Darren Hanlon – Living from a suitcase

When you have been a successful, full-time, independent musician for roughly ten years who has built a fan base mainly from live performances, you know a thing or two about touring. Aussie singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon is gearing up to set out on another massive nation-wide tour, reaching far and wide into some of the smallest pockets of our country, all in support of his new album, I Will Love You At All.

“I like a sleep in so we always book late flights, I like to do tourist things because we always have someone from overseas in our tour party so we get to be tour guides.” These are just a couple of the tricks Hanlon uses to keep tour life fun and interesting, and he will need them as after he has finished strumming his way around Australia he will be heading overseas to continue his quest, which will see him living from a suitcase for the rest of this year and some of the next.

No stranger to overseas visits, Hanlon has as an extra special reason to visit the United States this time due to a new record contract with Yep Roc Records, home of legends such as Billy Bragg, that will see his latest album released in the States, Canada and Mexico. The story of how the deal came about, as Hanlon explains it, seems all too easy, “My manager sent my CD around and the label got straight back to him and we met them at South By Southwest. There was a drunk guy heckling at the back of the venue that turned out to be the label boss, he bought me a tequila and we signed a deal there and then.” The truth behind the signing is a little more involved than the fairy tale “CD and show” story, as the label had heard some of the artist’s earlier works, which planted a seed that was watered when they found out he was still active and about to release a new album. This situation is, in a way, testament to the commitment and patience Hanlon has given his career, during which he has only ever played on labels that he has created himself, beginning with Candle Records, which eventually dissolved, and now currently running Flippin Yea Industries. “We haven’t really branched out to sign other artists just yet, but I’m sure that when we get time in the future we’ll do it.”

When asked about his choice to stay independent, the songwriter’s answer is interesting, “I’m not meant to be on a big label, it’s not for me, business stuff scares me.” Ironic coming from a man who has opted to do all of the work himself instead of having a big label run things, but there is a method to his madness, “I’ve built up such a strong loyal following from touring, it’s silly not to make use of that and just play for the people who keep coming back. I’m out there enough for people to discover me without being shoved in their faces.”

Although his live reputation is a big part of his success, Hanlon is also quite well known for his music videos, which are simple but powerful, often more memorable than the songs themselves. “I’ve been thinking lately, because we have such strong ideas about these videos that maybe it does take away from the sentiment of the song.” The folk star is right to be worried about distracting images, especially since the music from his latest offering is more honest and stripped back than some of his past works. Hanlon stresses the importance of the right emotion and message coming through when people listen to the new album.

As for the new tour, fans will see Hanlon backed by a new band which includes Steph Hughes (from Triple J’s Home and Hosed) on drums, as well as Shelly Short from Portland, who features on the new record and will be a back up singer as well as a support act for the tour. Since the foreseeable future will be full of travelling, this tour may be the last chance fans will get to see Darren Hanlon before he jets off to conquer the USA armed only with a guitar and a stack of beautiful music. It is clear that the songwriter has not planned much for his return to Australia as it may be awhile away. However, when he does reach our shores again his plan is quite relaxed and simple, “maybe I’ll make another album,” he casually states, and no doubt there are plenty of people around the world who hope he does.

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