The professional hockey to professional music pipeline isn’t something you hear about very often; but for Hamilton’s Eric Diodati, that’s exactly what his unorthodox career trajectory has looked like, trading in hockey sticks for guitar picks.
Today, the 29-year-old, Niagara Falls-born musician and songwriter goes by the stage name Fame Cartel, putting his own singular touches and flourishes on what he called a “moody, dynamic, gritty, slightly dark” approach to alternative rock, with wide-ranging inspirations from Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, to Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, and Mike Kerr of Royal Blood.
But looking back into his earlier days of youth, a career in music wasn’t even on Diodati’s radar, despite a childhood growing up in a household with two music-loving parents and a guitar in his hands before he was even a teenager.
“Throughout high school, I played in events,” says Diodati, who would often perform in showcases at his alma mater Saint Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls. “However, I was so invested in hockey at the time that music was just something I enjoyed and had fun with.”
But all the while, hockey was taking up more and more of Diodati’s world, starting from his earliest days playing AAA for the Niagara Falls Thunder at age 14, and later moving to Toronto to play in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) with hopes of being drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
From there, it wasn’t long before Diodati was drafted to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in 2009, kicking off an OHL career hitting multiple milestones while playing for numerous teams and even winning Defenseman of the Year.
A full-ride scholarship to St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick followed, where Diodati played for two years before transferring to the University of Waterloo, playing professionally with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the East Coast Hockey League after he graduated.
Then, all of those years dedicated to climbing the ranks in the world of hockey came to a halt when Diodati re-examined his priorities for the near future.
“I realized that travelling on a bus through the U.S., not making much money and struggling through injuries wasn’t what I wanted anymore,” he says. “So I decided to retire from the game in 2018.”
Throughout his hockey career, music had begun to take up a larger and larger place in Diodati’s life. After seeing a local band play, he was inspired to form a band called The Keystones while still hitting the ice in the OHL. The band was active for 5 years, playing for packed crowds at venues and festivals all over the Niagara region.
It was during that time that Diodati got a hands-on masterclass in the ins-and-outs of being a working musician, like the skills behind playing in live settings, crowd work, sound engineering, contracts, and more.
That knowledge and real-world experience has proved useful in these early phases of Diodati launching Fame Cartel, his latest music project that began to take shape just before the pandemic hit.
Though COVID-19 has limited Diodati’s ability to get out there and play shows live, he’s nonetheless been busy at work honing his sound and cranking out original tunes that he writes, performs, records, and produces himself in his acoustically-treated basement studio at home.
To sharpen his skills, Diodati enrolled in eight months of audio engineering classes through the pandemic while also getting a generous hand from the talents of Russ Donohue from Stonehouse Recording, drummer Dan Nicoletti, Keegan Beach of St. Catharines music project ‘Lastli,’ guitarist Sean Cahill and mix engineer Chris Creglia in helping him refine his sound from initial seeds to finished product.
“I try to write every single day and I’m perpetually coming up with different ideas, melodies, rhythms and general concepts for each song,” he says. “Fame Cartel’s sound is dark, mysterious, luxurious and gritty – and my lyrics reflect that.”
As Fame Cartel, Diodati has already released two singles – I Feel You and Dance With the Devil, both of which are available for streaming – and he’s getting ready to drop some two more throughout 2022, which he describes as “heavy alternative rock music with modern electronic textures” loaded with fuzzed-out guitars, gritty vocals, and heavy drums and bass.
The first drop is his upcoming single Money Where Your Mouth Is, a song he says is about “someone calling me out for my bullshit and tendencies to procrastinate. The song has a ‘show me what you got, kid’ vibe.”
Money Where Your Mouth Is is set to release on all streaming platforms on April 29th, and will be followed up by the release of another single – One More Night – in summer of this year.
Those tracks are just a taste of what Fame Cartel has in the works, with Diodati planning to release even more music in the months and years to come; and the new Hamilton resident is also itching to formally introduce himself to the city’s bustling music scene by playing venues locally and beyond.
“The world is changing every day and the pandemic has really put a damper on the last 2 years of our lives – regardless of who you are or where you come from, it’s been a drag,” says Diodati.
“I think music (and entertainment in general) is going to explode in the next decade and I want to be a part of that movement. The Fame Cartel live show will be exciting, edgy, and will create an atmosphere where people can let loose but also enjoy a unique live music experience.”
In speaking to Diodati, it’s abundantly clear how much passion and drive is behind his work on Fame Cartel; and it’s all the more exciting to see it come together in a city he has readily fallen in love with, from its food scene to its scrappy arts & culture identity.
“Hamilton has character and is a little bit rough around the edges but overall, the people, the culture and the passion inspires me,” he says. “I think Hamilton is full of culture and will be a really exciting place to live and make music in the foreseeable future.”
Want to catch Fame Cartel live at Warehouse Concert Hall in St. Catharines on May 19th, 2022? Grab tickets here.
Photos by Kyle Poole