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Darren Middleton

Darren-Middleton

Touring in support of his debut solo LP, Translations, Darren Middleton performs  at Ellington Jazz Club this Saturday, May 31, and Mojo’s on Sunday, June 1. AARON BRYANS reports.

When you say the name Darren Middleton, it’s hard to avoid the connotations and memories of his old Powderfinger days. 

However, Middleton is back in the spotlight, reinventing his impressive career in the form of solo artistry and he loves it.

“At the moment I’m enjoying it more,’ he reveals. “At the moment I’m loving it and not missing that wall of sound and the rhythm of the drums and the bass. But I know that at some point it might be nice to have a band again. The most exciting part to me is being able to sing a little bit better then I used to and being able to perform live as a solo artist. I really love playing again. At the moment I’ve got a duet partner, Kelly Lane, but it’s a really stripped-back kind of sound. I’m loving that element of music making. It’s really minimalist but hopefully big enough to survive on next to nothing.”

Following the breakup of Powderfinger in 2010, Middleton was left with more questions then answers of where to go next. Deciding to get back into the music industry was an inevitable move however, and one he’s facing with suitable attitude and determination.

“Obviously the big difference for me now, as opposed to Powderfinger days, is that I wasn’t really the lead singer of Powderfinger so people don’t really know my voice and that I can sing as well. There’s obviously some die-hard fans that are turning up. The gigs are pretty quiet, not huge crowds but intentionally intimate. They’re really chatty. My theme for the gigs is kind of a conversation; I talk off mic and people talk back to me. It’s very much a two-way conversation with a whole bunch of songs thrown in. I really enjoy that element ‘cause we could never do that in the past. With Powderfinger there’s thousands of thousands of people out there, you can’t hear anyone or talk to anyone. You do what you’ve got to do and then you hop off stage. This is kind of the reverse of that and its really nice.”

Darren’s debut LP Translations, which was released November last year, has been a huge progression for him musically, expanding from his previous vocal work in the band Drag.

“I found with this album; there’s a lot more of a pointed focus particularly lyrically and also thematically on the record. There’s a real thread that runs through the story. Drag was lot of fun but as a lyric writer it was a bit wishy-washy. Lots of metaphors, no real heart to the metaphors. It still feels like a stepping-stone doing this kind of acoustic thing; I quite enjoy that. But a few people are saying ‘are you going to bring the electric guitar out?’ so maybe I will? I’m not sure what I’m going to do next but I am in the process of writing some demos for a new EP called Splitzers which will kind of be leftover Translation sessions. I might work with different people this time; might even bring Kelly on board to do some recording because her and I click really well together… I may still ask some guests on board if they’re in town and if the song suits them.”

The biggest task facing Middleton is touring, as he fights to build image awareness and draw crowd numbers. However, the intimacy and simplicity of his acoustic shows has been a joy.

“This tour has taught me, to a degree, that I need to recognise that I’m starting again and I need to make people aware of it. So part of it is simply getting out and playing and people telling their friends and coming back next time with them. For this particular tour, I’ve got a duo partner (Lane) who plays some violins and keyboards and does backing vocals. For me I’ve brought a bit of my electric guitar rig on the road so I’ve got some pad sounds I can create with my acoustic guitar and a bit of looping stuff and a stomp box. I’m trying not to make it a folky strum-strum acoustic gig; it’s a bit more textured so it has some of the textures from the album on it. It’s me and the guitar and Kelly and her violin and keyboard and that’s it. It’s really fun. I think if it was just me without a partner; after a while I’d find it really lonely but having just one other person makes it really good… I’ll also be playing a couple of Powderfinger songs in these gigs.”