Interview: Darren Hanlon

Darren Hanlon - Photo courtesy of Darren Hanlon

Darren Hanlon - Photo courtesy of Darren Hanlon

Darren Hanlon isn’t just a singer-songwriter. Such a label would merely sell him and his music short.

No, Hanlon is more than that: a singer whose voice is as catchy and quirky as it is endearing, and a songwriter who cleverly crafts his lyrics, spinning puns in new directions and rhyming unconventional words, ever-so-carefully grabbing the hands of his listeners and bringing them along for the ride.

But while he’s spent the past ten years or so slowly making people around the world more and more enamored of his pop-infused tunes, Hanlon admitted that the novelty of the music wears off a bit faster for him personally.

“I certainly get sick of the tunes themselves,” he said. “[But it] is a good thing, ‘cause it makes you write more songs.”

Luckily for Hanlon and fans alike, he’s got no shortage of music, with five albums, three EPs and a series of singles to boot to his name.

The songwriting process behind his steady stream of work is something direct and methodical, and sometimes even uncomfortably forced.

“I usually…write the songs in clumps, then tour for a year or so, then have to go back [and] sit in a room for a month and do it all again,” Hanlon explained. “I find the whole process a bit painful, as you do need to be alone to do it, and stare at the walls for days on end.”

However, this method is also what keeps him sane; he’d rather compose a lot of music at one specific time and use the next year or two to tour, as opposed to dragging the writing part out longer.

In particular, this is because Hanlon doesn’t like to be too secluded for too long.

“I love being around people, and to write is very solitary,” he said.

And once the actual songs are written is when Hanlon gets to step out of a self-imposed confinement, consulting and experimenting with other musicians for the recording part of things.

“It’s very collaborative,” he said. “That’s the beauty of being solo: you can involve as many people as you like. And they’re the bits I love most on my albums, the things others do that I wouldn’t normally think of.”

As for each album, Hanlon said he takes his music around the world, having recorded the existing ones in the cities of Sydney, Tuscon, Portland, Stockholm and Athens.

“I always try to record them in different geographical locations,” he said. “So that alone gives them specific feelings.”

Yet while each album and each individual song has particular feelings or stories associated with it, Hanlon said the emotional content has very little to do with what he’s preoccupied with on stage.

“The mind has a good way of disconnecting,” he said, referring to when he is playing live. “I’m usually just in the moment with the audience, thinking more about where I am and who I’m with [than the meaning of the songs].”

That’s not to say he doesn’t get nervous, as he often does.

“If I don’t get nervous, I get suspicious,” he said, adding that the only exception to the rule is in the United States, where he is less well-known and the people at a show tend to be smaller in number.

“In Australia, where the crowds are a lot bigger, I’m very conscious of putting on a good show year after year so people wanna come back,” he said. “[But in America] it feels somehow detached from the industry or something. It’s a lot more organic over there.”

Regardless of where he is playing or who it is for, it would still be safe to say that sharing his music with people around the world is one of the things Hanlon enjoys the most about his music.

“I definitely feel more at home with performing,” he said.

Darren Hanlon plays Friday at Wasserturm Kreuzberg in Berlin, as part of the weekend-long Indie Pop Days. The show begins at 19.00.

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