Smooth Artist Interviews

Darren Rahn
Darren Rahn
Darren Rahn
Darren Rahn
Darren Rahn

You compose, produce, and perform. What aspect of this whole process brings you the most satisfaction?

All of the above. I love doing all three and that combination keeps me busy and satisfied. I find that composing, producing and performing are all essential to me as a musician and when I keep those things balanced is when I tend to grow the most as a musician. In fact when I don't get enough of one area I become dissatisfied - so doing all three is ultimately the most fullfilling for me.

Has the saxophone always been your instrument of choice, or did you start out playing something else?

I started out on piano as a kid - around 2nd grade. Then in started playing clarinet 5th Grade- I wanted to play sax but the instructor said my hands were too small. That was actually not true - they just had too many saxophonists already and needed more clarinet players. I reluctantly played clarinet in grade school and then in Jr. High they needed a Baritone saxophonist in the jazz band. I seized the opportunity right a ways and transitioned to saxophone. That baritone saxophone was almost as tall as I was. The fingerings were similar to the clarinet so I and taught myself to play saxophone. The rest is history....

You were born in British Columbia, and now reside in Colorado... how did the transition from Canada to the U.S. take place?

My dad came to the US to go to school in San Diego and when he graduated, his first job was in Colorado - that's how I ended up here. That was when I was in 7th Grade and I've been here ever since.

If you were in control of the Smooth Jazz format, what would you be doing right now to insure it's continued growth and longevity?

Well, it's funny you ask that - as a producer I get asked that all the time. In fact I've recently had several record labels ask me that same question. I'm very passionate about this subject. First of all I think we need to go back to basics - just making good solid records that the audience can understand - music that makes people feel good and has a universal appeal. I think we've lost touch with that - almost all the great songs in history have that thing - universal appeal - a great song is a great song. They are not usually very complicated - a good feel and a good melody, it's a winning combination. The general public can relate to that - and of course it has to be heartfelt, that feeling comes across in the music. Today we have SO many people that call themselves artists - but they just play a single instrument or sing. A lot of them don't really understand how to write compelling music. There are not a lot great songwriters anymore. We need to teach young musicians about all of music - not just playing an instrument or singing - but about music theory, harmony, melody, lyrics, etc...

I think we also need to see new artists more readily welcomed into our genre. More developing record deals for new artists and more radio airplay dedicated to fresh new material, instead of the same playlist every day. There are so many incredible established artists in smooth jazz, many that are my mentors and heroes, and I don't want anything to be taken away from them, they have paved they way and helped keep this format alive. But it seems that the music industry is extremely resistant to new talent - especially smooth jazz. Things are so tough in the industry that it seems like everyone is trying to protect their own share of the market. It's like "things are so tough right now" so "there's no room for new artists"... I can't tell how how many times I have been told that before I signed my first record deal. And quite frankly - I think we have shot ourselves in the foot. My thinking about this is totally the opposite of what I see. I think that more new artists equals more fresh material and more new ideas which helps keep everyone moving forward - I think that would create more opportunities for everyone in the industry both veterans and new artists as well. It's like breeding horses - if you get rid of all the youngsters and only focus on your existing herd, eventually you'll have no young healthy horses to breed. You'll put yourself right out of business. Seems like a silly example but it's the best I can think of right now - you've got to foster new talent and play fresh material on the radio - even if it takes more effort and more resources - otherwise the future of our genre may suffer.

Outside of your music, what in your life excites and fulfills you?

Well - I'm a family man for sure. I love spending time with my wife and son. When I'm in town, Friday night is family night - my favorite time of the week. Just the simple things - we'll go out to dinner - play games, watch a movie - that kind of stuff - quality time with my family is the best!

I also love to take time out and relax. Go to the mountains or on a little getaway to clear my mind. I don't have many opportunities for that with my crazy schedule - but I cherish those moments when they do happen.

What are you most proud of so far in your life and career?

I am the most proud of the fact that I get to do music fulltime for a living. That is a dream come true for me. I have had so many cool moments that stick out in my mind. Producing and playing sax on my first number one hit as a producer was huge - that was Wayman Tisdale's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" - that was definitely something I'll never forget - and there have been so many moments like that - but that one probably sticks out the most. But as I said before - I am just the most proud of the fact that I have been able to establish a fulltime career in music. I am truly grateful and blessed.