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How Harts became a one-man-funk-rock machine

Everywhere you look these days in the broad, ever-growing landscape of music, there are collaborations.

One musician who has completely bucked this trend is Melbourne based singer/songwriter/producer/uber talent, Harts, real name Darren Hart, who unapologetically prefers the solitude of his spare bedroom and his own musicality to a recording studio.
 
“It works. I’ve tried working with other producers, other songwriters, and I’ve always ended up taking over and doing most of the work, it feels like I’m more efficient working by myself. I also have a very specific outlook on music that only I would be able to do. The way I play drums or bass is so different than how it would be if I hired a session drummer and a session bassist.” The multi-instrumentalist not only writes and records all his music, but plays all the instruments, and produces the tracks too, even having done so on stage with loop pedals. “I have a very unique way of playing, and I’ve found that's what makes my sound unique. I learnt early on that if I can do everything myself, maybe I should. I’m a control freak in a way, because I’ve found a way that works for me, and I’m not willing to give that up yet.”
 
Identifying his own signature sound that is different in the musical landscape is something new for Hart.
 
“When I started out, I was trying to find a place where I could fit and find what it was I could do that no one could replicate even if they tried, so I’d always have a place in the music industry,” he says.
 
“The search drove me insane, because I was always writing for people, for a purpose, but not a completely honest representation of who I am as an artist. Over time that has evolved to me being super comfortable in who I am as a musician.”
That unique one-man-funk-rock machine sound is brilliantly showcased on his sophomore album Smoke Fire Hope Desire, with a tangible growth and step up in production filling the record, alongside his trademark heavy guitar riffs.
 
“I’m really comfortable as a songwriter and a musician in this album over anything else I’ve done. I’ve developed as a songwriter and a producer and a musician in a way that feels really natural, and make material that is different to anything else that is around today,” says Hart.
 
“All the core elements are still there, like the heavy pop sensibility that’s embedded in my DNA from all the classic hits I listened to growing up. But there’s new flavours coming through in my music that were always there, but they weren’t as prominent as they are now, and that’s just because of the growth I’ve had as a musician.
 
“It’s a constant challenge to step up your production value and create better sonics. That was something I’ve definitely wanted to step up for a long time, but I was touring and away from home. When I could, I really made use of that time, and learnt how to get better. I still produce everything from my bedroom studio, so I’m using all budget recording gear that I’ve collected over the years.”
Hart’s current attitude is leaps and bounds away from the man who quit the music industry nearly three years ago, before famously receiving an email from Prince, who had discovered Hart’s music on YouTube, and loved it. It led to Hart being flown out to Paisley Park, and the two working together. Though this is an incredible story, and something that reignited Hart’s passion for his craft, that story still overshadows his work to this day.
 
“It wouldn’t be such a problem if I had the same amount of praise for my actual work,” Hart says “There’s no recordings of us together, because he knew it would be all people focussed on after that point.
 
“I don’t want to be negative, I’m so blessed and thankful for the opportunity, and to have got to work with him, as long as the story goes back to what he originally saw in me, which was my composition, my writing, my playing and my recording, and everything about me musically.”
 
By Claire Varley

Harts will perform at 170 Russell on Friday February 17. Smoke Fire Hope Desire is out now via Dew Process / Universal Music Australia.