WASILLA — Palmer blues musician Darren Smith is the lead vocalist in the band Daddy’s Issue with his wife Tamara and several local artists.
Smith recently rekindled and rebranded the Schwabenhof Blues Jam, now called HarpDaddy Backcountry Blues Jam, to reinvigorate the local music scene after a year of lulls, cancellations, and constraints.
Below is a question and answer with Smith discussing his personal journey with music and the local music scene.
Q: How long have you been playing in Alaska?“I’ve been a blues musician for 20 plus years in Anchorage and toured the state and all that… I’ve been playing harmonica for right about 25 years now.”
Q: How long have you been playing music in general?“I grew up singing in church. My mom would drag me to churches and nursing homes all around upstate New York really. I played trumpet and trombone in the school band, and really I sang all the way through college, gospel choir. I’ve always loved to sing... I moved to Alaska and everything changed and I gave up music for much of my adult life… So, about eight years ago I decided… If I’m going to have an opportunity to really do what I want to do musically, I better get it done. I better get it started.”
Q: What’s it been like being in a band with your wife?“Honestly, it’s an absolute ... dream come true… It’s really something that I’ve kind of always wanted, to be able to have a partner. Now that she’s playing guitar it really gives us an opportunity to do things like open mics and duet style stuff. That’s really cool.”
Q: Has it been a pretty fun process for you?“Yeah… We sat down one weekend and formed the entire band. This was two years ago, and kinda got the vision and just ran with it… 36:00 get up and see what you can do
Q: What does music mean to you?“It is part of me… I can’t really separate it. When I wasn’t making music publicly, I was still playing a lot; and my goal out of this whole thing was to be a halfway decent campfire harmonica player. It is a cool music scene up here; and I am humbled and honored to be a part of it. Because, again, it really wasn’t my goal… I just thought it would be cool to play a little harmonica here and there...”
Q: What do you think about the supportive nature prevailing in the Valley music scene?“I’m a little blown away by the Valley music scene… The people, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of, ‘me, me, me’ attitude about the music here. It’s all about us, and that’s exciting to me; and there’s some of the best musicians I’ve ever seen in my life out here in the Valley.”
Q: How important is a thriving music scene to a community?“I think it’s as important as any other organization really. I do believe that live music changes us. I think it’s needed, and I think we’ve seen over the last year when you don’t have it.”
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org