Motherhood Brings New Musical Maturity
By David W. Smith
The Times Argus
Friday 2/19/99

Back to Interview List

Diane Zeigler's friends and fellow musicians couldn't believe what she was doing back in 1995. After 10 years of struggling to get her songs heard in the competitive world of singer-songwriters in Boston, Zeigler, a Burlington native, was finally getting some recognition. She had built up a loyal following, won a slew of songwriting contests, received critical praise and recorded her debut album, "Sting of the Honeybee" on folk's prestigious Rounder records.

But she refused to tour the coffeehouse circuit so critical to success as a folk musician.

And Zeigler didn't just refuse to tour, she stopped performing and writing. For the next tow and a half years, she wouldn't even touch her guitar - it was a Sabbatical that lasted until the spring of 1998.

This was no crisis of artistic vision or bout of writer's block - Zeigler was pregnant. The prospect of motherhood filled her with both indescribable joy and apprehension of what it would mean for her growing career. But being a mom was not something she would compromise - of this she had no doubt.

"It was very clear about what I wanted to do," said Zeigler. "I told Rounder I will not tour. There was an aspect of that whole gypsy life I resisted."

Zeigler soon became enveloped in her life as mother in the Montpelier home she shares wit her husband, musician Geoff Sather, actually enjoying the period of not writing or performing. In two years, she would have a second child.

She never worried that a lack of tour support left "Sting of the Honeybee", a critically praised work, with unimpressive sales.

"It's a record I'm really proud of, but it just never got the recognition I think it deserved," said Zeigler.  An unusually assured debut, "Sting", like any successful singer-songwriter's work, focuses on Zeigler's voice with all frills relegated to the background. Her vocals are sweet and breathy without sacrificing strength or a directness that leads the listener to believe she just may mean what she's singing. Bolstered by the simple thrum of acoustic guitar, Zeigler's songs lend themselves seamlessly to splashes of banjo, electric guitar and country harmonies.

"If you turn on any folk album, you're going to hear a range of styles. It's a whole musical palette," said Zeigler. "That's why I love this form. You can go anywhere."

"For me, folk is about words, not just music," she added. “Folk songs endure because they speak to the heart. For me it's just so much more nourishing than anything I could hear on top-40 radio."

Zeigler writes songs of self-doubt and newfound confidence, ponders the intricacies of love and tells tales of childhood and friendship while avoiding overt sentimentality and self-reverence. She even takes time to look at the world around her without getting too preachy or obscure.

They tell of the lives here in the ground
And the granite all comes from the same town
And here among the rubble
Old Barre stakes its claim
In the Rock of the Ages
They know a quiet fame

 Zeigler enjoyed her departure from the music world until last year, when two phone calls requesting a performance struck her as the proper opportunities to step back into the spotlight.  "It was starting to look like it was OK to have a life outside of my kids, that it wouldn't make me a bad mother, " said Zeigler. "It was great. I just up and started writing again. It was like a long-lost friend."

 Her musical inspiration, Zeigler said, has now gone full circle, and she's performing and writing with a n ease and joy she hasn't felt in a long time. It's no longer about trying to create a presence and name for herself, she said, all she wants is to enjoy music. Her prolonged vacation from performing is something she doesn't regret at all.

 "Writing comes and goes in cycles anyway," said Zeigler. "You go through periods when you're prolific, and periods when you're just soaking things up."

 A music career will not be easy, she knows. Now she faces the dilemma of making a career in music without sacrificing her family life. For the time being, she will concentrate on doing weekend touring, and reestablishing her presence in the northeast.

 New songs have come easily and she's eager to introduce them to people, but wants to get a touring career off the ground before recording again. She wants to avoid putting her record company in the same position it was in four years ago - financing an album the artist was unable to support by touring