Keren - Hi everyone, tonight for Forever British Country I am talking to Darren Hodson from The Southern Companion. How are you Darren?
Darren - I'm very well. How are you doing?
Keren - I'm alright thanks.
Darren - Thanks for having me.
Keren - You're very welcome. So what made you decide to form a band? What was the beginning of it all?
Darren - Oh Blimey, I never really decided, its just what I have always done right from being 8 or 9. I started a band before I learned how to play anything. We just decided I was going to be the guitarist cos my dad had a guitar. So I learned how to play it and have been in a band of some description ever since.
As far as The Southern Companion goes it was a sort of organic thing. It just started without us even really being aware of it in a way, but I was in a couple of other bands in 2010ish, and both of them kind of fell apart at around the same time for one reason or another, and I just had a bunch of songs that I had written over the previous 3 or 4 years that we hadn't used in either project, and we were at a bit of a loose end to know what to do next, so we decided to get some friends together who I had played with in various things over the years, and just go into the studio and cut the songs, just demo's that I did in my home studio, and after that was done, that was the first album really. 'Short Stories and Tall Tales' record, and I was the most reluctant front man I guess, and just for a bit of fun, we started playing in some of the venues that had been good to me over the years, and they kept booking me back with whatever I was doing, and it just spiralled from there really.
The line-up kept changing depending on who was available from the pool of musicians I have worked with over the years. There was one time where what is now The Southern Companion line-up Myself, Lee, Simon, Stuart and Ollie where we ended up on a gig, and there was a real chemistry there with the five of us, and I thought, maybe this is something we should explore.
We decided to go and make another record and then that brings us up to now, we are in the middle of doing the 3rd album and its now a band. The only band I do now.
Keren - So If you could invite the people who have influenced you in your music career to a dinner party, who would you invite?
Darren - Blimey, I always get so thrown by some of these questions.
I think it would be cool to hang out with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. I think we'd have a great dinner party. Me and my wife and those guys kind of just have a chat and a jam. Yeah, I think that would be cool. I love their music and they seem like good people.
Keren - So the British country music scene is growing fast, we're getting more and more British country artists each day, and each artist is different in their style which is what excites me about British country music.
Where do you see British country music in 5 years time, and do you think it would be more accepted to say that you were a British country artist?
Darren - I honestly don't know.
Personally, I wasn't even aware that there was a British country scene at all until a few years ago. I'm stuck down on the south coast and we have been playing this kind of music for years, just cos we all love it, and all of us are fortunate enough that we make a living either entirely or the majority of it out of playing music. A lot of the time that music isn't the sort of music you want to play, but you have to play in order to make a living, so we started this thing just to scratch our own itches really not really being aware that there was going to be an audience for it over here. I can't even remember how I started to find out, but the fact that there is this ground swell of interest, I mean I guess it is country, I think it's that sort of Americana, country all those old classic American styles of country, soul, blues all melted into one and people are kind of getting switched onto that again.
But then, personally I think it goes deeper than that.
The general public are more discerning than people give them credit for and for a long time they have been spoon fed some pretty anaemic pop music, and the reason people have got into country is that they can relate to it being something from a genuine place, that's a real thing and that there's real songs being written, and there's artists with great musicians in their band, and that they can go and watch a show, and it's actually happening in real time. It's not smoke and mirrors and autotune, or songs that were maybe written by a committee of 40 people.
I think people want to connect in that way. I think that's kind of where it comes from and I hope that it carries on and continues, because I think the more, as a society we get detached, and things like social media can sometimes make people feel isolated more than connected, going to a gig and meeting up with friends, having you feel like you're part of the community, I think is a great thing so if British country carries on in that way, then I think it should go from strength to strength.
Keren - That's great. So you won 2 BCMA awards didn't you? Horizon and best album.
Darren - Yeah. Very unexpected.
Like I say I didn't even realise there was a British country scene, let alone a British Country Music Association attached to it and it was all down to my wife Sally.
She heard something in that '1000 Days Of Rain' record and was frustrated that no-one else was getting to hear it other than the little following we have locally, so she must have found out about the BCMA and submitted our album and from there we got nominated I was just like, Wow, you know, that's kind of cool.
I've never been nominated for anything, and then we went to the awards ceremony cos we were invited to play the night before. The best of British night it was called, and mainly, if I'm honest, we hardly ever get to have a social night out, we are only ever really together on a gig or we are all on another gig with somebody else doing something. We rarely get together as a band socially, so I said to the boys let's go to this thing cos we've been nominated for a couple of awards, we're not going to win anything but let's go and have a night out just the 5 of us and our friend Charlie as he has helped us a lot playing on guitar and bass depending if Stu or Simon wasn't available.
So it was 6 of us with our wives and girlfriends. Let's go an have a sociable night out, it will be a bit of fun. Let's go and watch some music. And then we went and won a couple of things (laughs) and I had nothing prepared. I'd been on the brandies on the way up, kind of just thinking it was just a night out and it was unbelievable.
We won the horizon award which was really early on in the evening, and I had barely sat down really as we got there a bit late, and a bit stressed trying to find somewhere to park. So I walked in, took my jacket off and sat down and they announced us and I thought bloody hell we've won it. Wow.
So went up and made a fool of myself because I hadn't got a speech, then we had to go off and do some photographs and some bits and bobs and I thought, I haven't even had a brandy to calm my nerves, wow, because although I thought we weren't gonna win anything, I thought possibly the horizon award as we are the new boys. Maybe. I don't know, so then I thought now that's out of the way, we can just sit down and enjoy the evening you know, and then when the album of the year award came up, and we'd won that one as well (laughing) my jacket was off again, I had my feet up on the table and yeah, I was choked up and chuffed to bits to win that. It was really nice to get a nod for that record.
Keren - A nice surprise for you.
So if you were to take a well known song and put a country twist on it which song would you choose?
Darren - Um, I don't know. Um I mean, it's not exactly a well known song. I did a Bob Harris Under the Apple Tree Session a couple of years ago and you have to do 2 of your own songs and a cover and they ask you to do a cover you have been playing a long time, and one of my favourite songs from back in the 90's was by a band called Del Amitri 'Driving With My Brakes On' so we covered that, and its not a country song be we kind of gave it our own little country twist and it was received really well.
The session went great and we were then approached by the official Del-Amitri fan club, who were putting together a charity album to raise money for The Scottish Spina-bifida Hospital, for bands to submit their cover versions of Del-Amitri songs for an album that came out called 'Pasted Beyond Recognition.' We were the only English band that was on it. All the other bands were Scottish but that was nice to be included on that, so yeah, its not really a country song but we countrified it and made it our own.
Keren - That's great. That's the angle I was aiming for. So it's been really lovely to talk to you Darren.
Darren - I told you I waffle on for ages (laughs)
Keren - No it's all good. Can you just tell us where to find you on social media please.
Darren - This is where my wife would come in because I'm the worlds worst when it comes to social media.
Twitter is @southcompanion because apparently Southern Companion has too many letters. Facebook I would have to check, but I think we are The Southern Companion and then I think we have an instagram but I'm not sure (laughs)
Keren - Well I'm sure they'll find you.
Darren - Yeah I'm sure if you search The Southern Companion something will come up. (laughs)
Keren - Thank you very much Darren.
Darren - No, thank you.
Keren - It's been really nice to talk to you.
Darren - It's been great.
Since the recording of this interview The Southern Companion have released their 3rd Album 'Shine A Little Light' which went straight into the iTunes Country Chart at number 1.
It is available to purchase on all online platforms.