For Montclair’s Darren Bowden, ‘Rust’ marks return to lifelong passion
Before the restrictions and lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Montclair resident Darren Bowden traveled to and from New York City every day, for his work as vice president of operations for Calvin Klein.
But when life changed for all of us in 2020, Bowden found an opportunity — to return to his lifelong passion, music.
He used the extra time he would have spent commuting to complete his second album “Rust,” which was released to major streaming platforms on March 18.
“I'm a one man band. I play, write, and record and play all of the instruments on the album,” said Dowden, who recorded the album in his home studio. “So in one way, it's really exciting because I am able to kind of get it to sound exactly the way it is in my head, which is wonderful. But it takes longer. You know, just being able to do it right, record it correctly. Get all the parts right.”
His first album, “Sage,” was released in 2014, but about a year after that release, both his parents died a year apart. Those losses, combined with the demands of a corporate job, caused Bowden to take a step back from making music, a passion he followed since he was a teenager.
At the age of 12 or 13, he had saved his money doing odd jobs to buy a drum kit, eventually becoming a drummer. That helped him to understand rhythm and song writing. The band AC/DC inspired him to pick up the guitar, and a passion for poetry writing led him to write lyrics for songs.
“So there was just kind of this great mix of loving music and loving writing and it just all came together,” he said.
As a teen, Bowden and his band would play at local clubs, opting to play original songs over covers when possible. Bowden even pursued a music major in college, before switching to an arts and sciences major in behavioral management, which led him to a career in retail.
“When I shifted to the corporate world, I really took my eye off of music for a little while, but then it ultimately keeps pulling me back,” he said.
According to Bowden, his new album is better-produced than the first album. He says the phonics are deeper with “Rust.”
“I spent more time making sure that it sounded fuller, [with[ more guitars on the album, more different instrumentation. I use a lot of stringed instruments, horns, those kinds of things,” he said. “I was a music major in college. So really being able to kind of draw from that experience as well, I think really made the album sound much thicker and a little more mature than the first one.”
Bowden also worked with a Nashville-based sound engineer, who helped him with the learning curve of mixing and mastering his music. Through the sound engineer, he connected with Chris Sligh, a singer-songwriter who was a finalist on season six of “American Idol.”
“As soon as I heard him sing I'm like, ‘That's the guy he has to sing my music,’” Bowden said.
Sligh had more of a pop sound on “American Idol,” Bowden said, but now has more crossover country vocals. Bowden sent Sligh files of his own voice singing the songs, and Sligh re-recorded the vocals. Bowden ended up using Sligh’s vocals on eight of the 11 songs on the album.
Sligh said Bowden was easy to work with as a collaborator, and gave clear directions.
“Working with Darren Bowden was a great joy. … Being able to record an album's worth of well-written, unique rock and hard rock songs was a fun experience,” Sligh said. “I'm grateful for the experience of working with him.”
Despite the description of Sligh’s country vocals, Bowden said he ultimately would describe the album as rock, with inspiration from his childhood in Texas and bands such as AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top. However the last song on the album, “Broken,” is a classical piano piece he wrote in college
“It really spans a lot of styles. But if I had to, like pin it down, I would say it's a rock album,” he said.
Other favorite songs on the album for Bowden include the song “Pirouette,” which as of this week was nearing 40,000 plays on Spotify.
He described the lyrics as “really sincere,” and about “taking a relationship for granted and just reminding yourself that you've really got to appreciate the person you're with.”
He said he also loves the song “The Letting Go,” which is dedicated to his mother. He said he wrote it a week after she died, and it's all about saying goodbye to someone who was special.
The album cover pays homage to another family member, as it depicts his great grandfather’s car. Bowden said the car sat in a shed on a family farm in Louisiana for years, eventually rusting over.
“Every time I go to that family farm, I open the shed doors and take a look at it, and it's just always kind of reminded me of how … as we all get a little older, we have our own rust, you know, [but[ we're still around,” he said.
Bowden said that was “symbolic of my own mind in a lot of ways because I've watched it rust over the years.”
Overall, Bowden said, the response to this album has been overwhelming. He was even recently taken on by a marketing firm, Firestorm Consultations.
According to Bowden, you have to have a ‘why’ to keep going in music. His lies in the fact that people are connecting emotionally with his songs. That gives him goosebumps, he said.
“But why wouldn't I do it? Like, I feel like there's no reason to kind of deprive yourself of things you love to do,” he said.
Bowden said he is already writing songs for his next album, and doesn’t see himself ever shelving music again. He said he wants to keep it as a priority in his life.
“It's just something that I've allowed myself to keep doing and enjoying … and not feeling like I've got to kind of fulfill someone else's expectations around what I should be by being this corporate guy and not being myself,” he said.
Bowden’s album “Rust” can be found on all major streaming platforms and at darrenbowden.com.