Hot off the back of their one-year debut release anniversary along with three consecutive top five Country singles, Darlinghurst have released their new single Gotta Go Rodeo, a rollicking ride that just begs you to get up and dance.
Co-produced by Pete Dacy and Darlinghurst’s Jason Resch at Secret Sound Studios, and mixed by Grammy Award winner Jack Joseph Puig, Gotta Go Rodeo follows on from their previous single Picture Frame, which peaked at No.4 on The Music Network Country airplay charts. With their previous singles Sorry Won’t Get You Back hitting No.1 and So Long So Long reaching No.5.
The four-piece band from Melbourne is made up of singers Pagan Newman and Cassie Leopold, guitarist Matt Darvidis and songwriter Jason Resch, and I spoke to Jason to find out more.
I feel like a broken record every time I bring this up, but, although every artist is struggling in some way with the restrictions put on live music around the country, you’re in a unique situation seeing as you’re in a four piece band and are physically unable to see each other. How has the pandemic not only affected the band but your personal self as well?
Obviously, it does get a bit challenging here and there. We’ve kept so busy writing songs, and that’s been our focus while we’ve got the time in lockdown to do that. It would be nice to see loved ones, but we’ve kept pretty good with this situation and just pressed on with it. But we would like to see the end of it for everybody so that we can get back to some sort of normality. We’ve done well and I’m proud that we’ve all kept positive and focused on the task at hand as good as we can.
Apart from not being about to play live, it doesn’t sound like it’s really affected your momentum at all.
Live, we haven’t played anything for a long time [laughs]. Obviously, we, like every other performer or artist, miss doing that aspect. It’s a moment we cherish doing – going out, playing and being amongst it, and connecting with people. But once those gates open again, we look forward to going out and doing it once again. We had a great year last year. We always try and keep positive, and everybody’s in the same boat. I think for the greater good of everything, that’s the most important thing. It’s just one of those things that probably happen once in a lifetime. We’re all just trying to do as good as we can. Hopefully everyone’s been making the best of in, because it’s not an easy situation to be in.
You performed at the Tamworth Country Music Festival – the annual festival held over 10 days in mid to late January in Tamworth, NSW – for the first time earlier this year. Having lived in Nashville prior to returning home to Melbourne, how did the Tamworth experience compare to Nashville?
It’s very similar to what I’ve experienced in Nashville – a homely feeling to it – it felt like one big family. Everyone’s there – music lovers and minded people – enjoying music, celebrating music and being together. It’s unfortunate Tamworth’s not going on next year, but when it does happen again, we, I’m sure like everyone else, look forward to getting back out to Tamworth and doing our thing.
It was such a wonderful experience. We did about eight or nine shows. Not all of them were full blown sets – there was one day that we did one performance and then had to shoot off to play another three songs then we went to the Toyota Big Stage to do three songs. We did a lot of a lot of performing, a lot of interviews and all that sort of thing that you do out there. Tamworth’s just a great thing, meeting with everybody and getting amongst it, we all had a wonderful time.
You all have very diverse backgrounds. Matt comes from a folk music and musical family. Cassie and Pagan started writing and performing as children, before eventually singing in a tribute band together. And your first ever professional recording session was adding guitar lines to Gabriella Cilmi’s Sweet About Me, then working in-house at Xenomania production house in London writing and playing on tracks for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and countless others, before working independently in Nashville. Has there been any clashes over the feelings, sounds and/or lyrics of any Darlinghurst songs?
It’s all come together pretty naturally to be honest, everything, to the song writing as well. There’s never been any problems or that. At the end of the day we just try to write the best music that we can do and something that’s unique to us and something we’re proud of.
In your newest single Gotta Go Rodeo, Cassie and Pagan sing lead. Do they always?
Not necessarily. They’re usually front and centre on stage. Matt and I are cool with that – we like playing guitars on the side and doing our thing. A lot of the songs we equally share the lead and then, obviously with the harmonies. But the first few songs we’re released, it’s been quite Cassie and Pagan up front.
We’ve been called ‘country ABBA’ a few times [laughs]. In that sense, I get where they’re coming from. Matt and I don’t wear any fancy suits or anything glittery, but country ABBA is cool I thought.
In the Sorry Won’t Get You Back cover photo though you do wear crushed velvet. I know it’s far removed from the sparkly jumpsuits that ABBA wore, but it could be a unique look of your own?
It stems back to who we are as people I guess, something that’s just naturally come together. It’s not something I’ve thought about all that much to be honest, but us four, we’re all different but it meets in the centre well with what we do and how we do things. The crushed velvet, I dunno, I personally don’t mind wearing it once in a while. I haven’t worn it in a few months, but yeah.
Winter is the perfect time to wear velvet.
Well, I haven’t left the house or anything like that, so I’d rather wear me jumpsuit [laughs].
You produced your latest single Gotta Go Rodeo with Pete Dacy at Secret Sound Studios. What was the idea behind the song?
That was from one of the first writing sessions together. Cassie and Pagan [have] always talked about this place in Cassie’s hometown in Moama, where they had these crazy parties. They have a sign ‘leave your inhibitions at the door’ right on the gate. They [had come] back that weekend from one of those things, talking about it, and it sounded like a real full on place. So, we wrote a song based on that and tried to sum up what that’d be like. Matt and I haven’t been there, so we’re living vicariously from a distance. Those girls can get quite wild if they want [laughs].
After working in London for almost four years, you decided to pursue your own true musical vision and headed for the US – first to Los Angeles and then Nashville – before returning to your hometown in Melbourne. Darlinghurst has released the single So Long So Long in America, which now sits in the US Top 100 of the Music Row country charts. Is the plan to take Darlinghurst to Nashville eventually when we can leave our houses again?
Well, I don’t mind the holiday to Woolies every second day [laughs]. At the Darlinghurst camp, we just like to play. It doesn’t matter where – we’ll play anywhere and everywhere. I do know in America; they do love the Australian accent so maybe that could be something [that could help us do well in Nashville]. But our approach is anywhere. We just do what we do, be ourselves and be respectful. We try to keep grounded and focus on doing the music.
There are things from my time in Nashville that I brought back with me – certain experiences and things I’ve observed out there – but being played in America, our label in Australia has set that up and pushed all that. It’s been great first trying-to-get-the-foot-in-the-door situation and it’s gone well.
Nashville, I miss that place. There’s one bar there that’s one of my favourite places in the world so I’d like to head back there again – listen to the music and drink of whiskey. Nashville is a wonderful city.
You returned to Melbourne with the intention of doing country music, although the city isn’t exactly known for being a huge hub for the genre. Why did you decide to return to Melbourne instead of heading to somewhere like Tamworth or similar?
Melbourne is home. I’m born in Melbourne, and love Melbourne and Australia. It’s lovely. I’ve always loved country music since I was a kid, more, the older country music. When I came back from Nashville and it was an intuition thing that I’ve got to get back there. I didn’t really know what the answer was, but it was one of those things where I followed that. I’m glad I trusted that because I’m now in Darlinghurst and we’re doing our thing. We’re fourth single in now in Gotta Go Rodeo and it’s a good time.
It’s funny you mention something trusting your intuition. I read an interview with Cassie and Pagan who described that the three of you meeting and coming together was almost like magic. Do you think that there’s some kind of spiritual or serendipitous force behind the band?
It depends if one wants to go with that side of it – that those things happen in all aspects of life, whatever it is. I think you do attract things – that, whatever your energy you’ve got, and you do eventually find each other. I’m not too sure if you’d call it full on magic, astrology, numbers or the planets or something like that. I’ve always trusted intuition and doing that, but I do think there’s something else to that going on. It’s just like-minded people finding each other, that attraction. In Darlinghurst, we were able to find each other, things aligned that way, and we will make the most of it.
You mentioned earlier your love of older country music; however, the Darlinghurst sound is quite modern. In the press release, it reads: the closest comparison is perhaps a modern take on ’70s Westcoast celestial folk country rock, a bit reminiscent of Crosby Stills & Nash, or The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac in their more country-tinged moments. What do you love about older country music and how do you think that is reflected in the Darlinghurst sound?
The older country, it’s such wonderful music [and] storytelling. It’s different in modern music. I’m not saying there’s not great [modern music] going on at the moment, there is, it’s just, to me, there’s magic back then – all sounds and quality. I absolutely love it. Song writing is one thing, and then to tell it honestly and authentically that’s another thing. I don’t know what it is. It was a certain time in the world that people wrote such that that thing comes out, that style, that imaginative aspect of it.
That’s why I miss Nashville and that bar because they played all the classic music. I absolutely love it. [But] let’s change the subject because I really want to get back there and can’t go anywhere [laughs].
I know in Darlinghurst; we love performing and song writing. Doing it honestly and not caring too much about what’s hip at the moment. That was the first thing we talk about when we sat down and thought what sort of music we wanna write. It was to write something that’s honest to us, because we want to reach out to people in that way that people can connect, relate to things and for it to resonate.
27/3/2021 – Country Rocks Festival Bungendore, NSW
8/5/2021 – Big Country Berry NSW
2/10/2021 – Deni Ute Muster Deniliquin, NSW
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