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Darden Smith Returns to Susanna's Kitchen in Wimberley, Texas
Texas singer-songwriter Darden Smith is viewed by critics as "...a first-rate songwriter and appealing performer."
Don't miss this appearance at Susanna's Kitchen, Thursday February 17, 2011 at 7:30 PM.
Singer and songwriter Darden Smith returns to Susanna's Kitchen in a performance on
Thursday, September 18th.
During his 20-year career, Texas singer-songwriter Darden Smith has
recorded in folk, country and pop settings. He has co-written songs
with a British rocker, released 10 critically acclaimed albums, created
works for dance theater, done symphonic collaborations and taught music
to children. Darden Smith has made himself at home in studios in
Manhattan, Nashville and London, as well as Austin. As this new CD
shows, his style is always shifting, yet remains true to his roots.
1962, Darden Smith was raised in rural Brenham, Texas. He says that
Leon Russellís Carney LP of 1972 was one of his earliest musical
influences. When he was in the fifth grade, Smithís guitar teacher
taught him the songs on Neil Youngís Harvest and After the Gold Rush
albums. She explained to the boy that Young was the composer of his
"That was the first time it clicked to me that every song is written by
somebody," Smith recalls. "I was already writing poetry at the time.
She said, ĎAll it is, is just poems and melody.í Thatís all I needed to
When he was in junior high, his family moved to suburban Houston.
Culture shocked and out-of-place, the former farm boy sat in his room
and wrote songs constantly from that point onward. Smith studied the
structures of the songs of writers such as Guy Clark and Townes Van
Zant and John Prine. He had his head spun around by Bob Dylan, The
Allman Brothers and Jackson Browne. He began playing in clubs while
still in high school. By the time he graduated from the University of
Texas in Austin, Darden Smith was a fully realized talent and a regular
on stages in the cityís thriving nightclub scene.
The folk-flavored Native Soil appeared as his debut album in 1986.
Fellow newcomers Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith provided harmony
vocals. Signed by Epic Records, he issued Darden Smith in 1988.
Produced by Asleep at the Wheelís Ray Benson, the collection spawned
"Little Maggie" and "Day After Tomorrow" as country-chart singles.
At this point came the first of Smithís shifts in direction. A song
publisher teamed him up with Boo Hewerdine of the British band The
Bible. The songwriters couldnít have had more different backgrounds,
but their collaborations resulted in the 1989 duet album Evidence.
"I pride myself in being a Texas singer-songwriter. Itís who I am, and
I will never get away from that. But that world was all I knew until I
met Boo Hewerdine. Iíd never created music outside of my little niche.
But I was listening to things like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and The
Pretenders. And the experience with Boo showed me that I could write
music from a broader place than I had ever done before."
Following the critical acclaim of ĎEvidenceí, the record company moved
him over to its pop division, and onto Columbia Records, for 1990ís
Trouble No More and 1993ís Little Victories, the latter of which
produced the hit pop single, "Loving Arms." In keeping with the crazy
logic of the record business, the label released him from his contract
after this, his most successful album to date.
The next several years were hard ones in Smithís personal and
professional life: "I was used to the major-label lifestyle and the
ego-stroking that goes along with that," he observes. "Even if youíre
the most humble, modest guy in the world, itís hard not to believe some
of it. Then you get off the major label, and you find out that not only
are they not going to play your records, theyíre not going to return
your call." Compounding the professional setback was the ending of his
Out of that dark time came a sterling collection of folk-tinged pop
called Deep Fantastic Blue in 1996. It was followed by Extra Extra in
2000. But by then, Darden Smith was disheartened, discouraged and
contemplating getting out of the music business.
"It was a tough time," he recalls. "Then, in late 2000, I was having
dinner with friends in New York. Sammy (Merendino) and Stewart (Lerman)
suggested we should do one album more before I quit, but that we should
do it only to have fun." At the time I didnít have a label, a manager
or an agent. I started writing and recording purely out of the love of
making music, and through that experience, fell back in love with the
Smith signed with Dualtone Records and turned in the brilliant and
acclaimed Sunflower in 2002. Its songs "Perfect Moment" and "After All
This Time" climbed the charts in the UK, with "After All This Time"
reaching #3 on the BBC2. Stateside, he was embraced by the emerging
Americana format. Darden Smith now views that record as another
watershed, personally and stylistically.
"Music should come from the heart," he says. "I had lost touch with that notion. Sunflower brought it back."
Sunflower included guest vocals by Patti Griffin and Kim Richey. Both
Shawn Colvin and Richey contributed vocals to Circo, his moody,
adventurous 2004 release. Field of Crows features guest vocalist Eliza
Gylkison as well as the invaluable contributions of Steuart Smith,
Merendino, Beck, Mansfield, Galeano and Lerman.
Field of Crows is the latest song collection from a man who is living
one of the most fascinating and beautiful artistic evolutions in
Departing from the way he has recorded other albums, Smith cut Field Of
Crows almost live in the studio with the band all in the same room
collaborating. Co-produced with Stewart Lerman, the entire record was
recorded and mixed over the course of three weeks in May 2005. Field of
Crows is highlighted by contributions from drummer Sammy Merendino,
multi-instrumentalist Steuart Smith, bassist Roscoe Beck, steel guitar
and violinist David Mansfield, percussionist Jose Galeano and
Smithís wrote or co-wrote all the songs on Field of Crows. His
co-writers include Gary Nicholson "Talk Me Down", "Mary", and "Anyway
to Treat Your Lover", J.D. Martin "Satisfied" and Phil Roy "Fight For
All in all, Field of Crows is a fine illustration of why a critic once dubbed Darden Smith, "a Texas Van Morrison."
"I still like to explore musically," Darden Smith comments about his
musical diversity. "Some people do their exploring with different
styles before they ever start putting out records. I kind of did mine
as I was making the records."
Records are just part of his musical wanderings. Beginning in 1989,
Smith began composing music for experimental dance-theater works. Three
full evening works followed, and in 1999 he was commissioned to create
an orchestral work with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. The result was
Grand Motion in 2000. He is currently working on a new theater piece. A
radio documentary on Texas songwriters that he is creating for the
BBC2, "Songs From The Big Sky", will air March 2006. His ongoing "Be an
Artist" program puts him in workshops, helping children see that they
are all born artists and that creativity is inside all of us.
About his extraordinary career, Darden Smith says, "I donít worry about
a lot of the stuff I used to worry about. This is my 10th record and my
20th anniversary in this business, and I realize how fortunate I am to
be able to make a living being a musician, doing what I love to do. Why
fight it? This is who I am, so Iím just going to groove along and enjoy
the ride. I feel great, better than ever. So here we go."
Susanna's Kitchen is an
alcohol and smoke free venue in Wimberley, Texas, hosted at Wimberley United Methodist Church, corner of RR 12
and CR 1492. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5. for children. Also available is pie from Wimberley Pie Company, coffee from
Hill Country Natural Foods, and hot tamales.
Click here for directions...