Review Fix chats with Darrel William Herbert to find out what powers his creative process, how COVID has affected his career and how he wants his music to affect people.
About Darrel William Herbert:
After building a career playing guitar for platinum-selling act the Toadies and the Geffen-signed Tomorrowpeople, Darrel William Herbert is taking a back-to-basics, DIY approach for his upcoming solo debut, An Unwelcome Moment of Clarity.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Darrel William Herbert: Songs can come from anywhere, but for me the best ones come pretty quickly. I usually start with a concept for what I want to say (based on a title, or a lyric). If it’s good, I get obsessed with it and can’t stop working on it until it’s done. I’ll often wake up in the middle of the night with the song in my mind, then get up and finish it in a few minutes. The songs that I labor over for weeks almost never turn out. I try to amuse myself. If I don’t want to listen to it, then why should anybody else?
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Herbert: It sounds dumb, but practicing on my instruments inspires me. I have to put in a lot of work in order to get new music out of them. I love playing and learning new things.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
Herbert: Everything! Haha, I listen to all kinds of music and I’m never without it. When I was a kid, I had a transistor radio that I would put in my pocket and listen to all day and I still do that now, only I’m doing it with my phone. I listen to albums but I’m not really an album guy, I’m a singles guy. I’ll get obsessed with a song and have to listen to it over and over again for months. Hearing it once, just doesn’t tell the story for me. I’ll break it down, study it, learn it, forget it, then learn it all over again. “I never want to hear that song ever again,” is something my family is frequently saying to me. Recently I’ve been obsessed with “Hanging On The Telephone” by the Nerves, “Born To Run” by Emmylou Harris, “Death Perception” by Thy Art Is Murder, “Root Down” by the Beastie Boys, Driving Wheel by Junior Parker, “Too Late To Cry” by Lonnie Johnson, “Maple Leaf Rag” Scott Joplin played by Joshua Rifkin, and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Herbert: An eclectic roots-based mixture of art rock and country. Like the Neil Young song says, “From Hank to Hendrix,” but I would throw the Pixies in there too.
Review Fix: For your fans from your days in The Toadies, how has your sound changed?
Herbert: The Toadies sound was pretty rigid, two guitars, bass, and drums, and we never strayed from that. I want to write all kinds of different songs, use all kinds of different instruments, and explore more heartfelt emotions than just pure 90’s angst (as fun as that was). I learned a lot from my time in the Toadies, songwriting discipline and stagecraft, and everything I do will always have a certain energy to it – I’ll never write a ballad.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Herbert: Well, we’ll have to see since I won’t be able to play out for quite some time due to COVID. But I for sure won’t be stretching the songs out with long, pointless guitar solos. I hate when people do that. “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!” When I do start playing out, there will be a lot of new songs in the set.
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
Herbert: I had been working on my acoustic guitar a lot and had come up with the chords and riffs without having any idea how to write the lyrics. A few nights later I had this crazy dream that I could fly, got up in the middle of the night and wrote down what happened in the dream verbatim – that became the first half of the song. A couple nights later, I had another dream where I was crashing down to earth; woke up in the middle of the night and finished the song. When it came time to record it, I stuck with the acoustic sound and expanded it – acoustic drums, acoustic guitar solos, and having bassist John Avila use a stand up acoustic bass. I even used a melodica for the pad, it’s a children’s toy that you blow into – it sounds like a big harmonica meets an accordion. It ended up being the first all acoustic song I’ve ever recorded.
Review Fix: How has COVID affected your life?
Herbert: We’ve been really lucky so far, no sickness and lucky to have each other. So many of my friends are going through this alone and I know how hard that has been for them. I did lose a friend at work that was afraid to go to the doctor during the lockdown, he was funny and kind and I’ll never really know what happened to him. I just know that he was alone.
Review Fix: How are goals in music different now than a few years ago?
Herbert: I can’t imagine that theireany different now than before – get your music heard by as many people as possible and get them to come see your show. Just now, it’s a lot harder.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
Herbert: Keep writing. The album comes out in October, so I’ll be doing my level best to promote it as much as possible.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Herbert: This thing isn’t going to stop any time soon. I have my next album written and recorded (except for the drums, waiting for the recording studios to re-open so I can cut them in a nice room) and I’m really excited about it. I like the songs a lot. I’m almost finished writing a third album’s worth of material that is turning out a little more rock and roll and has more electronic and funky elements to it.