Antoine Reynaldo Diel is a Filipino singer who moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles. Classically trained, Diel plays a large number of shows around town, and brings energy to each and every one. That energy is contagious. You can feel it in how he controls the audience in the room, letting us dive with him on the lows, only to let us ride the waves of his highs. He is one of the best vocalists in our city, and he sat down to talk with me for a bit.
WYAT: How’d you start singing?
Antoine Reynaldo Diel: I always joke that I’m chasing Mom’s legacy. She was a singer who traveled the world; one of the first Filipinos who sang in Communist Russia. She was a member of a major performance group in the Philippines, and she was their diva.
WYAT: How did you learn to sing so passionately?
Diel: [When I was a child] there was a situation where I started crying, and they said, “Sing, now sing.” It was their way of saying, every time you sing, there has to be a purpose for it; there has to be an infusion of your full emotion. Don’t just go through the routine. If you’re going to sing, you’ve got to sing with a purpose.
WYAT: Why did you move to New Orleans?
Diel: Because in Los Angeles I wasn’t working in the field that I wanted. I grew up singing, I trained as a singer, but I was sitting in a cubicle answering phones all day. So you say, “Something is not right.” The music scene wasn’t catering to the stuff I wanted to do. If you have the talent, you’re a good person and you’re good to work with, you can make a living here.
WYAT: How did you come up with the Misfit Power?
Diel: I didn’t come up with it; I stole it from a friend. We were at Lafayette Square watching Trombone Shorty. He was restarting his life from the situation he was in before. He said, “New Orleans is one of the few places that you can do that, you can restart your life.” That’s really one of the reasons I came to New Orleans. Nowhere felt like home. My friend said, “That’s the thing about New Orleans, there’s this misfit power. If you’re from somewhere else and you never felt like you belonged, the misfit power in New Orleans calls you, and kinda tells you to come home.”
WYAT: What do you like about New Orleans?
Diel: That even though it’s a big city, it still feels like a small town. In Los Angeles there’s this distance between musicians. Once you break that wall, most people are really cool. But here it’s to the ten times.
During Satchmo Fest, I went on my bike and I watched Charmaine Neville play. And after her set she was walking around, and I just wanted to introduce myself. So I go, “Hi, Ms. Charmaine, I’m Antoine Diel, I’m a singer here.” She [responds], “Oh, I know who you are.” I like that sense of community. That it’s engrained in the life of a New Orleanian.
WYAT: What’s on the horizon?
Diel: I’m thinking of doing a duet album. Arséne DeLay and I are talking about doing a vocal duet. I’m thinking of also doing a duets album with the likes of [guitarist] Daniel Schroeder and [pianist] Bill Malchow.
You can catch Antoine Reynaldo Diel on Wednesday nights at the Spotted Cat Music Club at 10 pm. He also plays The Carousel Lounge on Thursdays (5-8) as well as The Fountain Lounge at The Roosevelt on Fridays (5-8) and Saturdays (9-12).