By Matt Bell
WE’LL PUT IT QUITE BLUNTLY—Darren is the new gay recording artist you should all have on your homo radars right now. He’s got a remarkable CD titled, Anything is Possible, which is up for Best Debut Male Recording at the 2006 Outmusic Awards, and he has an international tour taking him from Boston to Cologne this summer. The buzz is growing on this relatively unknown British bloke who now calls New York City his home, so don’t be surprised if you see him popping up in a lot more places pretty soon.
But, let’s get you the facts. Darren makes music that is reminiscent of the New Romantic/electro-pop sounds that emerged from England in the 1980s,but with a bit more modern production (think George Michael’s last album). Speaking of production, Darren self-produced the album, wrote all the songs and engineered the disc—all while starting up his very own record label called Sharkmeat Records. “I’d probably never do that again,” confessed the well-spoken Darren (still with sexy British accent). “It almost drove me insane.” But nonetheless, with a degree from the London School of Musical Theatre and a background in theater production that once landed him on Broadway, Darren was pretty well qualified to take on all these tasks. The record label was definitely an extra burden on Darren, but with two other partners, he decided he wanted a company that would “discover and develop” not necessarily gay, but niche artists. One thing is for sure: Darren didn’t come to the United States to live like he was in the British countryside.
Once Darren had put the album together, he had to decide, as do most musicians who just so happen to be gay—how he should handle categorizing himself. To come out or to not come out? “It was a tough decision to be an out gay artist. By coming out, you always run the risk of losing potential fans,” says Darren. “But, in the end, I felt ‘Well, fuck it.’ If that one fact prejudices people against listening to the music, then it doesn’t matter if they listen. If people like the music, they like the music.” Ahh, how we love a European attitude around here sometimes. (Clay, we hope you’re taking notes.)
To be sure, Darren is much more outwardly gay in his person than in his music (well, aside from the music’s obvious ’80s influences). He didn’t set out to make a gay CD, but he did consciously make most of the references gender-neutral. “Why alienate 50% of an audience?” he explained. With Darren’s music, you don’t have to play the pronoun game; it’s instant gratification—listen and relate. His crossover appeal is most recently displayed in the frequent plays his single, “The Limit,” gets on one of the country’s top podcasts, Next Big Hit (nextbighit.com), which features up-and-coming artists from all musical genres, not just gay and lesbian.
Ultimately, what makes Darren’s album so appealing to people from all walks of life might best be summed up by Darren’s own words about the message of Anything is Possible: “Despite all of the bad or negative things that may be happening in your life, sometimes you need to take a step back and realize what you have around you. You’ll probably find that what you’re looking for has been there all along.” No matter who you are, you can probably appreciate a message like that.