Darden Smith returns to Austin to perform latest album

Darden Smith always comes back to Austin. 

Though the singer-songwriter traveled the world in his 28-year career, Smith will return to Austin to perform songs from his new album Love Calling on Friday. Hosted by local radio station KUTX, the event marks Smith’s 14th release. 

Smith, a Texas native, broke into the music scene with his first album Native Soil in 1986. Love Calling is a culmination of songs he wrote on his trips to Nashville.

“I’ve been going to Nashville for 20 years, writing [and] co-writing songs, and I wanted to make a record based around some of the songs I’d been writing,” Smith said.  

Smith’s sound mirrors his variety of musical influences, from singer/songwriters John Prine and Bob Dylan to English pop artists such as Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. 

“With every record, you generally have a theme or a sound that you want, and in some ways Love Calling is the most reminiscent of the first record I made in ’86,” Smith said. “It’s more acoustic, [and] it’s more based in the Texas country-folk tradition.” 

A UT alumnus, Smith’s success has taken him all over the world, from New York and Los Angeles to London and Paris. 

“One of the best things that the Austin music scene gave to me was the realization that if I really wanted to do this as a living, and if I really wanted to make my career, I had to get out of town,” Smith said. “I had to leave in order to sustain myself and to sustain my family. So it’s made me work very, very hard.”

Last year Smith launched SongwritingWith, a program created to help people work through emotional obstacles by writing songs. This led to a more concentrated realm, SongwritingWith:Soldiers. 

“I met a marine at [an] airbase in Western Germany, and it was the first time I had ever talked to a soldier in my life,” Smith said. “The conversation that he and I had was about songs and music, and it made me realize that the work that I had been doing, both with the Be An Artist Program and using songwriting as a conflict resolution tool, could be used with soldiers as well, and I could [use] that to [help] soldiers tell their stories.”

This experience stemmed into the song “Angel Flight,” a piece that Smith and longtime friend and co-writer on Love Calling, Radney Foster, wrote in honor of the Texas Air National Guard. 

“Darden brought the idea [of “Angel Flight”} to me, and I was honored to help him finish it,” Foster said. “Darden is a great melodic singer/songwriter who is able to capture the magic of little moments.”

It is Smith’s outreach projects that set him apart in the music scene. 

“The happiest musicians I see are the ones who use their talents to help others, and Darden is certainly one of those,” KUTX disc jockey Kevin Connor said. “Darden doesn’t play too often here at home, and his shows are usually a special occasion.” 

Even after his extensive career, Smith isn’t ready to hang up his guitar. 

“This is my life,” Smith said. “I want to be the old man who is sitting around in the nursing home in a wheelchair writing songs. Every place I go to, if there are people there to come hear [my] music, I love it.”