Top selling Christian artist, Jonny Diaz, has been on the music scene for awhile and ended 2015 on a high note with a Billboard Top Twenty hit single, “Breathe.” Between touring and managing Fit Factory Nashville, the gym he owns and operates alongside his wife Libby, Jonny stays a pretty busy. Battered and Brewed recently caught up with him to talk about the holidays, how he stays fit, touring, and what 2017 has to offer.
Good Afternoon Jonny! Thank you so much for talking a break from touring to chat with Battered and Brewed! What was life like growing up in Florida?
It was a great place to grow up. I lived in the really family friendly Central FL town of Lakeland, FL. One thing that I loved was that Florida allows for sports year around. I have three older brothers, so we were always outside playing in the Florida weather and on the baseball field pretty much year around.
What are some of the family recipes you grew up with?
My mom cooked a meatloaf that I always really loved. I do not really like meatloaf, but I do like my mom’s. My mom would also make chicken enchiladas that we had every Christmas Eve. We always joked that people get it wrong with having turkey, Jesus just wanted us to eat chicken enchiladas. Honestly in my family with four boys, it was a little more about quantity then quality, just making sure the budget stayed low and feeding all four of us.
Was there ever music playing in the kitchen growing up?
Yes! I remember at Christmas time my mom would always put on Christmas music when she was making baked goods and things like that.
What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
Oh man, the bite sized candy bars. I can easily walk past a full sized candy bar and think, no I don’t need all of that. But if it is bite sized candy, I will walk by it 12 times and grab one every single time.
Going out to eat so often on tour, you are probably eating a lot of foods that are “heavier” and cooked with unknown ingredients and amounts. I know a lot of people have a hard time feeling like they can be “healthy eaters” while going out to eat. How do you feel about this concept? How do you maintain a balance of eating healthy while going out to eat on tour?
Lately, I have done a much better job of eating good than in times past. Honestly, its about just sticking to the basics. I tend to stay away from casseroles and just get meat and vegetables. Obviously meat can be cooked in something I am unaware of, but for the most part if I grab a salad and a piece of chicken, pork, or beef steak I kind of know what I am eating. It keeps me away from the heavy foods, carbs, and bad stuff that goes in some of the other meals.
Whats the most memorable meal you have had being on tour?
It’s a toss up! Last time I was in the North Eastern Maine area the gave us a surf and turf. I think I might have had three lobster tails that night. The other time I was in deep South Texas, just off of the Mexico boarder, and they had these awesome authentic Mexican tacos. I just like eating food based in the region that I’m in. Thats special to me.
If you designed your own walking food tour of Nashville, which restaurants/food sellers would be on your list of places to visit?
I would say you have to go to Hattie B’s to get some Nashville Hot Chicken, cause thats what we are known for. It’s not exactly healthy, but you have got to try it. There is a really great steakhouse, Kayne Prime, that has steak and really creative sides. It’s really good, but it can be pricey, so it is more of a special occasion type of place. Whiskey Kitchen is also really good. They have some great Southern cooking, shrimp and grits, things like that. There are also some great brunch places in Nashville. Stay away from Pancake Pantry on th weekend, the line is to long. Go to East Nashville to Sky Blue Cafe.That is our favorite brunch place.
Aside from your passion for food, fitness, and music, what’s the one thing that really keeps you ticking?
My family and daughter keeps me going and pushing. She gives me a whole new desire to make sure that we are eating healthy. Its a little hypocritical to give her healthy foods and not eat them ourselves. I also love to golf. Its a fun thing that gets me outside and feeling refreshed. Even though sometimes I am not relaxed while I am playing, I love just the idea of getting outside with friends and walking around playing.
What can fans look forward to in 2017?
I honestly do not know and am okay with that. I thought God was closing some doors for my music at the end of 2015, and then my song “Breathe” came out and really opened up a lot of doors. So I have no clue what God is doing, but I know that I am okay with it, no matter what direction he is leading me. Whether he opens doors wider and I do more touring, cds, and concerts or if he choses to slow it down and shut this chapter of my life for what’s coming next. I have hit a nice sweet spot. I am just giving it to God and surrendering those plans to him. That takes a lot of pressure off of me.
Finally for Battered and Brewed, If you could have a meal with anyone, who would it be and what would you have?
I would probably go back in time and have a meal with the Disciples and Jesus. Sticking with my theme of wanting to eat based on the region I am in, we would have Mediterranean food and falafels. To eat with them and see them as real people cutting up, joking, teasing, and just guys being guys I think would be awesome.
About Jonny Diaz:
Jonny Diaz signed with Centricity in October 2013 and released his second project for the label September 2015, Everything Is Changing. He began his music career by leading worship for a youth group in Lakeland, FL, and released his first independent project in 2003. Two more independent albums followed before Diaz signed with INO Records in 2008 and released his first major label national debut, More Beautiful You in 2009. The title track reached No. 1 on Billboard’s AC Indicator chart, No. 2 on Hot Christian Songs chart and led to strong reviews that included Christian Manifesto describing Diaz’s music as “stellar acoustic pop.” Another INO album followed, Jonny Diaz, which led to three more singles before Diaz departed from the label. After singing with Centricity, Diaz released Let It Fly that earned a 4-star review at CCM Magazine, which called the project “a work of art.” An active touring artist, Diaz has shared the stage with such notable Christian acts as Building 429, Matthew West, Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe and Bebo Norman.
Diaz balances two full-time jobs as he acts as general manager of Fit Factory Nashville, the local 6,000 square-foot gym he owns and operates alongside Libby, who acts as head trainer. The new business venture has become an unconventional source of community and support for the couple and its more than 200 members.
“There’s something about getting through a tough work-out or even kind of suffering through something that just brings people together,” Diaz says. “We’ve seen God create a cool community through what we’ve done. It’s been such a neat way for us to meet, minister and invest in so many young adults in our area.”
Like any hard-working husband and father, he may be wearing a multitude of hats and life may not always be perfect, but he’s learning to find and appreciate the beauty in the messiness. Everything is changing, but it’s really Diaz who’s being changed in the process; and he’s more than OK with letting God shine through his imperfections.
“In my effort to be genuine, one of the things God has called me to do is to not stand on stage and try and look like I have it all together,” he says, “but instead, stand on stage and admit where I need saving, because I can make my Savior look big by admitting all the things He’s saved me from. I can stand up there and say, ‘Here’s where my life has completely fallen apart, but here’s how God has pieced me back together.’”
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