With an onstage style and energy that many people liken to Jimi Hendrix, and a funky edge to his music that garnered international acclaim from an amazing array of music stars including the late Prince, Harts is a unique individual. At 24 years of age he has two successful albums and a string of hits under his belt and he has no intention of slowing down. Jack caught up with him halfway through a tour he is doing with Xavier Rudd, the Cat Empire, Ocean Alley and Sahara Beck. He touches on his changing attitude towards music, trying to define Rock and Roll and his upcoming tour for his album Smoke Fire Hope Desire beginning later this month in Melbourne.
Jack: Hey Darren (Harts), how is everything going?
Darren: Yeah good, really good. I have just been doing a few interviews today and this is the last one. I’m looking at the schedule now.
J: I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting them all done (awkwardly laughs).
D: Yeah man, its fine because there wasn't that many. Ive got to do some more tomorrow as well.
J: Nice one. Am I right in saying you’re about halfway through doing a string of shows with the Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd?
D: Yeah thats right. We’re two shows down and have four more to go.
J: And you have Byron coming up this weekend yeah?
D: Thats right, Byron and Bribie Island this weekend.
J: Very nice, its a cool lineup. I really dig Ocean Alley.
D: Yeah man its been really good so far. The last two shows have been great. People turned out really early as well which was good to see. You know, so many people came out and watched all the bands throughout the day which was really good.
J: Mega. It is a pretty awesome Australian lineup, with the two favourites of the Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd but also the younger crew including yourself, Ocean Alley and Sahara Beck. Do you have any stand out Australian acts that you are particularly enjoying at the moment?
D: Yeah um, I dunno because Ive been kind of hear and there. Like I’ve been in the US checking out some stuff, with more kind of stuff there. And previously I was just kind of doing my own tours and hadn't had much chance to see to much Australian music. This is the first tour in a long time where its been all Australian people and its been amazing. I’d seen Cat Empire I think once before but they're like a step above in terms of their production and their live shows.
J: So much energy.
D: Yeah exactly, and its been really good to see them properly and particularly at a time like now when I am more open to different kinds of music. I was really only interested in seeing Rock bands and things like that but now I’m way, way more open. Also Xavier Rudd, he kills it. He does such a unique thing. Ocean Alley were cool, I actually played with them sometime last year and then I ran into them in Amsterdam actually.
J: Haha wow, nice.
D: Yeah they came to one of my shows in Amsterdam because they just happened to be there at the same time. Yeah they're good guys man. And then there is another artist called Sahara Beck. I only just saw her for the first time the other day when we played and I didn't really get to the front of house, but from what I heard side of stage sounded legit. She had a real cool, vintage, almost Amy Winehouse production style.
J: Yeah she has a big voice too doesn't she?
D: Yeah a really distinctive voice. So this whole lineup is legit. So thats probably why so many people have been coming out early and watching all the bands. Its a really good festival/tour.
J: Yeah amazing lineup. So you said that initially you were sort of into Rock and Roll music but recently you’ve opened up your spectrum on music. Do you see that reflecting in your newer music and the way you have been writing music?
D: Not really. I guess I have to clarify. I’ve always been into other stuff, but mainly when I would go out to see live music I was only interested in real high energy stuff. Thats what I meant by that. But yeah I’ve always been into heaps of music and I’ve always loved listening to other music, whether in the studio or when Im driving you know. Im into so many different styles of music and I have always been influenced by so many different styles of music BUT, I am definitely more open to doing different stuff now than particularly previously to what Ive been doing. I feel as though Rock music is cool and I love big heavy riffs and things like that but playing and touring for the last four or five years just playing that kind of stuff, Im more open to going in a different kind of direction. Ahh maybe not a different direction, but maybe more open to trying to think about what exactly what Rock music is. For example my last album, Smoke Fire Hope Desire which was released in September, is definitely not a Rock album but after listening to tracks you would say it is a Rock artist. Its got a real weird high fidelity, Rock Soul Funk Pop sound.
J: There are still those killer riffs in there though, such as the Fear in Me riff.
D: Yeah thats what I mean. Its based on the fundamentals of Blues and Rock music but I still wouldn't call it Rock music so its even hard for me to describe and talk about when I say Rock music. Its hard to define. I don't really concentrate on what I’m doing anymore in terms of genre.
J: I remember seeing you live at either the 2015 or 2016 Bluesfest and it was just you and a drummer and I was blown away by the sound you got as a two piece. Now, I noticed you have a bass player for your live shows?
D: Yeah we’re a three piece now. And thats what I have wanted to do for a while. When it was just me and a drummer I was doing the bass lines through the guitar while playing the guitar at the same time so there wasn't much chance to improvise and make it still sound sick. Now we can improvise and we can go off grid because were not stuck to tracks and things like that. We can actually play and just be musicians and show our musicianship and musicality a bit and do it straight up live.
J: Yeah it gives you a bit more freedom.
D: Yeah for sure, thats why I have wanted to do it for a long time but I hadn't had the chance to do that until now. This tour has been really good and my own tour which is coming up in February/March I’ll be sticking to the same lineup. Im excited about that because I think people are really going to enjoy it. The fans will see what the three piece is all about. There is still a lot of sequence stuff and a lot of loops that I use with my keyboard to try and thicken out the sound but it still has more of a live sound than previously. Its more open to improvisation and more free.
J: Awesome man. And you just mentioned you're doing another tour in February which starts in Melbourne yeah? 170 Russell in the City?
D: Thats right yeah. Thats the actual official album tour.
J: East Coast mainly yeah?
D: Yeah East Coast and Perth and we are also hitting a lot of Regional areas as well because I have never really done that by myself. I am looking forward to that in the most part because that is the part where I can see if my music is really spreading beyond just the popular areas. Its good to see how many people turn out in regional areas and seeing if any people are coming out and whether many people have heard of me in those areas. Having said that though the Melbourne show and the Sydney show are the biggest venues I have ever played in these cities as the main act. I have played 170 Russell but it wasn't my own gig. The same with the Metro in Sydney. I supported the Delta Riggs there before. So I have played the rooms before but never on my own.
J: Aside from music do you have any other creative outlets that you pursue/enjoy or does music dominate your creativity?
D: For a long time it was music however just recently I have started to get into Videography and Photography as well and film making. I recently just bought a real cool camera that shoots amazing quality footage at 4K and things like that. Im just trying to make videos of behind the scenes stuff and add more video content to what I am doing online as well. So I guess it is kind of tied into the music but it is a separate thing. There is something about shooting video. Plus I always like playing video games in my down time. Its good having other hobbies.
J: Cool, well I might wrap it up man because its your last interview for the day and Im sure you want to go and relax and play some video games (insert awkward laugh here). Thank you very much for taking time out of your day for us. Appreciate it big time.
D: No worries, thanks for having me and thanks for the interview. Appreciate it man.
J: No worries at all and good luck with the rest of the tour with Xavier and Cat Empire and good luck with your solo tour in February.
D: Yeah for sure man, Im looking forward to it. Thank you.