About the Band


Riff Diamond is a contemporary blues / rock band from Northern Ireland that draws on the best traditions of many classic and modern artists of the genre (Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Clapton, Hendrix, Gilmour, Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin, Free, Etta James and so many more) while still following their own, distinctively rocking and bluesy, path and developing their own sound.

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Riff Diamond

Riff Diamond Performing

When Conal met Becky …

Becky Baxter (Vocals) and Conal “Tone Monster” O’Donoghue (Guitar) got together in July 2014 when Conal responded speculatively to a post on the Join My Band internet forum. At this time, Conal was 16 and Becky just 14. Parents were pressed into action as taxi drivers (and chaperone, of course) so that they could meet to talk music and play lots of blues / rock.

After several thousand miles of driving and a false start with a rhythm section, a distinctive, even signature, sound started to emerge. During these practice sessions, Becky started to demonstrate her velvet tone and the light-and-dark qualities of her voice while Conal worked on perfecting his blues / rock licks and solos.

Enter the Drummer

The band’s drummer, John McNulty, heard about these sessions through a friend and was immediately interested as it was a genre he wanted to pursue. From the first time he attended, in late August 2014, it was clear that another piece of the jigsaw had been found.

First Steps

We had no particular plans at his stage and were happy just to make music together and work on building up a repertoire of covers. Then fate intervened: through a friend of a friend another local band, The Logues, heard Becky and Conal practising and invited them to be the support act at their forthcoming gigs in Buncrana and Castlederg.

It was also at this time that we took our first tentative steps in trying our hand at writing some original material in the blues / rock genre.


Deep Impact

The trio of Becky, Conal and John was working well, but we always knew that the right bass player would enhance our sound and so we kept searching for the final piece of the puzzle. After several false trails and a couple of unsuccessful experiments, in October 2014 we found Shauna McGarrity who, like John before her, fitted right in from day one on all fronts: musicality, personality and commitment.

Within a few minutes of the first session with Shauna, it was clear that the added weight, tone and authority from the bass brought an extra dimension to the sound: finally, all the necessary elements had been brought together.

Less than ten days’ later, Shauna was thrown in at the deep end when she appeared on stage with the band at the Trixxster’s MCC Charity Concert. We performed an excellent (so we have been told) hour-long set of mainly covers but also including the debut of our first two original songs: Phoenix and Get Out From Under. We were warmly received; so much so that we were invited to headline at the Trixxster’s MCC Annual Convention in Summer 2015.


New Direction

We set about establishing ourselves on the pubs & clubs circuit in the region and started to feature at venues such as Upstairs at Bogan’s, Daley’s and Gilroy’s, as well as other events such as the Trixxster’s Convention and the Dundrum Festival. At this point, our set list comprised mainly cover versions of classic songs with just a handful of original songs, such as Coming For Me, Street Life and I Should Know Better By Now, added in.

Early in 2015, we made the decision to move away from doing mainly covers and to concentrate on writing and developing our own material. We made a conscious decision to not do any gigs for six months (although we did lapse on that a couple of times) and instead focus on writing new material and honing both our sound and our professionalism. From the start of this process, we seemed to tap into a rich vein of creativity (including finding two outside lyric writers) and quickly found ourselves working on a number of new songs: Masquerade, Shadow Man, I Promise You, Love Hate, Count Me Out, Kick In the Teeth and, more recently, Diamond Heart and Live Wire.

This encouraged us to rent some studio time in July and August 2015, when we laid down over twenty tracks in a mix of originals and covers. We also re-launched on the live scene, with our predominantly original set list, and have played numerous venues including the RGU and headlining on New Year’s Eve at Upstairs at Bogan’s and at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast on two occasions (the second time supported by another local band).

Finding Our Sound

We have continued to refine and develop our sound and our original songs; so much so that in January 2016 we returned to the recording studio and re-recorded (and, we think, improved) most of our original songs. An interesting by-product of this journey is that many of our early songs have now been taken out of our set list and earmarked for further development because we now do not think they are good enough!

At this time, the demand for live performances was growing significantly and we found ourselves gigging on a more frequent basis at a number of different venues: O'Reilly's, The Ivy, McHugh's, McCrum's Rockin' BBQ, Downpatrick Cultural Night, Fa Joe's, Alexander's and The Coach to name just some of them. This, we found, comes at a cost in terms of having limited time available after rehearsing and performing; so creating new material has suffered a bit, although we continue to work and developing and refining songs such as "Heart In My Hands", "How Did We Get Here?" and "Colour Me Uninspired".

Our recording sessions produced over 20 originals (in various stages of development) and over 12 cover versions with our own distinctive twist. After much debate, we narrowed this down to a first cut of 9 originals and 2 covers and have released these on our album "Sapphire": check out our "SHOP" section for digital downloads, CDs and even premium vinyl ... and, of course, some quality merchandise. We don't think you will be disappointed.

A Step Back ... and a Step Forward

2016 brought an unwelcome surprise when Shauna announced that she wanted to pursue a different musical path and so had decided, reluctantly, to leave the band. It was all very amicable and she promised to stay with us, and keep performing, until we found a replacement. Fortunately, the management trolls had already spotted Dom (McAreavey) and noted him as a musician of interest ... and it helps that he and Conal were already friends at college and, more importantly, had been jamming together in a pick-up band. Dom jumped at the chance to join the band and has fitted right in. He also showed a prodigious work ethic in swiftly learning the band's repertoire and is now starting to bring his own personality, ideas and enhancements to the table. We can't say if the change has made the band better or worse; only that it has made it different and that's part of the journey. It's a strange mixture of emotions: we miss Shauna (and wish here very success with her new ventures) but we are also glad to have Dom around. It is was it is, we guess.

Conclusion

Riff Diamond is an eclectic band that brings together a disparate group of talents (with an age spread of 27 years from youngest to oldest!) with a common love of music in general and blues / rock in particular. John is a veteran drummer who has played in several previous bands. Dom is studying music after coming from a creative design background. Becky is still in school and Conal is immersed in studying music, simultaneously pursuing qualifications in performance, composition and music technology and looking to move on to university. They all love to create and develop music and to entertain in the live setting.

We aim to embody the “old-fashioned” values of well-crafted melodies and harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and virtuoso musicianship. We all believe there is a groundswell movement among the public that is turning away from the bland, mass-produced, over-engineered and marketing-driven ‘pop’ that has held sway for the past decade and longer and looking for more individual and unique character and sheer talent in its artists. We are confident that Riff Diamond can fulfill that role.

We hope to be around for a long time to come and to make a career out of our love for music. More to the point, we hope that you enjoy our music (at least half as much as we enjoy making it) and we would love to see you and meet you at one or more of our forthcoming gigs.

It will make our day if you join our mailing list (just use the “widget” here or on the Home Page) so that we can keep you informed through our newsletter and also offer you some free downloads of exclusive versions of some of our songs – and if you could hop over to Facebook and give us a “Like” (promoters and booking agents put excessive store in such things), that would be perfect.

Who knows what the future holds? For now, it is enough for us to enjoy making music and, hopefully, to share that enjoyment with you.

March 2017