Wielding a psychedelic-painted Fender Squier and blessed with a falsetto that could shake Stonehenge, Australian singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Harts electrifies pop with both musicianship and showmanship. His second full-length album and stateside debut, Smoke Fire Hope Desire [Washington Square/Razor & Tie], sits comfortably between the turn-of-the-century production wizardry of The Neptunes and Timbaland and the primal Monterey Jazz Festival fret-burning of ’67 Hendrix. At the same time, the overall theme directly addresses a modern yearning…
"It’s a play on that old saying, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’” he admits. "I added a positive second line, ‘Where’s there’s hope, there’s desire.’ That phrase really sparked the whole context, which means hope and desire are a direct response to smoke and fire. There’s a lot of sadness and trouble in our world, but there’s still a lot of love being born.”
It nods to the classic records that Harts—born Darren Hart—obsessed over during his childhood in Melbourne, Australia. As a kid, he fell in love with everything from Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind, & Fire to Queen and Prince. While attending high school, he learned how to play the drums and picked up keyboard, guitar, and bass soon after. In 2009, Harts formally came to life as a delicate amalgam of rock, pop, funk, and soul not only written and performed entirely by its architect, but also recorded and mixed solely by him as well.
"I do everything myself,” he says. "There’s no external producer or any other collaborators influencing the process. It’s completely a one-man thing. I get to be 100% me.”
International audiences quickly embraced this singular vision. He released his first full-length, Daydreamer, in 2014 followed by the Breakthrough EP a year later. Rolling Stone Australia, NME, The Guardian, Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald, Vogue Magazine Australia, Faster Louder, Music Feeds, and more unanimously praised Harts, while GQ Australia named him among its 2016 "Men of the Year.” His music soundtracked both a Rimmel London spot starring supermodel and fashion icon Kate Moss and a national Subaru campaign.
Well before the accolades began rolling in, it was the late, great Prince who had a hand in building Harts’ signature confidence and giving him the necessary tools that would eventually catapult him to the next level. The icon discovered a young Harts on YouTube, and reached out to invite him to Paisley Park Studios; even proclaiming, "He reminds me of how I was at that age.” With this, Harts joined a very small, very elite group of artists that Prince mentored and praised publicly. He even sat in with Prince’s band during an exclusive 30th Anniversary celebration of Purple Rain that was held behind the gates of the legendary compound during his stay.
Beyond performing for "The Purple One,” Harts enchanted audiences with his ground-shaking live show around the globe at Splendour InThe Grass, Pinkpop Festival, Stereosonic, and more in addition to touching down in North America for CMJ 2015 and SXSW 2016. Preparing for those trips, he began demoing songs for what would eventually become Smoke Fire Hope Desire.