A DIAMOND contains endless reflective dimensions, and it's a fitting descriptor for Shara Worden's own musical approach. Under the name My Brightest Diamond, she's created a kaleidoscope of widely ranging resonances, from baroque opera to pop songs.
"All of my life has really been like that," Worden says. "Even when I was in University of Texas, I was singing in funk bands, and I was a skater so I was going to punk shows, and then at the same time taking opera classes and doing really well in school."
It wasn't until Worden moved to New York and saw artists like Antony and the Johnsons that she learned how to contain those distinct genres within a single idea. "Of course, you always hear strings on Michael Jackson records or Tom Waits or whoever," she says. "There's a really big continuum of classical instruments being played in pop music, but it wasn't until I saw Antony that I realized that everything could come together for me."
My Brightest Diamond's sound is multifaceted: dark, sharp, cutting strings; sauntering funk percussive pulses; low brooding horns; and Worden's voice oscillating between majestic high peaks and sultry lows—all often contained in one easy-to-digest pop song.
For the newest My Brightest Diamond album, This Is My Hand, Worden decided yet again to shake it up. She began by emphasizing beats rather than melodies, inspired by the rhythmic pulse of marching bands. Lyric-wise, she worked from a historical perspective of art and performance, taken from Daniel Levitin's book The World in Six Songs, and a more personal idea of reclaiming the body through dance and beat-based songs.
"There were a lot of varied processes on this record," Worden says, "which I think helped it feel a little more like it was breathing in a different way."
The product is sonically dexterous—pop by default, but hard to clearly categorize. But that's not Worden's concern.
"A lot of times when we start talking about style and genre, it's because that's really how the public interfaces with music. As a musician and as a composer, that's not the level I'm playing with. I'm playing with: What are the foundation components, what are the playing pieces?"