Written by Tristan Olav Torgersen
Photos courtesy of someone other than myself for Caleb Darger
It was a cold night in Provo, Utah. The snow had been coming down pretty hard as I walked from my girlfriend’s apartment. Freshman year was wild. She was weird. She didn’t like driving in the snow, so I would walk the two miles from her house to my dorm on the north side of town. This night was particularly chilly, so I sought refuge in the warmest place open that late. God bless Del Taco.
I walked in, took off my wet coat, scarf, and gloves before ordering a pair of burritos (for warmth of course). I was the only one in the restaurant until the doors opened up to a pair of guys whose love for Del Taco must have matched my own to brave the storm. When they sat down, I recognized them from a concert at The Velour, Provo’s prime music venue, just weeks before. We started talking, and before long Caleb handed me a little demo CD. I still have it in its blue case with my chicken scratch handwriting, ‘Caleb Darger – The Del Taco Demos.’
Fast forward eight years, and Caleb went from packing The Velour anytime his bands played to events like this weekend in L.A. His style and music have evolved and taken on different faces over the years, like any true musician will. He’s been able to shoot a music video in Taiwan, put out an E.P. and single, and has more in the works. Whether he’s playing a small house show, at a sizable venue, or in the studio, you can tell he has the muse and talent missing from so many acts today.
People like to pair new sounds with those they’re familiar with, but I’m gonna go ahead and steer clear of that. Listen to his EP (found at the bottom of this page) and new single and decide for yourself what you think of his sound and music. And if you’re in or near LA, come see him Saturday June 16th!
Without further adieu, here is our Q&A with Caleb Darger!
Tristan: So we’ve known each other for a while, and I used to go to your previous band’s show, The Mighty Sequoia. I also loved your gospel album from 2013. Now you have a new venture with Child Ivory. Talk a little bit about how your music taste and influences have changed over the years, how your music you’ve written has changed, and why you like what you’re writing and playing now.
Caleb: Although several years ago I was primarily writing folk music, I have never been a purist about it. The Mighty Sequoyah’s last release in 2013 was an EP of surf rock songs, so it was already kind of a separation from the folk rock thing we had done up until that point. After The Mighty Sequoyah broke up I started writing simpler songs that relied on melodies more than musicianship. That came about because I got frustrated feeling dependent upon musicians that didn’t always end up being dependable.
Initially the songs I wrote sounded kind of like Wild Nothing, they were primarily written on a guitar with maybe a synth pad filling out the background. As I started embracing synthesizers more I realized how much depth their versatility could bring to the songs. The songwriting approach, however, remained by and large the same.
Some people thought that Child Ivory kind of came out of nowhere, but really it was just a manifestation of my natural progression as an artist.
Tristan: Talk to me a little about this EP. How long did it take the songs to come together? What experiences shaped the lyrics?
Caleb: The songs from the first Child Ivory EP were written over a 3-year period, and lyrically, they reflect the range of experiences and emotions that are possible in that length of time. I drew inspiration from my experiences living in Asia, trying to learn a new language and culture, as well as a heavy depression I went through.
Depression is not something I have struggled with in the past, so it was new to me. I was embarrassed about it, and I didn’t know how to handle it. So I hid it. I dated girls who wanted to be in relationships with me, but I felt like I was just kind of using them as a crutch. People thought they were close to me but I felt like I was still holding so much back. To them it seemed like I was rejecting them, but really I think I was trying to protect us both.
“Rhetoric” was born of these experiences. I felt like so many people I met and talked to wanted to keep things surface level. I was having the same conversations with different people every day, and I hated it. It occurred to me that I was in part to blame, because I was also reticent and afraid to be vulnerable for fear of how I would be received. It’s like we’re all living behind a facade, and everyone is afraid to be their true selves. I feel like the music video we did for that song represents the experience well.
Tristan: Rhetoric is one of my favorites you play, and I love the music video too. Let’s talk about the music industry in general. Do you think it’s harder for young artists these days to make it big? Or, do you think it’s harder for young artists to make something that sounds fresh?
Caleb: That’s a challenging question, and I guess it depends on what you mean by “make it big”. The way technology has developed has made it possible for people to make records and get distribution without needing a label behind them. That has also led to saturation of the market, so it can be very difficult to stand out. I still think it’s harder to make a career out of music than it is to make something fresh.
Tristan: I know you started playing before streaming was really big, what are your feelings about streaming? Do you ever reach audiences you don’t expect to?
Caleb: Yeah I still remember when Spotify first came out. Now it’s ubiquitous, with several major competitors. I confess that I use and enjoy Spotify as an app for all of the obvious reasons. I do have a problem with the way royalties are paid to artists though, especially small artists. When Spotify was just getting started they promised huge percentage amounts to the big labels to get them on board with the idea of streaming. So the streaming companies and labels are making most of the money. Meanwhile, an artist could have a song that gets 5 million plays on Spotify and the royalties would hardly be enough for them to quit their day job.
Tristan: Let’s end on our favorite question. You’re abandoned on an island. You get three albums to listen to. What do you pick?
Caleb: This is tough, but off the top of my head I’d say Bloom by Beach House, Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan, and Bon Iver by Bon Iver. All three are nostalgic albums for me that never seem to get old.
Give his EP a listen!
And if you’re in Los Angeles, see him Saturday, June 16, 2018, see him play live at the Bar Lubitsch. Click here for more info!
Check out other bands and artists from Utah while you’re at it!