We had the good fortune of connecting with Darren Garvey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darren, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk is everything, but the hardest part is committing to trying something new and actually taking some risk. I have reinvented myself so many times while remaining true to who I believe myself to be as a musician and as a creative. Every dead-end happens for a reason and every path contributes to where you end up as an artist and as a person. I have found that the fear of failure is easier to overcome than leaving unanswered questions about “what if” so I tend to jump off the ledge and then reach for my parachute. These experiences are what shape me.
Moving across the country from Chicago to Colorado after joining Elephant Revival in 2016 was a huge risk. The band went on indefinite hiatus months after my family moved here so I had to find other avenues. I started touring with and producing music for Daniel Rodriguez and became Shook Twins touring drummer. Of course we know the pandemic eventually shut down everything. So I pivoted to the studio and started a great working relationship with Aaron Youngberg at Swingfingers Recording in Fort Collins and began producing music for Nathaniel Riley, Emma Rose, Tif Christopher, and The Lumineers latest Christmas song.
I’m excited to get back out to perform which is my true love in music, but I’m worried about the state of our industry. The financial reality of touring and working on music has become very burdensome post-pandemic and there are many more risks on the horizon. When I’m teaching young musicians I always emphasize remaining fluid in their musical interests because often times you have to spin and evolve in this industry. I’ve toured and recorded my whole life, but I’ve also worked at indie label Touch and Go Records, booked and managed tours, directed church bands, settled performance agreements, demoed Digitech guitar pedals, imported/exported guitars, taught privately and gave college master classes, did inside sales for Washburn guitars, pitched music to large marketing firms, and worked as musical director for a commercial music house. These various things were all necessary for me to continue creating as I do, taking more risks, and have made me more well-rounded.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I take pride in being a great collaborator. A producer in Chicago used to call me the ‘great cross-pollinator’ because I knew so many people on the music scene across different genres and appeared on hundreds of records. That was always easy as a percussionist. I had a couple producers and engineers that would have me into the studio at the end of every project to seal the deal with various percussion overdubs.
However, then I’d mention how it would be great to move this section to the end or counter the backgrounds with double stops on the piano or bow a glockenspiel over the bridge. Next thing I knew I was coming into sessions as a multi-instrumentalist helping producers flesh out full-band recordings with extra guitar, piano, pump organ, background vocals, accordion, percussion….etc. I basically began ‘ghost’ producing records and that led into actually approaching artists as a producer. I’ve been working in studios since the 90s and it’s something that I really love to do.
Working with other people is amazing and can also be pretty difficult. As we speak, my band Elephant Revival is rehearsing for shows after a 4-year hiatus. It’s tricky to keep everyone’s desires and wishes and intentions in line with each other. When the music plays everything goes away, but every band I’ve been in has hours in the van and at rehearsal where life can get in the way. I approach everything in the spirit of compromise. I think that’s also why I’ll have been married for 19 years this August!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m all about hiking the foothills where we live, but I don’t post about specific locations because the internet ruins everything! Living downhill from Rocky Mountain National Park has been a dream come true. I love exploring the trails around Lyons and Peak to Peak, but RMNP is often the default.
The beer culture in Colorado has been drawing me in since the 90s – some of my favorite hangs are Avery (Boulder), Odell (Fort Collins), and Bootstrap and Left Hand (Longmont). Of course my first love is New Belgium where my uncle worked for years and now my brother carries on the tradition.
It’s been really amazing watching restaurants creatively maneuver the health codes during this pandemic. I live in Lyons where we don’t have any chain restaurants. It’s extremely important to support the local businesses that you enjoy. It puts your money back into the community and gives the little guys a fighting chance.
And biking! I ride my Gary Fisher that I bought in 1995 with the complimentary Bob Weir “Cog Head” water bottle still to this day. So yeah…hiking, biking, local restaurants and breweries are my thing. Oh, and any way you prefer to enjoy the river.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to shine some light on a book called “Effortless Mastery” by jazz pianist Kenny Werner. I first read this book 20+ years ago, but it always sticks with me. He emphasizes one’s relationship with their instrument – the love affair with touch and tone as you manipulate the strings or keys, skins or tins – how much feeling and dynamics can you squeeze out of playing just one note – only one and walking away. How does the air still feel with the memory of that note? Sitting with an instrument and rediscovering your tone in only one simple statement is what keeps me going over and over again.
Additionally, Kenny explains that you shouldn’t play jazz or bluegrass or Americana or anything in between. You should learn the styles while remaining true to your distinct sound. Don’t play jazz music, play Darren music. Don’t play bluegrass music, play Darren music etc. That’s why I named my social handles @darrenmusic. My favorite musicians are those that there is no question who it is after the first note : Bill Frisell, Billy Martin, Elliott Smith, Miles Davis, Charlie Hunter… who does this for you?
Brick wall w/ hearts promo photo Darren Garvey **Photo by: Lisa Siciliano Darren Garvey (red microphone) Bluebird Theater / Denver, CO **Photo by: Michael Raymond Smith Daniel Rodriguez and Darren Garvey at Cafe du Nord / San Francisco, CA **Photo by: Josh Miller 2019 Telluride Bluegrass : Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Steve Poltz, Jewel, Darren Garvey, and Anthony Da Costa **Photo by: Molly McCormick