Darden Smith – Jamie Trent opens

Darden Smith – Jamie Trent opens

Mar 27, 2015 |  1 comment
Date: Mar 27, 2015 Time: 8:00 PM Price: $15 in advance/$20 day of show Type: Singer/Songwriter

Darden Smith has long transcended traditional singer-songwriter boundaries, and his varied, fascinating musical legacy continues to evolve. Following unexpected paths has been a constant force in his 28-year career as a musician, and his work of the last 15 years has led him both further afield than ever, and also brought him full circle to where he began.

Musically, Smith weaves together folk and Americana influences with rock, pop, and the musical roots of his home state of Texas, to create a sound that is uniquely his own. He has recorded fourteen critically acclaimed albums in locations ranging from Austin, New York, and Nashville to London and Los Angeles. All Music Guidehas praised Smith as “a singer-songwriter blessed with an uncommon degree of intelligence, depth, and compassion.” Likened to songwriters such as Nick Drake, John Hiatt, Leonard Cohen and Elvis Costello, Smith is one of contemporary music’s most winning and gifted artistic treasures whose consistent creative excellence keeps blossoming.

LOVE CALLING, Smith’s latest album and his first with Compass Records, was recorded in Nashville with co-producers Jon Randall Stewart and Gary Paczosa. Capturing the sweep of its artist’s prolific career, the album’s lyrics reflect the depth and resonance of a veteran songwriter, while its melodies and production style recall the purity of Smith’s early work. “No machines, and acoustic instruments whenever possible. Fewer instruments, organic arrangements–I wanted to move in a direction I hadn’t gone in a long, long time.”


Smith spent his early childhood on a farm outside of Brenham, Texas, where he was born in 1962. “I grew up in the country playing alone and wandering in the woods and pastures,” he says. He credits those hours of exploring for “giving me an imagination and a gift for making up stories.” Smith’s early interest in music was sparked by singing in the local church choir, relishing the “seat-rattling sound” of the church’s pipe organ, and accompanying his parents to country dances. By the third grade, Smith had a guitar and a teacher who taught him how to play every song on Neil Young’s Harvest and After the Gold Rush. He wrote his first song when he was 10 years old.

After his family moved to the unfamiliar suburbs of Houston in 1976, Smith took refuge in the songs of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, and John Prine, while continuing to write songs of his own. He was soon slipping into Houston clubs to watch established singer-songwriters perform. His musical influences expanded when he moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas and was exposed to blues and reggae, as well as musicians coming out of the U.K. such as Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and The Pretenders. By the time Smith graduated with a BA in American Studies in 1985, he was a regular headliner on the local and Texas music scenes.


Smith released his debut album, Native Soil, in 1986, featuring fellow Texans Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith on harmony vocals and earning accolades from All Music Guide as “a gem.” It landed him a publishing deal writing songs for Dick James Music. “I was stunned that someone was going to pay me to do what I would do for free,” Smith says. “So was my father.”

Epic Records signed Smith at the inaugural South by Southwest Festival in 1987, and Darden Smith (1988) produced two country chart hit singles, “Little Maggie” and “Day After Tomorrow.” Its release on Epic’s Nashville division came at the same time that country music was headed back toward its traditional roots, and Smith was, admittedly, “miserable.”

Then Nigel Grainge, the head of Ensign Records, flew Smith to London and introduced him to the British songwriter Boo Hewerdine. Four days later, the two had eight songs and a record deal from Ensign Chrysalis. “All of a sudden I found that I could write the kind of music I liked to listen to,” Smith says. “The collaboration with Boo was the first glimpse at the idea that I could be more than just a kid from Texas who sings folk songs.” Evidence (1989), his subsequent duet album with Hewerdine, earned a glowing 3½-star review from Rolling Stone, and Smith’s trajectory expanded beyond the country music scene.

After Smith’s label deal with Epic was transferred to the pop division of Columbia Record, he released Trouble No More (1990), best known for “Midnight Train” and “Frankie & Sue,” and Little Victories (1993) which included the Top 10 pop hit single, Loving Arms.


In 1989, Smith embarked on projects that foreshadowed the many artistic shifts that have come to define his career. He collaborated with a local dance/theatre group, scoring three full-length works. That accomplishment prompted the Austin Symphony Orchestra to commission Smith to write a symphony – even though he’d never learned to read music. “Grand Motion” premiered in 1999 and, as Smith says, “It changed my life. It showed me that I was a musician, not just a songwriter, and that I could do anything I wanted if I would only say ‘Yes.’ ”

On the recording front, Smith released Deep Fantastic Blue (1996) on an independent label, Plump Records, but he struggled to adapt to the shift from a major label. In 2000, when several of Smith’s early albums began to go out of print, he responded by re-recording his favorite songs and releasing Extra, Extra. But without a record label – or manager, or agent – Smith was having doubts about the music business. Finally, at the urging of two fellow musicians, Smith returned to recording and produced a trio of richly reflective albums with Dualtone Records—Sunflower, (2002), Circo (2004), and Field of Crows (2005)—that earned some of the best reviews of his career. In 2007, Smith issued Ojo, a limited-edition recording from a series of live concerts in New Mexico. Smith also started his own label, Darden Music, and releasedAfter All This Time: The Best of Darden Smith (2009), which featured sixteen selections spanning the range of his career thus far.

During this period, Smith began to branch out even further. In 2003 he created The Be An Artist Program, which offers workshops that inspire creativity through collaborative songwriting. The program has reached over 15,000 students across the US and Europe. Inspired by his “Grand Motion” experience, Smith started to develop a narrative song cycle inspired by the remote West Texas town of Marathon. At the same time, he explored the powerful relationship between Texas songwriters and the Lone Star landscape in a radio documentary for BBC Radio 2, Songs from the Big Sky (2006). After Smith completed the songs forMarathon, he experimented with monologues, scripts, a band, and a stage production. The album’s release in 2010 was heralded by reviewer Jim Caligiuri as representing “a peak in [Smith’s] 25-year songwriting career.”

Over the past decade Smith has used the craft of songwriting and the art of collaboration to break new ground in creativity, trauma recovery, education, and entrepreneurship. Alongside his continuing work with The Be An Artist Program, Smith is enjoying his third year as Artist-In-Residence at Oklahoma State University’s Institute For Creativity and Innovation. SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a program launched by Smith in 2012, organizes weekend retreats that pair professional songwriters with soldiers who share painful stories about combat and their return home. Working collaboratively, the musicians and soldiers turn those stories into songs. At Covenant House in Newark, New Jersey, Smith brings these same techniques to work with homeless youth.


Darden Smith continues to redefine what it means to be a musician. And it is the combination of all these paths that make up the whole of his work. As Smith moves through his third decade of making music, he has found that each strand informs the others. “I love songs more than ever. The writing, the story behind the song, and the possible effect it can have on the listener. Where it can take me is endless.” And this ever evolving, inclusive attitude could not be reflected better than in the title of Smith’s new album, LOVE CALLING.                                                                                                                             

jamie trentdarden pic Jamie Trent is a Virginia songwriter and performer… ” My name is Jamie Trent and I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my music. I live in Lynchburg, Va with my wife and 3 dogs. I work in sales as a full time profession, but spend pretty much every other waking minute writing songs. My goal is just to write music that people can hopefully relate to/with. “

One Comment

  1. Rick says:

    In 2003, I named my dson after Mr. Smith. Darden won’t be there, but I sure will.

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