Singer/songwriter Diane Birch is on a roll. She released her first studio album, Bible Belt, to strong reviews in May 2009, and spent January on tour with Nick Jonas. ” She’s also involved with Music Unites, a nonprofit that brings music education to children in underfunded inner city schools. The group recently launched an initiative that promotes female artists who are also role models ““ and who are passionate about giving back to their community. Teen Voices’ Michelle Golden caught up with Birch after she performed at the Empowering Women Through Music Initiative event in New York on October 4.

Teen Voices (TV): How did you get started?

Birch: I started playing piano when I was seven years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I thought maybe I wanted to score movies. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had all these random little bits of things that were exciting to me but nothing really made senseI was going forward in the dark a lot of the time, ” chasing this little flame that I knew was there somewhere. I started singing and writing songs. People started saying they liked them, so I started recording them and putting them up on MySpace. Social media is now huge. There’s this platform now for people to really do what they do. You can sit in your bedroom and you can put up a video on YouTube, and the next thing you know, you can be — what’s his name — Justin Bieber. It’s really exciting to be able to use all those things right now. MySpace really broke me out. It really helped me get discovered by people who could make a little difference in my life.

TV: What do you enjoy most about creating music?

Birch: Just being able to have something in my hand. I can hold an album in my hand and say, “These are things that I created!” That’s a very rewarding experience and to be able to create something from nothing is really a gift. It took me a long time to realize that it was a gift and to take it seriously.

TV: How can music empower women?

Birch: Music is that language, that force that breaks down all barriers. By being in this bigger community of musicians and having all these women in the community, it serves as this tremendous inspiration and support, and I feel that in itself is so empowering” ”  because you can elevate people in underserved communities, people just starting out. It bridges the gaps between all sorts of people, whether you are an established artist or an up and coming artist.

TV: What can you tell young girls about achieving their goals and dreams?

Birch: You really just have to listen to your own voice, and find your own voice and not try to do what everybody else is doing. You also have to realize that no matter what your experiences are like, you are going to be faced with self-doubt and negativity and fear. You just have to push through that. You really have to believe in yourself.

TV: What advice do you have for girls interested in the music industry?

Birch: It’s not an easy kind of ride. It’s really important to focus on what it is that you do not what it is you’re going to get. Focus on your art. Focus on your craft. Is it your voice? Is it your songwriting? Is it all of that? Focus on now; the fame will come as a result of what you make. I feel like a lot of people just want that glitz and glow, and they don’t actually think about what they are doing and contributing.

TV: Why should all girls have a prominent female role model?

Birch: For inspiration. When you are an artist, everyone wants inspiration. You can’t really create unless you are inspired. I think it’s really important that you have people to look up to. I didn’t really have a lot of role models when I was younger. I didn’t really know people who were doing the kinds of things that I wanted to do. Just knowing that you’re not alone can be such a powerful force, and I think that is really important for people to have people to look up to. The right role models can really make or break your development.

TV: How have you been a role model?

Birch: I hope I am an example of somebody who pursues her dreams and works hard. I write my own songs and play my own instrument. I sing my songs live. I really believe in the integrity of being a musician. There’s not a whole bunch of studio magic on my album. I really believe in myself as a real artist. I think it’s good for young kids to have that to look up to so they know that this person isn’t just somebody who someone else had formed and made them into an artist. This is somebody who actually writing songs about her life, her experiences, her challenges, her fears, her doubts and giving that out to the world.