Darren Michael Boyd has overcome some great obstacles in the past year. Suffering from a life-changing car accident, the Canadian guitarist sought therapy in the form of writing and recording his debut album, Lifting The Curse. The album has put him on the map alongside some of his contemporaries, making him one of the most exciting new instrumentalists to arrive in 2020. Darren took some time out to answer some questions in this exclusive new interview….
Indie Pulse Music: Congratulations on your debut album release, “Lifting The Curse.” It seems to be doing very well around the globe. Tell us about the title, the production, the recording process:
Darren Michael Boyd: Thank you! The title changed at least twice during the recording process. As the album progressed, and I started to see the finish line, I also realized a theme, or motif had developed. It was part of my recovery following a car accident, and I felt so much healing power from creating this music, and “Lifting the Curse” really seemed like the perfect description.
It was recorded and produced entirely from my home studio over the summer of 2019. I set a deadline to complete it, and worked whenever possible. Since I was doing practically everything myself, I had to be disciplined, and spend a lot of time just learning more about the technology and recording techniques. To be honest, most days that didn’t seem like “work”, so I was usually excited to do it. For a self-produced indie album, I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. As much as I would love to work in a high-end studio with Bob Ezrin producing, it wasn’t an option so I had to figure it out! It goes to show that indie artists can do some pretty cool stuff on their own, if they are truly dedicated.
Who were your biggest guitar playing influences? Who are you listening to these days?
I find new guitar heroes all the time. I grew up listening to players like Ace Frehley, Angus Young, Randy Rhoads and Mick Mars. I love Mind-blowing guitarists like Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Guthrie Govan and Steve Lukather. I’ve always listened to Prince, Brian May, and Edward Van Halen. These days I throw on The Darkness a lot (great band and guitar playing), and I’m digging a band called StOp sToP! Which also has a killer guitarist named Vega.
To me, it’s all about the songs. A great guitarist can be deadly in a band with fantastic songs!
Tell us about your guitar collection. Do you have a favorite?
Choosing a favorite is pretty much impossible! I think I have around 15 total, and I do play them all. Some highlights off the top of my head are my Gibson Les Paul Junior, the red one you see in most of my photos. Killer sounding and playing guitar! I also have a Seagull Natural Elements acoustic, made in Canada, that meets all my “unplugged” needs, and more. Another Canadian made treasure is my Lado Classic 3. Hand-made in the late 80s when pretty much ALL the Canadian touring bands were using Lado guitars. My Dean Cadillac is also a beauty!
I have never been big on the idea of playing other artists signature guitars (I’m still hoping for my own!), but I have two that I play all the time because they are so amazing. First, is my Brad Paisley road-worn Fender Telecaster. I changed the paisley pick-guard to a mirrored one (the secret is out!), but other than that, it’s stock. The other is an official Schecter Prince Cloud guitar. I really don’t think I have to explain how damn cool THAT is!
You’ve toured as a member of an award-winning cast of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” How did that come about? What’s your favorite part of playing Queen music, and were you a fan prior to playing in the show?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Queen. All the elements were there for the perfect rock band. Learning the music for the stage production was very different because the songs were often arranged differently, and the context in which they are performed is not at all like being in a band and playing through a setlist!
How did the idea behind your latest single, “The Earth is B Flat” come to you? What are your goals/hopes/dreams/fears for your songs?
Ah! The guitar riff so advanced it was written in the future! Inspiration is a peculiar thing, and the origin of this song is a perfect example. My sphynx cat, Sedona, often gets up on my lap and bites the strings of my guitar while I’m playing. The main riff from The Earth is B Flat came from a “teasing” kind of riff I made up on the spot, while trying to discourage her disruptive behaviour. That failed, but the song turned out to be pretty cool!
I added some cheeky whole-tone licks in places to accentuate the spacey feel. Maybe it’s just me, but I hear the potential for a lot of this music to end up in a variety of soundtracks. Either way, my hope is that my songs stick with people and give them some pleasure and entertainment. I think that’s valuable enough, and I try to never take for granted the impact a song can have in a person’s life. Music has probably saved my life, or at least altered it, on more occasions than I can count. It doesn’t have to have any deep meaning to have that kind of influence and connect with people either.
I try not to have any fears when it comes to creating songs, but I used to suffer from the fear of being ignored! I don’t have that fear anymore, because it’s happened – and I’ll live to write more songs. It can be frustrating, but it’s also liberating. Don’t like that one? Cool. Here are two more! Haha! The world doesn’t owe me anything, as an artist; I do it, because I can’t NOT do it. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Beyond “Lifting the Curse,” what else does Darren Michael Boyd have planned for music lovers in 2020?
This year should be busy! I’m working on a follow-up CD for Lifting the Curse, hopefully with a fall 2020 release date. This spring, I will release a new music video for the title track to my current CD – hopefully in May.
As for other projects I’m involved with, I’m working on some summer acoustic performances with Creeping Beauty, and I’m expecting Famous Underground will release some new music.
You’ve toured pretty extensively. A lot of people were disappointed by the cancellation of SXSW in Austin, TX this year, due to fears over the CoronaVirus. What are your thoughts on the cancellation? Were you personally affected by the cancellation? Is it media overreaction, or is there a legitimate argument for people staying away from these types of events?
At this point there is no choice. It’s a scary and disillusioning time for everyone. I was in denial at first, same as most people, I think. When the Juno Awards ceremony was cancelled here in Canada I knew it was for real. All of this will have long-term effects on the economy, and for everybody. It helps to remember that we’re in it together, and to remember the first responders, medical professionals, and those poor retail workers – they are the heroes right now. I’ve lost a few gigs, but I’m doing fine here – the lights are on, I have safe drinking water right out of the tap, and plenty of cat food (for the cats, not me). If you want to help musicians without spending a dime, stream their music, subscribe to their YouTube channels, anything that has the potential to provide some income for them, without having to dig into your own bank account. This is also helpful if you want some entertainment during quarantine!.
Any more touring plans for 2020?
I really hope once the next album is released I can count on a string of live dates, regional touring, at least. Getting the logistics all sorted out amidst the mayhem of life in general can be daunting, so maybe I need a great booking agent!
Thanks so much for taking the time. Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you for the opportunity! For those reading this, stay safe and patient. I want to see everyone on the other side of this current situation, ready to rock and/or roll!
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