There are few musicians of high enough calibre to land an invite to Paisley Park, but that’s exactly what happened to Indian-born, Australia-based multi-instrumentalist Harts, aka Darren Hart.
The Purple One had taken a liking to Harts’ smooth R&B stylings - best showcased on new track 21&19 - and the up-and-coming guitarists’ catalogue of YouTube covers, on which he played every instrument.
Prince’s encouragement spurred the Aussie on, who eventually signed with Universal and released second album, Smoke Fire Hope Desire, in 2016.
Now, as Harts breaks worldwide, we got the lowdown on his surprisingly workhorse effects setup and why he just can’t part with his Squier Strat...
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first guitar was a blue Cort acoustic guitar. I bought it for myself when I was about 15 to try and learn how to play it.”
2. The building’s burning down - what one guitar do you save?
“My white, painted Squier Stratocaster. It’s been with me for five years and has pretty much played every gig with me.”
3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?
“I use a Zoom G5 multi-FX. Without that, all my tone presets for shows would be gone. Not a deal-breaker, but things would definitely sound a bit off. Plus it has a wah pedal, which I use very often.”
4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?
“I regret letting go of my Surf Green Squier Stratocaster. I spent heaps of time designing and decorating it.”
5. And what's the next piece of gear you’d like to acquire?
“I’d like to get new vocal microphones, or any microphones, actually. That’s something that I’ve never really experimented with much. I’d like to find something that suits my voice a little better than what I have at the moment.”
6. What’s your favourite chord, and why?
“Probably an Am7. Don’t really know why - it just seems to resonate with me. I also feel it somewhat represents me. It’s also more often than not the first chord I play when I pick up a guitar or play keyboards.”
7. What’s the greatest guitar tone you’ve ever heard?
“Probably Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile tone. The bit right after the wah intro riff, though, when the song kicks in. Probably not the most surprising choice out there, but that one just gets me every time I hear it.”
8. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
“Probably George Benson. I’d love to learn a thing or two from him!”
9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
“I once played a gig and the stage power kept cutting off. Like, multiple times. I run a lot of electronics for my keyboard and sample playback rigs and it was the worst thing ever constantly having to battle with that onstage and stopping songs halfway through.”
10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?
“I would tell myself to practise more and be better prepared for the unexpected opportunities that may arise. When luck comes your way, seize those opportunities and be better prepared for them.”