Songwriter Darden Smith finds art in his craft
September 17, 2013
Texas-based singer Darden Smith doesn’t take his songwriting lightly.
He started writing when he was 10 and got serious about the craft when he was in eighth grade.
For more than 28 years as a professional songwriter, Smith has used his music to inspire and educate through his programs such as To Be An Artist that teach students to see themselves as artists, and SongwritingWith:Soldiers, which helps wounded military vets tell their stories.
Smith will participate in the Americans for the Arts Roundtable event that will be held at Sundance Resort on Sept. 19 and 20, where he will participate in panels and discuss the songwriting artistry and how to use art in the country’s culture.
"I did an arts and healing conference in Washington, D.C., several month ago due to the SongwritingWith:Soldiers program," Smith said during a telephone interview with The Park Record. "The Americans for the Arts participated in that conference and asked me to come to Utah, and I was honored that they asked."
When Smith, who has released 13 albums, first started writing songs, he was looking for a way to express himself.
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"I just wanted get stories out and put the lyrics to melodies and experience that magic," he said. "But it wasn’t until I was in my 20s, where I discovered songwriting could be a form of art.
"I met an artist and fell in with a group of people in Austin, and moved past the craft part of songwriting and accessed something bigger," he said. "Now, I see songwriting as both a craft and a form of art."
Smith has since worked with various theater and dance companies and is currently the artist-in-residence at Oklahoma State University.
"The one thing I’ve done is learn to trust that I will be able to create something in collaborations," he said. "I have my vision and my craft, and no matter who I work with, I know I will be able to come up with something and I know that I can access my creativity and that something will happen."
When coming off big projects such as dance and theater and going back to making an album, Smith has learned to let the creativity flow.
"It’s the same type of thing when a novelist stops writing a book to write a letter," Smith said. "Both things can be creative and fluid, but they are both for different purposes.
"For example, when I sit down with a soldier to write a song, it’s different than when I sit down to write a song for one of my records," he said. "It’s the same thing when I work with students in the To Be An Artist program, where I talk to students about creativity, and when I was involved in another project called Songwriting with Covenant House, which was all about working with young adults who were homeless, which showed them that their stories were powerful and valuable."
Smith takes just as much care when he writes songs for his records.
"Some are really deep and personal, and may not be the best song for the album," he said. "So I usually write more songs than I will put on a record."
For his new album, "Love Calling," his first album for Compass Records, Smith had nearly 35 songs ready to go.
"I wanted to put out a good record and put together a group of songs that hung together," he said. "I sifted through them myself and I sent songs to people whom I have worked with for years to get their thoughts. And then I began ‘flavoring’ the record."
Smith also worked with producer John Randall Stewart and songwriter Radney Foster to pick the suggested songs and asked producer Gary Paczosa to help with the recording process.
"The pressure was not about whether or not this was my first record for the label, but about putting out the best recording I could," he said.
Like many artists, Smith is always coming up with ideas for new songs.
"When I’m touring I don’t have time to sit down and write, but I make sketches of songs from the ideas," he said. "When I have a few days, I make them into songs.
"I would love to continue to use songs to serve people," he said. "I can see a million angles with that. There are endless possibilities to collaborate on different projects, and I want to keep writing songs and move that forward."
For more information about Darden Smith, visit http://www.dardensmith.com .