My first encounter with Harts was back in the Autumn of ’17. Bucketing down outside – the night was a brisk one – yet somehow inside, the venue felt like it was on fire – and by on fire – I mean absolutely ablaze with some of the best music coming out of Australia. Harts is a natural showman, confidence oozing as he claimed the stage and focus of every person in the room. From that moment on, it was undeniable that the only way Darren Hart was heading, was up.
Fast forward one eventful year and the genre-bending, guitar melting enigma himself, Hart is back with a platter of delicious delights to serve up. Since his last exquisite album Smoke Fire Hope Desire, met such critical and worldwide acclaim, fans have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the virtuoso’s journey.
Kicking off the huge year ahead, Harts has dropped two new contrasting singles, once again showcasing both his unmatchable talent and hunger for musical diversity. Ain’t Nothing On Me discloses a punchy, funk baseline and some juicy harmonies, while on the other hand, Mercy gives us a laid-back bluesy jam with a similar subtle thrill to the intro of AC/DC’s The Jack. Two completely contrasting descriptions, but hey, musical versatility is totally his groove.
“I’ve never really put a limit on what exact sound I’m going for. Because I love so many different genres of music, I’ve always tried to write the best work I can whilst also making it unique. I want to encapsulate a range of eclectic genres in what I create. In the case of Ain’t Nothing On Me and Mercy, they’re different but I don’t think they’re that different because I have some music to come that is so vastly different from all of that.”
Yes folks, get excited because you read correctly – more bangers to come. Working hard on an array of tunes in the last year, Hart is daringly ready to unleash not one, but two albums this year.
“I’ve decided I’m going to do two albums this year. The records will come out on the same day. One will be a rock record and the other a funk/pop record. I just want to release more music and not have to worry about being confined to one genre. Give people everything they want. A lot of people love the blues Hendrix-y thing but they also love that 80’s slick Prince pop thing. It’s opening up what the Harts project is and opening my brand to the fact that I want to put out more diverse music. I don’t want to have to keep putting ideas in the vault.”
In the current time, it can be difficult to stay relevant in the eye of the public with the wave of social media and endless sponsored advertising. Although having laid low for the last few months, Hart feels that there’s a potential time limit artists now have in order to keep their music in circulation among both established fans and new listeners.
“I think the shelf life of music is so much smaller than it used to be. That’s one of the reasons I decided to do two albums and try to release a song every month. Once you’re in the constant momentum of things, you tend to be savoured a lot more in the algorithms of social media and technology. You tend to be more visible because of that. Because I disappeared for a while – thinking that it would all be sweet when I got back – it just destroyed by social media coverage. You need to keep posting engaging content to have continuous momentum. The thing with the shelf life is that you must keep releasing in order to have a presence online. We need to take advantage of the only tools we have left to reach new people.”
In a huge shift in gears, Harts has also recently decided to move forward in his career as an independent artist, demonstrating to other solo musicians that it’s possible to successfully run the show yourself. Although organising your own funding and relying on your own devices for distribution, influence and hype can be a difficult stint. Harts discusses the importance and benefits of maintaining creative control and calling your own shots.
“Creative control is the most important part of the artistic process and should be the most important part of your record deal. I’ve been lucky that in every record deal I’ve ever signed, I’ve had that creative control. In saying that however, being independent is one way to guarantee that you’ll always have creative control because no one is going to interfere with what you’re doing.
As soon as you start to look at record deals, that’s usually one of the first areas to go, along with your copyright. I would highly advise artists to have a go at remaining independent these days. It’s a lot more freeing. Yes, you don’t have the funding or financial support but at the end of the day, if you’re getting to a point independently where you’re surviving and you’ve built a fan base independently, I don’t know if a record company can offer you much more value to that anymore. What’s strange as well is that record companies aren’t as good at breaking new artists like they used to be. Very rarely do you see an artist or band that started with a record company and no independent fan base before that.”
Moving into the future with social media and streaming services, music has evolved in a way that was once thought to not be possible. For the first time in history, thanks to an array of internet platforms, all kinds of music can now be heard and enjoyed at the touch of a button. However, the new wave comes at a price, with the music industry copping a bit of a financial blow. Hart explains the double-edged sword effect.
“It’s a double-edged sword because technology is definitely welcomed and it’s pushing music forward. I love streaming services and I use Spotify. I don’t really find new artists myself, Spotify does it for me. The first thing I do when I hear of an artist is look them up on YouTube, so I’m doing everything that normal people are doing anyway. The double-edged sword is that there still hasn’t been a way to effectively monetize all that. Because it’s still really new, the industry doesn’t know how to monetize all this digital stuff. Spotify is the biggest streaming company in the world and they’re not making as much money as you would think at all. It’s a tough way to progress because the technology is progressing and that’s the best part – but in terms of monetizing that technology improvement – it hasn’t caught up yet. All the tech guys are going crazy developing all this new stuff and pushing forward into the future, but they didn’t have the business model in mind for it.”
Now, heading into the future with a clear vision of what he wants as an artist and what kind of music he wants to bring to the people, Harts has tremendous plans on the horizon.
“Bluesfest is coming up soon, which I’m super excited about. I haven’t locked in anything later just yet but when the records come out, there will be some kind of shows. I’m hoping it will be around the release time of the records or maybe just after. At this point, I’m just trying to get more stuff in the marketplace and continue to release new material.”
Keep an ear and an eye out in the coming months for Harts’ new albums and shows!
March 30, Bluesfest, Byron Bay
March 31, Bluesfest, Bryon Bay