks or our favorite musicals. She was a huge influence and is this factor of why I do music. I didn't really know how serious she was until I got a little bit older and then it made sense: having that little bit of edge in me, comes from her.”

With the country sound embedded from a young age, it was time to perfect her look. DINER is all peroxide blonde hair, sparkly cowboy hats and fringed riding chaps. Is she tipping her blinged-out Stetson to the Queen of Country?

“Absolutely,” she beams. “Every time I do a shoot or anything, I'm Dolly Parton inspired. I take a lot of inspo from her. I want it to be timeless. I want it to be a bit over the top as well. There's so much going on right now that is terrible and I think that music should be an escape, so I try to keep my brand in that realm of Dolly Parton: fun, Barbie, you know what I mean?”

I used to hide that I was the local diner girl and that I worked there with my parents, but I found the beauty in it.

DINER’s debut single, Goodbye To Someday, was written in collaboration with multi-platinum selling producer Kevin Bard and Emily Reid. It’s a hopeful love song about finally meeting the right person for you, although its inspiration actually stems from the Chicago Cubs' World Series victory in 2016.

“My dad was raised in Chicago and the Cubs have been a super big part of my life,” she explains. “My dad said my entire life: all he wants is for the Cubs to win the World Series before he dies. That's all he's ever wanted, so when they were in that last game, I had to sit on the stairs, my mom had to sit outside on the porch, my sister had to sit on the floor and my dad sat in the dining room with an inverted cap – we were so superstitious about it – it was just such a big deal. We all had our spots for every game, it was hilarious. 

"When they won, I've never seen my dad cry harder, which then spiraled into all of us crying really hard. He fell to the ground, head in the couch, just man-sobbing,” she recalls. “We were all a mess. The next day this commercial came out of this little kid jumping around in Franklin Park in Chicago and he says, ‘The Cubs win! The Cubs win!’ And at the end of it, it said, ‘Goodbye to someday’, as in, ‘Say goodbye to someday winning’. That is such a big memory for me, and especially how that commercial made me feel.”

With that phrase and core memory lodged firmly in her mind, DINER had an epiphany while in a local dive bar: “I've always had ‘say goodbye to someday’ and making all your dreams come true stuck in my head. I'm like, ‘That's a song – duh! I have to write that song’. I went back and forth about it being a big game day victory song, but that's very difficult to write – that can go corny really fast. 

"I met Kevin and Emily and they're like, ‘We love this idea. It should be a love song’. We wrote Goodbye To Someday in an hour on the guitar. I went into the booth, cut it and walked out with the demo basically done and ready to go that day. I was like, ‘Okay, I think this is the first single’.”

Did her dad cry all over again when he heard what he had inspired? “You know… he's such a tough guy. I know that he appreciates it, but he's not showing it,” she laughs good naturedly.

DINER followed up with another family-memory inspired single, Lasso The Moon, taken from James Stewart’s iconic line in It’s A Wonderful Life. “I've always loved that movie, and that if she asked for it, he would lasso the moon down for her. I've always had that stuck in my head, so that was an easy song to write. 

"It's a Christmas Eve tradition for my family: we watch it and we just cry our eyes out. Also I fell in love and I started writing love songs, which is really weird for me. I'm really proud of this one; it's definitely got way more of a country feel than Goodbye To Someday. It's a fairy tale love song.”

I use my AKG mic to record my demos and it sounds amazing; you just plug it in and start recording.

When DINER is away from a professional studio and inspiration strikes at home, she uses an AKG C214 condenser mic to record demos with, which is a cost-effective alternative to AKG’s high-end C414 family of mics, which are a permanent fixture in the world's biggest recording studios.

“I'm using it right now!” she points out brightly. “I have a little home studio. This mic is affordable and it sounds really clear. It's small, I can hold it in my hand and I can also travel with it, which has been awesome, and there's no feedback.” 

DINER has a confession: “I was recording my music, honestly, on my Xbox Call of Duty headphones, which was such a pain. Now that I have the AKG mic it's been great because it just sounds clear; I can use it to record all my demos and it sounds amazing. Plus the set up is really simple, you can just plug it in, start recording and you don't have to worry about anything.”

DINER shares that she’s working on an EP that will be released this year. In terms of specific details, she’s playing her cards close to her chest:

“I'm keeping it a bit secretive, but I will say that it is going to be not all country music,” she concedes. “It's going to run into some indie a little bit. I'm going to do some experimenting and then there's a bit of rock and roll. I want to show the broad spectrum of music that I can make, but it can still be me.

"There should be no boundaries with music. I definitely am a country artist, which is easy to grasp onto, especially with the DINER brand. The foundation is country, but it's gonna grow into other things naturally.”