A native of Iowa, Diana Upton-Hill is quick to sing the praises of her home state, telling this reporter that there’s more than just fields of corn in The Hawkeye State.
“If you think of Iowa as one big cornfield, you’re only on one road. If you get off the interstate, you’re going to see rolling hills, and a lot of varying parts of the state. You’ll see the river, bluff, and even some mountains. The north is so different from the south, and really doesn’t get enough attention. Come see us in Iowa. I should work for the tourism board,” she said, laughing.
The singer, whose current single is “Southern Gentlemen,” admits that her musical tastes are quite varied – but she comes by that distinction naturally.
“Part of the reason my music is the way that it is was that I listened to a lot of different kinds of music. My mom and my dad loved everything – whether it was Rock, Country, Blues, Jazz, or Classical. They had it all on records, and they would play it loud. We’d dance around the house, going from Alice Cooper to John Denver. That really shaped me as a musician to appreciate everything. I can appreciate rap if it’s got a good beat, good lyrics, and a good hook, and I can also dive into a rock song and just love everything for what it is.”
When asked what it was about Country Music that led her to pursue a career in the genre, she quickly said, “I think that it all comes back to the honesty. I love the story telling aspect of it. I love the wholesome values that you find in so much of it. We all like to have fun, but there are just a lot of honest truths to it. I think that the songwriters really get to share their stories. You can really relate to a lot of country songs, even if you didn’t grow up in the country, so to speak,” she said, naming Dolly Parton and Jewel as two of her biggest influences.
Spend any amount of time with Upton-Hill, and you will be charmed by her talent – but also, her quick wit. When asked how she would describe her music, she didn’t miss a beat.
“Hopefully, in your record player,” she said with a laugh. “I think my music is just for someone that wants a little bit of a smile, whether it’s a fun and quirky song or something about love. My first single was ‘Do Love Well,’ which was written by my good friend Mitch Goudy. He came to me and asked if he could write a song for me. I said ‘sure.’ He asked me if I only had one message that I wanted to share with the world, what would that be, and what would I want to say? I thought about this and that, and I told him that all of the things I was thinking came back to love in the end – not just your spouse, your parents, or your brother or your sister, but to love the ones that you’re around. If you pass a person on the street, give them a smile. You might not know them. Give people love, and they will give it right back. It’s a very magical thing.”
The singer said that she does do some writing, but considers herself more of a vocalist than a composer. “I do quite a bit of songwriting, but my forte is that I love to sing. I look for good songs with good messages to share – whether I write them or not. If it fits what I’m wanting to say on a project, then I’m open to it.”
Though Diana Upton-Hill can be found on stages around the country performing her music, she also has enjoyed stints in musical theater productions such as Annie, Get Your Gun and The Music Man.
“There’s nothing like being on stage in front of people,” she says. “It might be just 20 people in the crowd, or it could be a venue of 20,000. There’s a connection that happens when you’re in front of a live audience. They feed that energy back to you. More importantly, they will feed you the same energy you’re feeding them right back to you. It’s a pretty cool thing, and I really felt that the most with musical theatre. Getting on stage and playing another role and acting out someone else’s story is really cool.”
And, there is also another hidden talent in her resume. She has quite the knack for switching musical gears, and singing TV theme songs with her husband.
“It’s a skill that not everyone possesses,” she jokes, “but we have been known to break out into such hits as The Nanny, Growing Pains, or even The Brady Bunch.
Upton-Hill is in the midst of a radio tour, and has just completed work on a video for “Southern Gentlemen.” So, what comprises a Southern Gentleman?0
“I think that a southern gentleman is someone with good manners, a good soul. Just an all-around good person.”