Smile Politely

Darren Hackey funnels pop influence into acoustic act

DHForgive me if this is rock music sacrilege, but I must confess that most of my exposure to Tom Petty’s music has been unintentional. But if singer/songwriter Darren Hackey says Petty’s work has had a strong influence on his music, maybe it’s time for me to take a closer listen.

Hackey has a strong sense of where he comes from creatively and where he wants to go. Originally from Montana, he moved to Chicago to pursue his career at 18, and then came to Champaign-Urbana in 2008 to attend the University of Illinois. Hackey is playing a set this Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Koinonia and Stratford House Outdoor Concert (corner of 4th and Daniel).

“My dad is a DJ at a radio station, so I’ve always been surrounded by music,” Hackey said.

His own journey towards being a musician started when he learned drums at 12, migrated to the bass guitar, and then learned to play guitar at 14.

“I’ve been in bands ever since. I can’t believe it’s already been 9 years,” he said. Hackey wants to eventually incorporate more instrumental flavors such as the harmonica, banjo, or violin.

Hackey plays melodic, guitar-based pop rock music with catchy choruses. “Superhero” is his most energetic song, ideal for audience members to sing along with. “I Didn’t Say” and “Where I’ll Be” evoke listeners’ own experiences with relationships and loneliness. At one of his shows, you might get to experience covers of Kelly Clarkson or Dave Matthews Band songs between the compelling Darren Hackey originals.

“I never would have picked up a guitar if it weren’t for Green Day,” Hackey admits. Other major creative influences include Billy Joel, Needtobreathe, The Police, Counting Crows, Modest Mouse, and don’t forget Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Hackey always strives to create a sense of shared musical community at his live shows. He enjoys, “the crowd interaction and response…when it transcends ‘me’ to become ‘us.'” He has played at P.J. Clarke’s in Chicago and at several C-U venues including The Iron Post, Mike & Molly’s, and the big and small stages at the Canopy Club.

He is currently fine-tuning his songs and recording a self-produced album, which he hopes to have completed by February 2010. It will have several of his familiar songs and two or three new ones, for a projected total of ten tracks.

After graduation next spring, Hackey will likely move back to Chicago to focus on his career from there. He explains, “I feel more knowledgeable about the business than when I was 18.” In the next few years, he hopes to be signed to a label and doing a live performance tour.

The Koin-Strat House Outdoor Concert starts on Friday at 8:00 p.m. Darren Hackey opens for Peoria-based Two Cent Offering. There cover is $5.

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