Second Time Around:  Diane Zeigler Catches Up With Her Career
Burlington Free Press 7/01

This weekend, Diane Zeigler launches a comeback tour to celebrate the release of "These Are The Roots," a year-old album that never received a proper send-off.  The eight-month tour includes more than a dozen venues with a performance at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where she will represent Vermont artists on Vermont State Day.

This Montpelier musician has taken some detours in her career, but every fork in the road leads to the stage. The first surprise came in 1995 when, after the release of her debut album, "Sting of the Honeybee," she became pregnant with her first child.   Giving birth was not on the CD release tour's agenda, and Rounder, her newfound record company was not happy with this career development. "Sting" was receiving national acclaim on the folk scene, a place Zeigler compares to "living in a ghetto" because of the remote odds of reaching the mainstream and achieving Dylan-status as a household name.

Despite some success, she still chose to pull out of race, dropping her Rounder contract to devote herself to her biggest fan, her new daughter. "I went through a very surprising change," Zeigler, now 36, remembers. "I became so in love with mothering that I just did an about-face and started thinking I'm never going to do music ever again."

Zeigler canceled an extensive tour with folk singer Bill Morrissey and stopped giving live performances to promote her record. She brought her career to a screeching to a halt and emerged seemingly without a trace of whiplash.  "It would have been that much harder to start a family later on," Zeigler maintains, "I was ready to set out and push that record and start the wheel in motion to move my career to the next level. It would have made even less sense because I would have been more invested in it." Admitting she possesses a strict black-and-white view of life, Zeigler did not pick up the guitar again until after her second child was born in 1999. By then, she'd gotten mothering down and started to miss the sound of her own singing voice. "As hard as I've tried to walk away from music because it's a hard lifestyle," Zeigler says. "It's part of why I'm on the planet, so I've got to find a way to make it work."
 

With encouragement from her husband, bassist Geoff Sather, she eased back onto the scene, winning three music awards her first year back including the New Folk Winner award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas.   Zeigler credits Sather with providing musical guidance and inspiration, revealing: "A lot of times I'll just be playing, and I know if he looks up it's something worth working on." The two musicians met at the 1990 Sugarbush Folk Festival in Warren, where Zeigler took home first prize for songwriting. Although he lost to the pretty, 25-year-old lyricist with the sultry voice, he scored points with her in the end. "I was smitten," Zeigler admits, "Very much so. I think he was, too." …
 

Returning to music without a record label in 1999, Zeigler self-produced her second CD, "These Are the Roots," with the help from
grants, including $4,500 from the Vermont Arts Council.  "It was a huge financial risk," she admits, "I had to learn how to release to radio, and I developed a lot of independent relationships with folk deejays around the country. (Self-producing) was a very empowering experience because I took back the reins of control so to speak. It's been pretty exhausting. Physically it's taken a toll."

Critics hailed the new album. New York's Metroland Magazine called it "one of the most satisfying records of the year," but one week after its release, Zeigler injured her guitar-strumming hand while planting a perennial bed out in her garden.
…The repetitive motion injury, a form of tendonitis at the base of the thumb, she suspects was brought on by guitar playing, something she'd only just began again after her three-year break from performing. "I think it's really hard to be a musician and a parent," she says. "Your body can only handle so much of your hands banging against an instrument!"

After putting her musical tour on hold and trying six months of acupuncture and other homeopathic cures without success, Zeigler finally had surgery in December and has nearly recovered full use of her wrist.  Sitting out on the sun-drenched deck of her home earlier this month, Zeigler chatters energetically, her face free of makeup and full of smiles. Her second time around the folk scene, she is moving at a more cautious pace.  "Now that (this injury) is behind me, it's just a question of finding the right balance so my body doesn't become a hazard to my music career."   She points out a nearby pot of seedlings, planted by her own two hands, "a sign that hope springs eternal," and brags about a peanut butter sandwich she made for her daughter that morning, the first she's made in a long time without a splint supporting her wrist.

"This is not a flash-in-the-pan industry that I'm in," Zeigler says. "There are people that have long careers who are not young and beautiful, and they're still playing in folk clubs. That's all I want."