Darren Middleton (former guitarist of the legendary Powderfinger). Currently living in Melbourne & fighting a week of poor sleep (not to mention the dreaded Melbourne cold’n’flu), Darren kindly dragged his weary corpse out of bed to chat to us about what’s going on for him at the moment – and about the state of the music industry itself.
Note: ‘Week in the Life Of’ articles are usually written by our interviewees, but in this instance we interviewed Darren by phone. The usual format of the article has been changed in parts to accommodate this.
My job has expanded from simply ‘songwriter’ to…everything, basically. Now it’s the writing, the recording, all the social media, organizing every bit of photography shoots, interviews (obviously)…everything! That’s my job.
Bec: It seems like you do have to wear a lot of hats.
Darren: An independent muso has to, these days.
Bec (interrupting excitedly): By the way, is it true you’re about to play a show in Brisbane with (actor) Guy Pearce?
Darren: We did that earlier on in the year – although Guy and I are heading to WA next week, so maybe that’s what you heard about.
Bec: I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HE WAS A MUSICIAN!
Darren: Yeah, he has been for a long, long time. But he’s always kept it very under wraps. He’s always had a great fear of the ‘actor turned muso’ stigma that we all attach.
Bec: Wow! [Frantically Googling] Huh. You learn something new every day.
A Week In Darren’s Life
Bec: Has this been an interesting week for you?
Darren: Yeah! It has been an interesting week, actually. I’ve been kind of hitting a whole lot of bases across the industry. So if I can remember back to Monday, I can certainly try and remember the whole thing… [Laughs]
Monday – Wednesday
I sent the final mixes of my new record off to Los Angeles, to a friend of mine, to master. As well as doing that, I began loading all the IRSC codes to the songs, which is a detail that iTunes needs to read the tracks. When you upload songs to iTunes, you need to have all that sort of detail there. Which is something I’ve learned about over the last year or two.
I’ve been booking flights for my own band, which is taking different forms over the coming months, with some people able to do certain shows and some not.
I’ve also been organising some special guests for a gig in Brisbane on November the 7th – it will be like a birthday party for The Triffid, which is a venue up there.
Thursday, I did a photoshoot for this new record, so I’ve updated my ‘profile photo’, I guess, and I’ve been sifting through those.
This morning, I have my music scoring partner coming in, and we’re going through the latest and upcoming production company projects that we’re going to put our names to as film scorers/composers. So, that’s my week, I think!
Bec: Is that the first time you’ve done something like scored for film?
Darren: No, I’ve been doing this for a number of years, actually. Probably one of the first things I did was a film called Two Hands, one of Heath Ledger’s first movies. I wrote a song for that called ‘Two Hands’. And then I did something for Eric Bana’s film (Love The Beast). After that, my friend down here, Simon Walbrook and I did the theme song for an ABC show (Worst Year Of My Life, Again), and then they asked us to do thirteen episodes, and we did that. We’ve done some different stuff, we’ve also done some short films …
We just really enjoy it; I really enjoy it. It’s great, writing to film – not creating the story, just having the story in front of you and going off the visual and comedic cues, or whatever’s going on onscreen.
Bec: Sort of a different way to make music, huh?
Darren: Yeah. Actually, I remember I bumped into Tex Perkins about a month ago – I hate to sound like I’m dropping names, but it happened – and he asked what I was doing. And I’d been thinking about all this bloody junk I’ve been doing. And he said, “Yeah, you’ve gotta have a lot of sausages on the barbecue”. [Laughs] I thought that was a good analogy, a good piece of advice. In the industry these days, you’ve gotta know what you’re doing in business AND in music. You’ve got to have your hands in a few different pies. It’s just such a tough industry to make a living in. You know, if you had kids, if you had a family to feed, and this was your sole source of income, it’s bloody hard.
Bec: Do you record your music at home?
Darren: I’ve got a studio down here in Melbourne, which is pretty small, but it’s got really good gear in it. You know, you don’t need a big studio these days – everyone can record in their bedrooms, literally, with a couple of different microphones and a chain, to make a good album that actually gets listened to. I do my own production – myself and Simon, we’ve produced my last couple of records together. And I’ve produced other people’s stuff. I like it, working with other people and that sort of thing. [Laughs] I’ve got way too much on my plate, seriously!
My highlight of the week was probably getting the masters back after this new album, and actually feeling kind of good about it! Having felt kind of like, “Oh God, I don’t know, this is just a piece of junk,” I finally got it all back, and it’s like, “Oh, great! It’s actually not too bad!?” [Laughs]
Not enough sleep. That would simply be the truth, I just didn’t really sleep much. Had a few things on my mind, and also I’m just not running at a hundred percent.
Words of Wisdom
It’s always been about hard work, but it’s even more about working hard these days. You have to kind of try a few different things. And hope that people connect with you. That’s a big thing. I would say just be open to the idea that you just have to enter the industry realising it’s a hard road, there’s a lot of work you need to learn. Not just your music craft, but also the business of music. And social media is obviously the main point of business these days.
And again, connecting with people. Music used to be, and still needs to be, a lot about the mystery. You don’t really want to give everything away. But these days, you kinda have to be prepared to expose yourself; your heart or your soul. I’m not talking about your private life, but more like – whoever the hell you are, you need to give people something. Because they have so much in front of them, and so many options – and other people doing it – that you need to show them something that they can connect with on a level that’s deeper than their Facebook feed, that zips by. They need to find a reason to stop, I suppose, is the key to that.
Look, there’s still no clear answer, because, you know, if there was, we’d all be jumping all over that thing. But I think as an ethos, it’s about letting people in to the vulnerable part of yourself, without giving away too much. I suppose it’s a balance.
Bec: Wise words indeed! Lastly, are there any insights or any current music industry issues you’ve been thinking about that you’d like to share?
Darren: Well, thinking about the industry, it’s still in such a state of flux, and I think, you know, the floodgates have been kicked open for everyone to be able to record and release music. But at the same time, it’s like looking into an ocean…full of jellyfish…and you just can’t… [Laughs] It’s very hard to lock in on something or someone. It’s hard to grab people in the midst of all those newsfeeds. You know, whilst it’s easier to be seen, it’s twice as hard to be seen.
Bec: [Music is] easier to access, but there’s just so much of it?
Darren: Yeah, well that’s the problem! It’s great that everyone can do everything now, but still, you can get lost. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be seen just because you’re standing up a little bit. But the bright side is, you do a have a chance to be seen – so that’s good.
Check out Darren’s psychadelic video for new single ‘Our Road’, below – and keep an eye out for the November 6 release of his upcoming album ‘Splinters’.