A couple of questions with Darden Smith
ALSO: Darden Smith was featured in our The Best Albums You've (Probably) Never Heard feature.
Bullz-Eye: For those just learning about Sunflower now, can you give a nutshell summary of your career prior to its release?
Darden Smith: My first album, Native Soil, in 1986 on Redi-Mix Records. Since then, I’ve released 10 more albums, and played all over the US and Europe. Along with that I’ve also done music for dance/theater, scored a film, wrote a symphony for the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and done a couple of commercials. I’ve been lucky to have been able to keep going and work in so many mediums. Not having a clue about half the time has been helpful in that I never know what I’ve gotten myself into until it’s too late.
BE: Do you recall any anecdotes from the recording of the album?
DS: I’d bought a bunch of gear to do a score for a dance company that wound up not happening. After we’d cut the basics for what became Sunflower, I asked Stewart Lerman, the co-producer, if it would work for me to do some of the overdubs at home. I didn’t have a clue about engineering, so it was all learn-as-you-go. I basically didn’t come out of the studio for a couple of months. In the process, a lot of the mystery of recording vanished — it’s not about gear, it’s about vibe. Patty Griffin sang background vocals for a couple of tracks on a $150 microphone and it sounds fantastic. Not because it’s recorded well, but because she sang it great. It’s all about music. At the time, I had no deal, no manager, no agent. All I had was a lawyer and I couldn’t afford to talk to him very much! I was thinking of getting out of the business all together and becoming a welder, but figured I’d make one more album, exactly how I wanted, go out swinging. We mixed and mastered it, then started looking for deals on September 1st of 2001 — obviously not a great time to do something like that. I called a bunch of labels. Dualtone was the first to call back. Lucky break.
BE: Did you expect it to have a better commercial reception than it did?
DS: I had no expectations, because I couldn’t even get anyone to return a phone call, much less play my music. I was stunned that it got played as much as it did. “After All This Time” was #3 on the BBC Radio2 chart, so I felt ok about it all.
BE: Are you pleased to find that it still maintains enough of a following to make its way into this piece?
BE: What are you doing now?
DS: At the moment, I’m collaborating on a new theater piece (“Marathon”), working on songs for a new album, and doing a workshop for kids, the Be an Artist Program.
Check out Darden Smith's official site for more info.