Rock star Darren Harts on jamming with Prince and becoming the next Jimi Hendrix
Lauded as the next Jimi Hendrix and praised by Prince, Darren Harts has set tongues wagging in the music scene since his career launched on YouTube.
He has all the ingredients for stardom: floppy-haired good-looks to rival any boy band worth their screaming fans, plays multiple instruments, writes his own music, records and produces everything in his home studio.
Add to this glowing reviews from music bible Rolling Stone, which described him as “a supernaturally talented young buck who’s mastered Hendrix’s blistering guitar shredding and the electro-funk pop perfection of Prince in his Eighties prime”. Not to mention said Eighties icon Prince being quoted as saying Harts, “reminds me of how I was at that age”.
With Harts so seemingly cut out for rock-stardom it was a surprise then to learn that he never sought a career in music. He tells the Indian Sun how he stumbled into fame and found himself jamming with Prince.
How did you become a musician?
I was always interested in technology and I was pretty savvy from an early age with computers. Making the decision to start producing my own music and recording was really just a decision I made to have fun, as a hobby. I had no ambition to be a musician. I just started playing drums and guitar and all these other instruments and I started figuring out ways to record so I could hear it back to see what I sounded like. I had a laptop and went out and bought a cheap microphone, figured out how to plug that to the laptop, what software I needed to record, and then it just kind of developed from there just out of the love of learning how to produce music.
You parted ways with Universal Music Australia in 2013. Why did you make the switch to being an independent artiste?
I think for where I was in my career and where I still am in my career, it benefits me more to have the control to be able to release the music that I want whenever I want. And to really reap the benefits of that and build my fan base from the ground up. Making the move to independent was kind of a no brainer for me.
Does the Internet provide more opportunities for independent artistes to make it nowadays?
The Internet has that global reach. That’s kind of a double-edged sword if you think about it because there is a whole lot of competition because it is free to send your music to everybody – it’s an endless competition between musicians. But ultimately it does give you a platform to reach those people. And without things like YouTube I would probably never have got the attention of Prince or anybody else who’s really helped my career since then.
How did you end up jamming with Prince in the US?
He heard my music and saw some of my live videos on YouTube. And one day he got in contact with me through his manager, who sent me an email saying that Prince would like to meet me. I kind of flipped out about it, I thought it was a mistake at first. As I started back and forth emailing with his manager, I started to realise that this was actually legit. I think they could sense that I was a bit hesitant as to whether this was a real opportunity, so one day they just asked for my phone number and out of the blue Prince gave me a call and I could recognise his voice instantly.
He invited me over [to his famous Paisley Park residence in Minnesota] really just to meet him and play with him. He wanted to show me some music and stuff he was working on at the time. He organised everything for me to come and spend about a week there, playing with him and his musicians and watching some recording sessions that were happening in his studio.
Aside from that, what’s been you’re biggest rock star moment so far?
Every time I play a big festival now like Splendour in the Grass, and I first walk out on stage and everyone screams. Like 5000 people screaming at you, and people wearing Harts t-shirts, and people singing back your song during the set, and they all recognise you. That hits me more profoundly because that’s the first time I get to see that my music is connecting with that many people. That kind of stuff is brand new to me. It’s just developing now and it’s really encouraging me to continue.
So where do you want to be in 10 years time?
I don’t know how to answer that because when I got into music I got into it for the fun of it and the love of it and not to pursue music as a serious thing. But as I started developing and getting more encouragement and opportunities, like working with Prince, and what Prince said to me – that gave me a huge confidence boost to actually strive to be something great and do something that no-one has done before and something that’s amazing.
But there’s also that doubt because of the state of the music industry at the moment. I just don’t feel things last that long. People don’t have 30-year careers anymore, the golden age in that respect is over. So it’s really hard to say. I’d love to be a household name eventually. I’d love to have that sort of name and clout as people I admire like Prince. They were able to make countless numerous great records, radio hits, as well as being known for their amazing musicianship. One of the main things people know me for now – it’s probably one of the main reasons people come to my shows, because they like to see me play guitar. That’s the major drawing point that I have right now that nobody else is kind of doing. I’m hearing so much feedback from industry and fans; everyone’s kind of amazed by my guitar playing. I think that that’s something that I really want to focus on. To really be the best that I can be in that regard, and take it to another level and aim to be that next Jimi Hendrix.
Harts is currently taking a break from touring to write new material. You can catch him playing next during summer, when he’s set to star at some of Australia’s biggest music festivals.