The incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Darren Harts (better known simply as the musician Harts) has been doing what he does best: crafting tunes of Funk, Soul, Rock, and Pop from his bedroom, rocking some serious disheveled bed hair, making fans everywhere including none other than Prince, and more recently selling out headline shows. Late last year the ‘one man music making machine’ from Melbourne released his debut album Daydreamer, scoring rotation on triple j and plenty of positive reviews. We managed to catch up with Harts before he hits the road to tour Australia and NZ for the next couple of months.
A few weeks ago you played at Groovin’ The Moo (Bendigo). How did your set go? It must have been quite an honour to be asked to play.
It was an awesome experience playing at GTM. I had the opening slot for that day in the big Moolin Rouge Tent. It got packed very early, so pretty much the whole tent was full when I was on, which was great to see. We played well and the crowd seemed to love it. I got really good feedback from it after the show. It was awesome to be asked to play, something I appreciated a lot and hopefully a festival I’ll get to play again in the future!
It’s already been a fairly solid year for you, with tours under your belt, playing GTM, selling out a headline show that’s still two months away, and scoring a spot on the Splendour In The Grass line up. Do you feel the pressure to keep up the momentum, or are you just rolling with it as it comes?
I want to keep up the momentum, but I’m just rolling with it all as it comes. 2014 was a big year for me and I felt that because of that I had to keep the ball rolling with new music, more shows and try to make more of an impact in 2015. I think I’m starting to feel that happening now and it’s great to see and be able to get all the opportunities I’m getting now.
You’ve been making music for a few years now, having debuted back in 2010. How do you feel about how far you’ve come in that time and the traction you’ve gained?
I’ve been going for what seems like a long time to me, 6 years now, but I feel like now I’m getting to places I wanted to when I started. It’s taken some time, but I’ve stuck in there and worked hard for my ‘break’ and never lost the passion for my music, though it’s been very hard at times.
Last year you were contacted by Prince and got to spend some time with him at his Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis. Can you tell us what that experience was like, and what you came away from the trip with?
It was amazing. Something I never expected or had in mind that would kick-start my career the way it has. Prince is one of my biggest influences and musical idols. Playing with him, watching him in the studio and learning from him was so inspiring. He really gave me a lot of advice and encouragement moving forward with my own music and taught me a lot. He gave me a lot of advice on direction, which influenced the sound on my new EP.
Back on home soil, you recently did a Like A Version (triple j) for Ariel Love by Daniel Johns. Did you get to choose which song you covered? Was it fun or daunting to interpret another artist’s song?
Yes, I got to choose the song. I wanted to go with a song that no one would expect from me and kind of be a bit unpredictable about it. It was a fun experience, but at the same time I wanted to do it the best I could at the time and get a solid recording out of it. So I had to go into my ‘recording mode’ rather than ‘live mode’ for it, ha.
When you’re crafting your own music, is it difficult to compose a song and jam around when you play all the parts?
Sometimes it can be. It was more difficult when I was starting out on this solo project, because I was only used to playing, jamming and writing in a tradition 4 piece live band way at the time. But over time it’s become more efficient to work by myself and I’m better able to get my vision out working by myself. The recording process can be more time consuming, but ultimately I like the control.
Talk us through how you perform live when you’re usually one performer playing all the parts.
I use a lot of electronics like loop machine, sequencers, and midi equipment to kind of re-create the songs live, while I switch between Guitar, Bass, Keyboard and Vocals. Usually starting with laying down the bass/keys & drum groove and building the song from there. For this upcoming tour I’m adding a live drummer and I think it adds more of an impact and groove to the live shows. So there’s just 2 of us on stage now.
Daydreamer lyrically and conceptually deals with themes of escapism, paranoia and uncertainty. Where does your inspiration come from when writing your music?
It can come from anywhere. It can stem from a riff I came up with, or maybe a chord progression or melody I woke up with in my head. A lot of places really. For that album, a lot of the song ideas, parts and lyrics came in dreams I had. I have a good memory for remembering dreams and details in dreams. The song Lovers In Bloom for example was almost entirely written in a dream.
When you’re creating your music, do you try to you pay homage to any of your influences or do you try to completely blaze your own trail?
I always try to make whatever I’m working on sound unique to me, and something that can be a “Harts? sound and not an imitation. But I think my influences are so embed into my musical DNA that sometimes I can’t necessarily part from them, ha. I think my strongest influences tend to stand out.
What has been your favourite song to create and work on so far, and why?
I tend to like working on the songs that I don’t have to put musical limitation or boundaries on. It changes a lot though, I love writing rock, blues and funk tracks like this upcoming Breakthrough EP. But also enjoy writing extended instrumental material like some of the longer tracks from the Daydreamer album.
I can’t select a particular one because they all have enjoyable parts to me and one doesn’t stand out more than the rest at this stage.
Lastly, what’s coming up for the rest of 2015?
After the EP launch and AUS & NZ tour, I’d like to continue writing tracks for my second album and hopefully also have the chance to play overseas, maybe in the US or UK.