- Words Yazzi Gokcemen
Singer-songwriter Darren Kiely discusses his Irish roots, musical globetrotting and inspirations for his new EP, Lost.
Darren Kiely still has memories of his five-year-old self’s tin whistle – the instrument marked the beginning of his musical upbringing in Co. Cork, Ireland. Having made it as a fully-fledged musician, Kiely now lives in America where new people and places provide him with endless creative inspiration – evident from the project he released earlier this month.
Titled Lost, the singer-songwriter’s debut EP doesn’t shy away from the struggles that come with such a drastic uprooting, or his self-perception anxieties. Across seven tracks Kiely’s vocals travel between tender and impassioned, as the moving narrative unfolds. Ever the cornerstone of his craft, charming Irish influences shine through the melodies and hark back to the music which has been winning him accolades since 2019.
Darren Kiely etched his name in Ireland’s top charts with previous singles ‘How Could You Love Me’ and ‘Ella’. On stage, he’s also been triumphing, playing to diverse fanbases and selling-out headline shows at iconic venues. With Lost now on the roster, Kiely is poised to enchant further audiences with his evolving artistry and anticipated tours. At this precipice, we ask Darren Kiely all about the journey so far.
Your musical journey began early – with a tin whistle at age five, then learning the fiddle, violin and guitar – in what ways do you feel this exposure to music, and traditional Irish music specifically, shaped your unique sound today?
I think traditional Irish music significantly shaped the type of music I listen to and play now. There’s such a raw energy to Irish music that’s infectious – I like to think I’m creating music which does the same!
How did moving from a small town in Co. Cork to New York and now Nashville – which are all places renowned for great songwriting – influence your songwriting and musical style?
Each place has influenced me differently. The diverse cultures and ways of life have shaped how I live, I write songs about what I’ve experienced.
Your debut EP Lost explores themes of self-doubt, self-discovery, and emotional questioning. Can you share some personal experiences that inspired the songs on this project?
Trying to find a purpose in my life set the foundations for what I wrote about in ‘Lost’. For the past few years I’ve been writing, trying to figure out what I want to do and I’ve found solace in music and songwriting. Being away from home for a while probably intensified those questions and feelings.
You’ve played in various countries and are scheduled for 32 concerts across six countries in 2023-2024. Having sold out headlining shows at venues like Rockwood Music Hall and Mercury Lounge in New York, how do you approach creating an intimate connection with your live audience and how does performing in different locations influence your musical expression?
I’m not sure it’s me creating that intimacy as much as the people showing up, wanting to listen and being so respectful. Every single time I step on stage there’s so much respect from the audience, I feel pretty calm when I’m at the mic, maybe that’s why it’s so intimate.
Your upcoming headline North America tour The Lost Tour covers 17 cities across the US and Canada. What are you most looking forward to during this tour, and how do you prepare for such an extensive journey?
I’m excited to see places I’ve never been to before! I feel like I’m writing songs that reach people in all these different places which I’ve no experience of, I think getting out there to connect with them will really help what I’m trying to do.
In terms of prep, there’s the boring stuff like vocal exercises and rest, but to be honest the excitement is what carries me through.
Your social following has grown significantly, with over 380k followers across platforms. How do you engage with your fans online, and what role do they play in shaping your musical direction?
They play a massive role, I like to go live on TikTok when I can and I’m also posting clips of songs. Even the comments which let you know where fans are based become really helpful for planning tours.
Trust your gut. Keep doing. Write and write and write and figure things out. The more you do and reflect, the more you figure things out. Surround yourself with people you trust and who truly care for you.