Wednesday 23 Apr

IndianGiver - Understudies

There’s a difference between being derivative and being inspired by something, a line a lot of artists can’t seem to find — or at least don’t care to.
04/22/2014 | Comments 0

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Austin singer/songwriter Darden...

Austin singer/songwriter Darden Smith wants to win the race, but 'Marathon' proves he's in for the long haul

Chris Parker October 7th, 2010

Darden Smith is an artist. Indeed, he believes we all are at heart.

Darden Smith
8 p.m. Thursday
the Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley

Darden Smith is an artist. Indeed, he believes we all are at heart.

But losing your way is a part of being human, and around the millennium, after almost 15 years as a professional musician, he began to question his chosen profession. This crisis of faith and purpose ultimately led to one of his finest albums, the jazzy, adult-pop "Sunflower."

The 2002 disc was part of a trilogy of low-key, albums that culminated with 2005's "Field of Crows." It would be five years before his next album of originals, the ambitious "Marathon," which he turned into a theater piece.

Released last week, "Marathon" is a powerful meditation on the nature of life and the struggle to live it to its fullest. It's a record Smith said he couldn't have written at any other time in his 25-year career.

"I had to go up and down a little bit, getting older and looking back. Just sort of being able to look deep inside myself and write about it and learn how to pull away from the results, dig down and write something that is hard to say to yourself," he said. "It was like I had to get a little older before I could write these songs. Get seasoned a little bit. Get beat up."

At the time of "Sunflower," Smith had considered chucking the whole business " a powerful feeling for someone who had begun writing songs when he was 10 years old. By 16, he was playing local clubs.

"I'm not a studied musician, so the ability to translate what I was thinking into a three-, four-minute song was just magic," he said. "When I realized that I could actually make a living at it, that struck me as the most amazing thing, and I was good to go."

Smith's first album came in 1986. In Austin then, it was a special time to be a Texas country songwriter, coming up alongside peers such as Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith (both of whom sing on his debut, "Native Soil").

Beginning in 1988, he released four albums on major labels, including a collaboration with The Bible's Boo Hewerdine that produced a couple of college-radio hits, and "Little Victories," which boasted his first top-10 hit, "Loving Arms."

Dropped from Columbia Records, Smith slipped into a funk as he watched his albums go out-of-print.

"I was letting the business part of it overrule the music, and that's when I got sideways," Smith said. "I'd been chewed up, spit out and embraced again, and all this stuff, after a while it gets hard. It wears on you."

A friend told him not to give up without making one more album. So he shut everything else out and made the kind of record he wanted to make. The result was "Sunflowers," and the tremendous critical " and, to a lesser extent, commercial " response re-energized him.

The songs for "Marathon" came even as Smith was recording his next two discs, but he could tell they were part of a whole that was just taking shape, so he pushed them aside.

After working on a piece with the Austin Symphony Orchestra in 1999, he chose to turn these songs into a theatrical show with spoken-word interludes. "Marathon" was developed at his alma mater, the University of Texas' Performing Arts Center.

Meanwhile, Smith stays busy with his "Be an Artist" program, which he'll be showcasing all week in Piedmont. Far from convincing people to take up a guitar, it seeks to teach all ages to listen to their inner muse and find creativity in whatever they do.

"Music is just the foil for it: It's the way I communicate the message; it's not about the music. There's a lot of different ways to be creative, and a lot of different ways to be an artist. You can be an artist at driving a truck," Smith said. "We all need to be reminded that our creative juice down inside is what makes us happy. We forget that as adults. It's always a struggle, but that's not always a bad thing." "Chris Parker
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