Blues Artist, Guitarist and Singer/Songwriter
Where to start…
I was attending a wedding in Wenachee, Washington and happened to drop off a business card at a local music store. My friend called me to do a series of gigs; that’s how we hooked up.
Darnell is an absolute joy. We are currently working on an album project. I have shot promotional video and occasionally gig with him. The folks that he closely works with have been a great pleasure to meet.
Mackncheeze: This interview is all about you. What is it you want to say? I’ll just prod you along and we’ll just kind of wander about.
Darnell: I remember Terence Trent D’Arby; that guy, when he first came out, he was the biggest thing since sliced bread. I bought a CD because he has an extraordinary voice. A guy with that much talent, you might think, would have been around for a long time; the next ‘Michael Jackson’ kind of thing. He had the look, he had dance moves and he could sing very well.
I remember the performance he did on Saturday Night Live. I thought he was going to be as popular as hell, and for a little while, he was. Right after that he put out a second CD.
After a while you didn’t hear anything from him; he never reached that big status. What I had heard in an interview, he had spoken badly about another artist and that was it. He was done; it’s a shame, too, because he had mountains of talent.
Mackncheeze: That’s like a personal approach of yours, right? Just don’t dwell on controversy and negativity.
Darnell: You don’t, you don’t want to do that. Artists, in my opinion, if they’re smart, are not going to be embroiled in controversy.
I have a lot of Navy buddies from the old days who want to be friends on Facebook. It’s fun to check out their lives and see what they’ve been doing for the last several decades. I’ve been following many of my friend’s Facebook feeds and it comes up on their sites how great somebody is. I’m saying to myself, “I don’t know, man, I don’t know. How did you get into this person? You actually believe what they represent?” They have strong beliefs about something and they ask me, “Darnell, what do you think?”
I’ll reply, “You know that I’m not into all that kind of stuff; in the end it doesn’t matter to me.” Whatever happens with whatever political party is in charge does not dictate what I do: how I’m going to run my life, how I’m going to accomplish my goals. This is not going to be in my way.
Mackncheeze: What is your inner source and what motivates you?
Darnell: You know what, everybody has their source; my source is within me. God is my source, God is my power, God is my breath. At night, that’s who I go to when I commune upon my bed. Things I’m thinking about, what I want to accomplish and manifest into my life; my source within.
A lot of people think that their source is outside of themselves; I believe the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. That’s where my source is and that’s what I believe. When I’m aware of it, I think from within and that’s where it’s coming from. I Didn’t learn that in a church. I already knew it and I felt it; it’s something that is, and was, a realization for me. A lot of people have that source as well.
I hear and understand a lot from people when they speak; a person needs to have confidence in themselves.
Mackncheeze: How do you build that?
Darnell: Building confidence is all intertwined; it is coming from within, and to me, it’s both an annoyance and an assurance. I’m into a positive mental state, positive thinking, positive thoughts. When you have confidence in yourself then you believe in yourself. If you can’t believe in yourself then you don’t have self assurance; if you don’t have that then you don’t know where your source is. It is all intertwined and all works together. That’s what I found out, that’s how it works for me, how it relates to music and all the things that I do in life.
Mackncheeze: In your journey, what have been some of your biggest struggles?
Darnell: You know what, I try not to dwell on that kind of stuff, but struggles do come to everybody. A lot of the struggles that I have encountered have come from the way I was thinking. A person can self-sabotage themselves because of the way they think. Some of my struggles were from negative thinking: Envy, jealousy, lack of growth and overcoming, those were some of the things that I struggled with. Believing I wasn’t good enough and thinking that I wasn’t complete enough, but now I know better.
I’m a human just like everybody else. Until I became aware of my thought process, I didn’t have a solution for why I was thinking the way I was. A time can come, once a person does become aware, that’s when they can really start doing something about it. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m not where I used to be.
Mackncheeze: What’s the most important question that drives you?
Darnell: Am I going to have what I want to have, am I going to be who I want to be and what is it I want to do. Those are three things that I think everybody asks. Those are questions a lot of people ask themselves: am I having what I want to have, am I doing what I want to do, am I being the person that I want to be. Those are the things I ask myself and the answer to those questions is, yes.
My personal manifesto is seeing myself doing what I want to do, seeing myself having what I want to have, and seeing myself being who and what I want to be.
You’ve got to have a vision. God says the people perish where there is no vision. If you don’t have a vision you’re not going anywhere.
Mackncheeze: How do you work your life experience into your songwriting?
Darnell: That is an excellent question. The songs that I have written and that I’m working on are all about real life experiences. Those verses, where I sing, “Where was my father?” That song was written about my mother being there and what she was doing. In my songs the people are real, the experiences are real; a lot of people relate to these kinds of things. A lot of the subject matter has come from within me, and it shows, and it’s out there now. I’m really proud of this material.
Mackncheeze: Your first instrument? What did you start playing?
Darnell: When I was in the fourth grade, we had an assembly at school and they called everybody into the gym. This day they had an orchestra that came through. When they started playing I was fascinated by the persons playing the cellos. and I said to myself, “Wow, look at that thing.” It was beautiful and it was shiny and I really loved the sound. I wanted to touch it and feel it and hold it. At the end of the concert they asked the kids to come up. It was a recruitment; we were all being recruited and we didn’t even know it. I went over and stood by the person playing the cello, that person invited me to sit down. I was shown fingering, how to pull the bow and what notes the strings were.
For the next five years I played cello in the school orchestra. I learned how to read music, dynamics, notation and how to count. I have forgotten most of that stuff but that’s where it all came from.
Then I discovered that playing cello wasn’t cool like playing guitar; I figured I could get more girls playing guitar.
Mackncheeze: Did it work?
Darnell: I didn’t date much in high school, but I wanted to be cool. I figured learning guitar I would have the girls; that didn’t happen.
Mackncheeze: That came later, right?
Darnell: I’m taking the fifth; I can neither confirm nor deny that those things happened.
Mackncheeze: When did you start playing guitar?
Darnell: I think it was the 10th grade. I remember a buddy of mine, he had just started playing, as well, and I would go over to his house. He was playing some of the cooler music that was going on during those days. He started to pick up a lot of those tunes; he lent me one of his guitars that he was not using. So I took it home and started banging around on it. I didn’t know what I was doing. I basically learned guitar by watching other people and hearing things back.
Then I got cassette tapes and a cassette player. I would listen to a song and then I would have to rewind it; a lot of starting and stopping. That’s how I learned chords. No one really taught me how to play guitar; I learned it on my own. These days there are guitar lessons on YouTube which makes things a lot easier.
Mackncheeze: Tell me about your first band…
Darnell: There were four of us, we were some high school guys who just got together. We played a couple places around town, nothing big, I don’t remember getting paid for anything. That was the beginning and I played for a couple years.
One time, we warmed up for a band called Rail. I think that was about 1981, somewhere around there. They were up and coming and had won some sort of a MTV award. They were in Moses Lake, Washington, and needed a warm-up band. That was at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake.
After that I didn’t play for a long time; I joined the Navy. Right after boot camp I was stationed on the USS Camden. One day, I was walking around the ship and heard bass and drums playing. I asked myself, “Wow, where is that music coming from.” I lifted up a hatch and there were two guys down in the hull.
Mackncheeze: They were able to bring their bass and drums on board?
Darnell: They were set up in a tiny little compartment down in the hull.
Mackncheeze: I can’t believe they allowed that.
Darnell: Yeah, they did. They allowed a lot of stuff on that ship, you’d be surprised at what the crew would get away with. We were fortunate, though, we were on a pretty good sized vessel. The Camden was a supply carrier so there was a lot of room.
So I found these two guys playing and I went down and listened to them. I didn’t say anything while I was being entertained and I thought they were pretty good. I am friends with them even to this day. When they were done playing they asked me, “Hey, you know anybody who plays guitar?” I replied, “I play guitar,” though I didn’t have one.
I was very good friends with another guy, his name was Bart, he and I were very close. He just recently passed away and that was really hard. He ended up buying a guitar which he was trying to learn how to play; I told him I would give him lessons. Come to find out, Bart could sing, so we formed a band; we were the ship’s band. We performed a couple times on the fantail. After that I did not pick up the guitar for many years.
Mackncheeze: After the Navy, what got you back into playing guitar?
Darnell: After a long time of chasing my tail, I had developed a problem. One of the things me and my Navy buddies liked to do was drink. I was in party mode and I continued to be in party mode even after I got out. For a long time, like I said, I chased my tail; I was drinking a lot.
End Of Part 1
Can we help you in any way?