During the past month, S-Curve artist Diane Birch has been quietly separating herself from the crowded field of aspiring female singer/songwriters—thanks primarily to a viral campaign targeting "mom blogs." While Birch's debut album, "Bible Belt," last month peaked at No. 87 on the Billboard 200, the strategy has helped the single "Nothing but a Miracle" gain momentum. The song is No. 51 on the Triple A chart.
The label opted for a more viral marketing strategy to promote "Bible Belt," as it lacks what S-Curve founder Steve Greenberg calls a "novelty single." Capitalizing on a perceived enthusiasm from adult women, Greenberg began reaching out to online forums called mom blogs and letting the groups listen to and discuss Birch's music.
The positive reactions led to blog posts, Twitter recommendations and the spread of a widget that donates $1 to charity for every "Bible Belt" purchase. The music media soon noticed Birch's online popularity: iTunes made the motivational track "Rise Up" its free single of the week in May, while VH1 added "Nothing but a Miracle" to its rotation last month. As Birch's songs receive more airplay, her sumptuous vocals and soulful lyrics have pegged her as a word-of-mouth breakout in the vein of Joss Stone and Norah Jones.
"It's pretty hard to define my taste, but there's always that common thread of songwriting," Birch says of the album's lived-in feel. "It's not anything that's never been done before, but that's OK. All I want is to tell my story."
Her story begins in Zimbabwe, where Birch moved with her parents at a young age because of her pastor father's missionary work. As her family continued to migrate to South Africa, Australia and eventually America, Birch began to feel at odds with their irregular lifestyle.
"I constantly had to adapt to new environments," she says. "While it let me discover different genres of music, it was also so alienating. I found a lot of things wrong with that way of life, but it gave me something to push against."
Birch, who started playing piano at age 7, moved to Los Angeles on her own and played regular gigs at venues like the Beverly Hills Hotel and L'Orangerie while honing her songwriting skills. On the strength of several stripped-down MySpace demos, she signed a publishing deal with EMI in 2007 and later signed a recording contract with New York's S-Curve Records. During a 10-month span in New York and New Orleans, Birch recorded "Bible Belt" under the guidance of Greenberg, who helped deliver Stone, Hanson and the Jonas Brothers to the mainstream.
To fully capture Birch's potential in the studio, Greenberg brought in veteran collaborators, including Meters bassist George Porter and Jive Five singer Eugene Pitt, and gave the emerging artist the time to craft a solid front-to-back album. "Lots of records these days are just a collection of singles," Greenberg says. "We decided that we needed to get the right people and let Diane work on a wide canvas to make a great album."
To further spread the word about "Bible Belt," Birch will appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" this month. Then she will tour throughout August before embarking on a fall trek that's still in the planning phase.
For Greenberg, Birch's mesmerizing talent has always been the album's selling point. "We understood that the key way to promote this album was to just get people to hear it and not worry about a big first-week number," he says. While he recognizes the effect of appealing to the mom bloggers, Greenberg also points to Birch's growing pull in the college-age demographic and the prospect of the singer "becoming an important mainstream voice for a younger crowd."
- News