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The Eighth Note: Darren Watson

Last edited: 24.11.16 | Comment? | By

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‘The Eighth Note’ is 8 quick Questions with Wellington Musicians.

A chance for us to catch up with people & see what they’re up to, or introduce you to a new musician or band and their music.

Today’s guest is Darren Watson.

Who are you? Tell us a bit about your music:
My name is Darren Watson. I play music that if I had to give a name would be rhythm and blues. But seeing as R&B has kind of been co-opted by a music that has little of either I call it ‘Classic Rhythm & Blues’.

What have you been working on lately? Any new tracks or albums on the way?
I’m always working on new material but I’m really fussy and so I end up with dozens of unusable demos and fragments of tunes on my computer, phone, bits of paper. I’m terribly disorganised but I’m thinking about a solo acoustic album for 2017. A lot of folks have asked when I’ll be doing that and maybe now is the time? I teach guitar for a living these days and I’m always busy with that too.

Where is the best place people can follow you & find your music?

My ‘official’ website is here. Facebook is here.

What were the 3 most influential albums to you growing up?
Wow, that’s a tough one. There were many. I guess BB King’s Live At The Regal would have to be number one. It’s an incredible singer and guitarist at the absolute peak of his powers at 38 years old and in front of a largely African- American audience that knows and loves his 1950s hit records. It’s possibly one of the finest blues performances ever captured. The audience is a huge part of the deal – blues is like secular gospel ….. or is that the other way ’round? Anyway – AMAZING record.

Robert Johnson – King Of The Delta Blues Singers (Vol. 1) – I got this LP after not hearing a lot of blues really and it took me ages to ‘get’ it. Initially I thought it all sounded the same hahahah…… Johnson’s story is layered in ridiculous mythology now but at heart the guy was just an amazing guitarist and composer/borrower who somehow became much more than the sum of his influences (Son House, Charlie Patton, Skip James, Peetie Weatstraw, Lonnie Johnson, among many others) and created a blueprint for the post-war blues sound.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Get Happy. This might be the only album released during my high school years that I loved. It was a gateway into soul music for me and from this I headed on to Otis Redding, James Carr, Al Green, Sam and Dave, Booker T & The Mgs etc. I still love popping this LP on. So much literal joy in the grooves. And the Attractions are a great rock n’ roll band.

Which other Wellington musician(s) would you most like to work with?
Well, obviously having played in and around the city my whole life I’ve played with a few but I have this idea to do an Elvis Costello cover’s band with Jeremy Taylor. Called ‘Two Fat Elvises’ we would not advertise the fact that it isn’t a Presley tribute and see what kind of crowd turned up….. damn, now I’ve given it away. I think Jeremy might be one of the best pop singers I’ve heard in New Zealand. What a voice!

What’s your favourite Wellington venue to play in?
I gotta say the little basement lounge at Hashigo Zake is pretty special. It’s hardly a venue at all really, more like someone’s underground front room. Such a vibey little space. It never fails to work.

In your songwriting or composing how do the compositions and songs take shape?
It’s tough trying to put my finger on that because it happens a number of ways. Sometimes a phrase you overhear can fire something up. Sometimes a tune just pops into my head and I have to grab the phone to doobee doo it into the voice recorder so I don’t forget it. Sometimes I’m sitting playing an instrument and a chord set or phrase grabs me. I’ve even been inspired by bad drum machine patterns… hahaha literally anything can bring it on. If the initial idea is any good I will usually make a pretty complete demo really quickly. Some of my demos have ended up on the albums ’cause I could never make it work again as well in ‘real life’.

Where/when is your next gig?
It’s a quiet time for me now (Nov/Dec) ’cause I don’t generally do corporate/xmas gigs and the like. Back into it in January. I play once a month in Wellington with my band at the Lido and regularly at Hashigo Zake. Booking those dates/herding those cats as we speak. It’s all very low-key and we sometimes play new songs on the bandstand without rehearsal, mistakes and all. I love that the audience gets to see us learning and growing. I have always been blessed to play with great, intuitive musicians. Wellington is full of ’em.

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