Singer-songwriter Kelly Diane’s lifelong passion for music stems from her rebellious Amish grandfather who decided to pick up a guitar, despite his church’s disapproval.
Diane left Ohio nearly a decade ago when she moved to the Flathead Valley, but she carries her family’s love of music with her.
Diane primarily writes and plays folk or Americana music, her instruments of choice are the keyboard and accordion. As a full-time musician, she plays both as a solo act and as part of other bands at venues and events throughout the Flathead Valley.
But, growing up Mennonite, she didn’t get to listen to secular music often. She was able to enjoy Irish folk music, which really influenced what she plays on the accordion.
“I have a pretty real appreciation for that. Back then it was pretty chill Irish music and nowadays I love Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, that type of stuff,” Diane said. “It’s got to have a Waltz kind of beat, but I like throwing random songs onto the accordion and seeing how it sounds.”
Picking up the accordion from her mother and aunts who played it when she was younger, she remembers not being drawn to the incredibly heavy instrument at first but started playing more after her friend found an accordion for sale at a local pawn shop here in the valley.
“So I went and checked it out. I can play one little tune (on accordion) so I played it, and the guy just gave it to me for half-off, he said ‘You can play a song, so you can have it.’ So I was like OK, why not?,” Diane said.
Though her family back in Ohio likes that she got their musical genes, the fact that she strayed away from playing only Christian music has sometimes been a sore subject.
“I know my family is proud of the fact that I play music, they just wish that it was in a different avenue. So it’s been kind of a sore topic sometimes, like between me and my family,” Diane said.
Despite this occasional tension, Diane loves her family and her roots. She often draws inspiration in her songwriting from them, like the story behind her song “MaryAnne.” The song centers around her Amish great-grandmother who raised four daughters alone after getting a divorce from her first husband, which led to judgment within their strict community.
“It was just a lot of hard work and a lot of pain that she had to go through, because she saw him every now and then, as he’d come back to see his girls and whatnot. Just that decision for her had to, I mean, I feel like it would have killed me. And she just handled it gracefully and was an extremely strong woman doing that,” Diane said.
Some of her earlier songwriting can be a little sad or angsty. She said people in the communities she grew up in just don’t express a lot of emotion, so writing became a way to express her feelings.
“You hold a lot inside. When I was a little kid, writing something down would kind of be my way to get out my feelings, my emotions — even if it was just for me, like if I was the only person to ever hear that song. I think even living here now, I have not always been very good at expressing myself” Diane said.
These days, Diane said her current songwriting material comes from “lots of love and family.” A new mom, she said her daughter has changed the way she goes about her gigs, opting for earlier time slots instead of the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. bar shifts she enjoyed before. She feels lucky to be a part of the live music scene in the Flathead Valley, which despite the size of the area is able to support many full-time gigging musicians.
“Considering we’re not Nashville, I think it is a pretty impressive feat. And there are so many venues that are open to live music, there are just people who are very open to it and appreciative,” Diane said. “And the fellow local musicians are amazing. There’s a good support system.”
She’s setting off this fall on a new adventure. After their landlord decided to sell the rental they were living in, Diane and her husband Quinn decided to purchase an RV and tour around the West Coast.
“We might follow the ocean for a bit, we might duck into some towns that we know are good music towns. We’ll just do a bit of exploring, do a lot of music playing and do a lot of writing. We decided there’s no time like the present to do something like this,” Diane said.
And even though having a daughter has changed some things for the young couple, there’s no worry that she will not inherit their musical genes.
“We figured out playing music, preferably loudly, gets her to calm down,” Diane laughed.
“Now, I hold her sitting at the piano and she’ll pluck around a couple of notes, she watches her dad play guitar and just watches his fingers, she is mesmerized.”
Diane plays gigs regularly throughout the Flathead Valley, she said she will be playing with The Second Story Band above Herb and Omni in Whitefish on Fridays throughout September.
To find out more, visit her Facebook page Kelly Diane Music and her Instagram at 88keyskd. Her music can be streamed on Spotify.
Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.