Peaceful songs for angry people

Diyet isn't an angry person. But her latest album, When You Were King, was written, largely, for angry people. There's even a song by that title.

Diyet isn’t an angry person.

But her latest album, When You Were King, was written, largely, for angry people. There’s even a song by that title.

“We all like love songs, and I love them too, and anthems and fun tunes, but I think I just felt like I had something to say this time,” the singer-songwriter explained from her home in Burwash Landing.

Perhaps it’s getting older, or being able to travel to different places, but she’s noticed how angry hurt “permeates every part of society and the world.” It’s in cramped European cities as much as the small community where she lived until she was 13 and again calls home, she said.

Burwash Landing provides good inspiration. “It’s beautiful and green. There’s some sort of strong, earthy, magnetic pull here. It makes you really happy,” said Diyet.

She and her husband, Robert van Lieshout, live with their two children right on Kluane Lake. Sure, they shop at Superstore, but they also eat their own soapberries and her son is learning, slowly, to hunt. He and his sister are free to just be kids, she said.

The song Fearless Heart describes returning to a place that’s an “ever-changing mass of rock and tree, water and dirt.”

But it “can also make you really crazy,” said Diyet. The small population magnifies every emotion and experience, she said.

Perhaps that’s why so many of the 10 songs on the follow-up to her 2010 debut The Breaking Point sound so personal. White Flag describes the frustration of strained relationships with its call that “You can’t have love when love is made of war.” She admits many people have asked if the songs are written about her life. Most weren’t, she said.

Hollow Thing describes someone who has taken “a trip to the bottom” and feels hope, like summer, has vanished. It was written after Diyet was stopped while police chased a man who had entered Canada illegally at the Beaver Creek border last October. She wondered what would prompt these actions.

Still, she can’t completely ignore her own life. The album’s closer, Doubt,

describes her struggle to come to terms with both the “exciting” and “crazy” parts of being a full-time musician.

And then there’s the song she wrote for her mother, 8th Wonder.

Her mother attended residential school in Whitehorse as a child. The song begins with a description of children being sent on buses far from home. Later verses mention people choosing not to talk about tragedies they saw.

But despite her mother’s experiences at school, she gave her children a great life, said Diyet.

Her mother cried when she heard the song, said Diyet. And although she knows she was the original inspiration for it, she said the song is really for all children who attended residential schools, said Diyet.

“It’s never about blame. It’s never about pointing fingers. It’s never about saying, ‘Well, this happened to me, so that’s why I am this way, or whatever,’” she said, describing how she views her mother’s outlook. “It’s about focusing on the positive aspects and focusing on being, at the end of the day, just a kind and loving human being.”

Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then.

Diyet’s mother’s side of the family is Tlingit and Southern Tutchone. Lines like “battle lines are drawn on a ragged map” from White Flag or descriptions of poverty and drunkenness in Like a Drum could be read as references to debates over traditional territory, or commentaries on problems often faced by First Nation communities. Her last album did garner nominations from both the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.

But writing about First Nations culture isn’t her main focus or priority, she said.

“At the end of the day, we’re bigger than our blood dictates. While I fully support aboriginal movements, I’m also a Canadian, and I’m also a citizen of the world. I feel that way,” she said. “The good and the bad things of life are not only for one group of people.”

People from isolated communities really need to realize this, said Diyet, who spent time in Croatia while she was a university student. She saw people trying to rebuild their homes after a war. It should be mandatory for every young person who grew up in an isolated place to “get out,” at least for a little bit, when they get older, she said.

“We have a tendency to get so insulated that we think that our problems and our lives are the only ones that exist and it’s hard to compare if you have nothing to compare it to,” she said.

It can be hard for anyone to believe they’ll return to times when it felt like everything in their life was right, said Diyet. That sentiment inspired the title track, with its repeated call to “Wake up from your slumber sleeping beast/It’s time to breathe again.”

“It’s really about normal kind of people and striving to be the best that they can be and also not backing down,” said Diyet. “You don’t have to take ‘no’ for an answer and you don’t have to be content with the status quo if it doesn’t serve you.”

When You Were King is available in Whitehorse at Mac’s Fireweed Books and on most online platforms like iTunes and CD Baby. For a limited time, people can order signed copies through Diyet’s personal website, The plan is to have a CD release in Whitehorse in the fall, and then take the music on the road – hopefully to Yukon communities and to Europe, said Diyet.

“I’d love for this to inspire other people to make music,” she said.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

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