“I must admit, I set my alarm for 9:45,” answers Diana Gordon when she picks up for our 10am phone interview sounding somewhat heavy-eyed. “I left some water next to my bed last night so I didn’t need to get up [for the call],” she continues, before breaking out into a raspy laugh.
Like the rest of the world, Gordon is stuck at home. She’s sitting out the pandemic at home in Los Angeles with her older sister.
“My sleeping pattern is so messed up, sometimes I go to bed at 6am… last night I stayed awake until 3am watching Naked and Afraid,” she continues, justifying her last-minute wake-up call.
Of course, it’s not just the late night TV binges that have been keeping the singer-songwriter wide awake in the early hours.
Last month Gordon released her second EP Wasted Youth, a subversive pop undertaking that effortlessly fuses grunge aggression with ethereal R&B soul; and has since been feverishly performing acoustic sets on Instagram live, shooting the shit to press around the world, and editing home-shot visuals.
“Literally, nothing has changed except that I have to do everything in the house.”
Gordon started out as a songwriter under the alias Wynter Gordon in 2005, penning chart-topping tunes for heavyweight musicians spanning a multitude of genres.
At just 19-years-old she wrote the title track Gonna Breakthrough on Mary J.Blige’s legendary album The Breakthrough; going on to collaborate with Mark Ronson on Dua Lipa’s Grammy Award-winning dance track Electricity, as well as co-writing not one, but three tracks on Beyonce’s triple platinum album Lemonade (including the line on Sorry that quite literally broke the internet: “Better call Becky with the good hair”).
On top of that, she’s racked up credits for her work with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, Travis Scott, The xx’s Romy Madley Croft and, most recently, Yves Tumor.
“It’s hard to make art for other people and watch them excel and not find the same success as an artist,” says 34-year-old Gordon.
“I put a lot of energy and work into my art and wanted to be successful being my most true, authentic self,” she continues, explaining the decision to put out her debut EP Pure in 2018, a five-track exploration of her far-from-easy childhood.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Gordon grew up as one of six children in a single-parent household.
“Summer’s were hot and free and I ran around with all the other Garbage Pail Kids [a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids],” reminisces Gordon, “I was a church girl, a hood princess, my mum was really strict – she once came to the basketball court with a belt because I was hanging out with a boy – and we had absolutely no money.”
After winning a songwriting contest, Gordon was granted a scholarship to study music at college. Despite dropping out before she officially graduated, a teenage Gordon started to see songwriting as an escape route from poverty and she’s had “tunnel vision ever since”.
That’s not to say it’s been plain sailing – she’s encountered a few roadblocks in her tunnel.
From 2009 to 2012 Gordon was signed to major record label Atlantic as Wynter Gordon, finding commercial success as the singer behind the catchy hook in Flo Rida’s radio hit Sugar and as the go-to voice brought in to complement EDM instrumentals.
“This was not what I wanted to be doing, so I left [the record deal] and felt pretty lost until the end of 2015.”
Everything changed when Gordon received a chance call from Beyonce in 2016 asking her to work on Lemonade – an experience that brought her new found clarity. She switched Wynter for Diana and released her debut single The Legend Of under her birth name the same year.
For the last few months, Gordon has been channeling her laser focus into the visuals for her Wasted Youth EP – for which the video for the title track is premiering exclusively on The Face today.
“Wasted Youth was about a relationship that I had from the age of 17 to 27,” explains Gordon. “It took a lot of my time, it taught me a lot, but it was literally my youth and I spent it in a relationship with a guy who was controlling and abusive.”
Directed by Gordon herself, the video sees the singer suspended mid-air in a black vacuum while haunting red lights engulf her body – an act that denotes the expansive, all-consuming primal human feelings of loss and grief.
“That’s how I felt going on in that relationship, I just felt like I was falling and there was nowhere else to go.”
Gordon is quick to add that she’s “too blessed to be angry” about the time wasted in the relationship during her formative years. “I still look 17,” Gordon jokes. “I drink my water and God has preserved me.”
“I’ve been to Beyonce’s house, I’ve had dinner with Janet Jackson, and I had J.Lo call my flip phone when I was a teen living in my mom’s basement,” she continues with the knowing tone of someone acutely aware of their blessed path in life.
“I know where I came from and I know where I could have gone, so I will always be grateful to the universe and God.”