Star Scene: Darren Hart – HARTS

Darren Hart’s scene is “pretty chill”. The Melbourne-born artist, guitarist, songwriter, producer, known as HARTS, explains: “I don’t really go out too much. I love music, I create music whenever I want, I’m into video games. I’m into basic things you can do yourself. So, my scene would be a quiet kid who has certain ambitions.” Even with the band on the touring circuit, “we’re not like party animals. A lot of people don’t understand that when you’re on tour, you’re so tired – you’re playing, you’re waking up early, catching planes, sound checks. The last thing you can be stuffed doing is being rowdy or being a kind of party animal.”

Harts says he is “excited” about the upcoming tour. He explains: “I haven’t been out on the regional tour before. This will be the first one where we’re heading up a good portion of regional areas as well as major cities. So I’m looking forward to seeing the diversity of the crowd and just seeing how we perform. It’s going to be a new show; a lot of experimentation happening with our shows at the moment. So I just want to see how that goes down within the major cities and the regional areas.”

Hart need not fret about his music reaching a diverse audience. As he himself has witnessed: “There’s a lot of people, that always write to me on social media, asking about all ages shows. But there just hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunity. I definitely want to maybe at a later date.” Hart humbly continues about his music’s wider reach and how “appreciative” he is of that: “That’s one of the things that I’m most proud of – my music really does appeal to a vast, broad range of people and a broad range of musical backgrounds and diversity as well. And it’s encouraging that it appeals to more people than I originally intended. A lot of people that come out are young kids that were introduced to my music from their parents.”

Hart, himself, was influenced by some of the greats. “I would have to say Jimi Hendrix for the guitar playing, Buddy Guy as well which was another blues player I was really fond of. The funk I was into with Fire was more The Isley Brothers, Prince, a lot of that 70s early 80s funk and soul stuff. Yeah. A lot of 60s rock and roll – like Jimi Hendrix was a big part of that. A lot of 50s rock n roll in terms of the attitude. Little Richard was a huge hit for what’s going on and like to play just like you know rock and roll standard stuff all the time – Chuck Berry, rock stars from the 50s and 60s. And obviously Prince was a big rock influence even though he was never really known as a rock artist.” Hart continues: “That kind of thing as well as more electronic contemporary music I grew up with like Gorillas, Daft Punk, that kind of stuff. It’s a broad range of influences. There’s no particular genre I was influenced by. Whenever I hear good music or good songs I become influenced by that. It’s really everything that a kid would like at some point.”

Though Hart loved music, he did not pick up a guitar until later in life and had to practice hard to unleash his natural talent.  “It does feel very natural now, but when I started playing music, it didn’t. I didn’t get in to music until I was 15 or 16 years old. Straight up, and for pretty much all my childhood until like late teens, I was into sport until I found music and started playing and writing music and then it kind of changed.” Hart continues: “I started playing drums in high school and then I taught myself guitar. And around about that time I started recording myself just to hear myself back. I wanted to hear what that sounded like. And then once I started recording myself, I started making up my own tunes making up my own melodies, riffs and things like that. So it took a lot of process for me to actually uncover the hidden talent that there was there. I didn’t really know how to access it because I’d never really had a teacher or anything. I was just learning by myself; trying to figure it out for myself. [pullquote]”So there was an underlying talent there but I had to dig real deep to get there and work really hard to get at it. And then it all came natural.”[/pullquote] I started just naturally making up stuff like writing songs. But it wasn’t an ambition of mine to be a songwriter or even a musician at any point. I was doing it because it was fun, it was like a hobby on the side that I was into that time.”

Hart’s music hobby has now become an ambition – and a somewhat altruistic one at that. “I really want to influence the popular music scene in a way that brings light to musicality and musicianship like it was in the 60s 70s and 80s. I think that pop music has been watered down dramatically. I still love it; I grew up on popular music and I want to be someone that at least inspires other people to, not just take up guitar like me, but to at least make more of an effort to be a little more musical and artistic with music and that’s something that I’ve been trying to do with my own music. I try and use it as a way that can make complex stuff and catchy and you can make complex things appeal to not only musicians but the general public as well.  And a lot of my idols achieve that. Stevie Wonder and others were like that; they made so much complex music but they were still catchy. That’s one of my ambitions. But I have many ambitions. I do want to strive to be the best guitar player that I can be. I want to be the best songwriter I can be as well. There’s many ambitions that change day to day depending on what exactly my mind set is that day.”

The roller-coaster world of music and fame did set Hart’s ambitions and hopes reeling at one stage. It was Prince, firm in his belief of Hart, who helped Hart get back on track. Hart explains: “It was amazing. I’m not sick of explaining the experience. I understand that it never happens so it is a talking point. It was a really surreal opportunity to play with him and to learn from him and for him to be kind of mentoring me behind the scenes, and the opportunity to visit Paisley Park which is his home and his estate. And it was just a really good opportunity to talk with him and we had conversations about everything from making music to writing music to playing music to everyday life; the industry as well -how we navigated certain issues I was having at the time and how we got around a lot of things that I’ve now got around but at the time I was struggling with. Prince helped me really navigate exactly what it is to be a musician and an artist. And he helped me gain a lot of confidence in myself and he helped me see, in myself, a lot of potential that I had. That was something that I didn’t really know at the time, but Prince saw something in me and my ability and my talent and in my writing. He just wanted to encourage me in any way possible that he could and help me out.”

Hart reflects on the darker days: “At that time I was just dropped from the record deal with Universal and then after that I didn’t really have any ambition to continue with music. I didn’t really think that once you were dropped by a label you could have any other career beyond that. So I actually kind of quit music at that point and I wasn’t really that into it. I was just kind of moving on when I first got the phone call and the e-mails and stuff from him that encouraged me to stay in the game, and that’s when I started writing my new my new album at the time which was the Daydreamer album. So I wrote that album and then I got to meet him after a few months and that’s what really solidified the fact that I think this is the way I’m supposed to be going in life and not to give up.”

Hart continues: “So that was one of the main challenges. A lot of the challenges were specific to where I was in terms of a musician at that point. Prince really saw that I had a really strong ability with my guitar playing and he wanted me to bring that to the forefront and to the center of what I was doing and make that the focus; he said that people would understand me a lot more if there was one really strong focus point at that point. And then you can diversify after people establish you as something. [pullquote]In food form, Harts describes his music as: “pizza but one of the pizzas that’s strange and has all the toppings that shouldn’t really go together but when you take a bite it tastes amazing.”[/pullquote] So that was a way into the market. So then I started focusing way more on my guitar playing and he was right. And that immediately took off and people started comparing me to Jimi Hendrix and I was getting those compliments and then people delved into what exactly I was as an artist and saw that there was differentiation there. So he was right in that regard. And just like other real small things that he helped out with that I was struggling mentally with.”

Hart is now in a good place. He is finishing his tour with the Cat Empire and heading off on his own solo tour to promote his latest release, Smoke Fire Hope Desire. With this release, Hart excitedly speaks of the reaction from fans, new and old. “I never really looked at this as anything else other than as a body of work. There were no real challenges in terms of one song to another. But the main challenge was just trying to make it clear that all the songs sound like they belong together and they are the same phase and the same production style, from the same vibe. Pretty much that was the real challenge. When we released it, people seemed to understand it and really like it.  It’s still early stages of promotion even though we’re two or three singles deep in for radio. Yeah very still a new album to a lot of people so it’s every day I’m waking up to like social media content of people to see people finding songs off somewhere.” Hart continues: “So people are still finding it and it’s definitely still in the early stages of its lifespan. They definitely need the whole album to understand the lyrical content of what each song means. And so it doesn’t really tell a narrative of a story but each song connects to each other in terms of what it’s speaking about its motive and its premise. They will understand a lot more lyrical content with each song they listen; they will also understand the style of music a little more once they hear a whole album, and also get a broader picture, a more deeper understanding of who I am as an artist when they start listening to it as an album because there’s much more musicality, musicianship and the person within the context of the whole album as opposed to just singles off it. If they do like the singles, they can delve into the album and find out a lot more about what I actually am about musically. Sometimes a lot of my rock stuff gets more attention than the other stuff I do, particularly from radio, which I understand – it’s more catchy. But when people actually find out that I’m just not a rock artist and I’m not even a rock artist, at heart anyway, when they find that out, people are mind-blown and it’s really encouraging to see that acceptance and people will understand me a lot more once they delve into my albums, particularly the back catalogue stuff that I’ve released up to today.”

Looking forward, Hart is enthusiastic about touring. He concludes: “So finishing off Cat Empire Tour. And then I’ve got my own tour in February/March of this year. That’s the next immediate thing. And then I’m going to be spending some time in the States. Just pretty much doing what I’m doing here over there. The album hasn’t been released there yet so we’re starting the whole campaign again. So, as soon as I finish up in Australia here, we’ll take it over to the US and start releasing singles and start doing the album release there, and doing shows. So that’s my next priority and that’s really what’s been on my mind. We’ve done a few showcases for some important industry people and from the feedback we’re getting at the moment, it’s very, very positive and strong so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Grab Smoke Fire Hope Desire here.

Catch HARTS live before he heads off overseas:

Triple J Presents HARTS: 

‘Smoke Fire Hope Desire’ Tour 2017, with guests YEO  

Friday 17th February 2017 

170 Russell, Melbourne VIC 

Tix: http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/harts/88763?skin=747&ref=123  

Saturday 18th February 2017 

SS&A Club, Albury NSW 

FREE ENTRY

Friday 24th February 2017 

Torquay Hotel, Torquay VIC 

Tix http://123agency.oztix.com.au/?Event=68581

Saturday 25th February 2017 

Whalers Hotel, Warrnambool VIC 

Tix http://123agency.oztix.com.au/?Event=68582

Thursday 2nd March 2017 

The Beery, Terrigal NSW 

Tix http://123agency.oztix.com.au/?Event=68602  

Friday 3rd March 2017 

The Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW 

Tix http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=HARTS17

Saturday 4th March 2017 

Uni Bar, Wollongong NSW 

Tix http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/harts-supports-tba/91801

Sunday 5th March 2017 

Urban Jungle Festival, Perth WA 

Tix http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/urban-jungle/91073

Saturday 11th March 2017 

The Triffid, Brisbane QLD 

Tix http://123agency.oztix.com.au/?Event=68582

For tickets and info head to www.hartsmusic.com

About Mary Boukouvalas 1186 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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