By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Texas singer/songwriter Van Darien is bringing her message-packed music to the Midway Concert Series next week.
“I’m going to enjoy sitting in front of an audience that’s ready to listen,” she said about Midway’s intimate concert setting. “I’ll be able to tell them what my songs are about and where I was when writing them.”
A native of Weatherford, Texas, Darien grew up performing in a country music opry house operated by her parents. Though she didn’t begin playing guitar until four years ago, she’s been lyrically composing songs since junior high school.
“Back then, like today, I’m still writing about boys and girls that make me mad,” she said, with a chuckle.
Recent turmoil in Darien’s personal life has had a profound influence on her art: A marriage engagement disastrously fell apart in a very distressing way.
“The man I was engaged to made me stop playing music and was controlling me through the Bible,” she said. “He physically abused me and has recently been arrested for the things he did to me.”
Darien has found that many people — both men and women — strongly relate to the songs she’s written about her experiences. Her aim is for people to come away from hearing her songs with more knowledge on the subject of abuse.
“I wrote ‘Scars’ four days after he tried to kill me,” she said. “And there’s one titled ‘Not Who I Used to Be’ about growing up in a home and picking up the mistakes your parents made then inflicting them on other people which perpetuates the cycle.”
Overcoming personal insecurity and taking charge of life have been uplifting messages which appeal to women who have experienced similar trials, and Darien said, many women have told her “Scars” was inspirational to them.
“I’m not the weak person anymore that he made me,” she said.
Mike McClure counseled Darien to be unflinching and totally honest in her lyrical writing about the experiences she’s had.
“He told me not to smile or laugh about it because unless I tell people exactly what I’m feeling there won’t be a good song,” she said.
Darien describes some of her songs as being spiritually uplifting and some refer to the devil and God. She believes in being a good person but doesn’t describe herself as a Christian-oriented artist although she’s of that faith.
“I have my good girl songs but have my bad girl songs too,” she said. “I’m definitely not perfect.”
Darien eschews being termed a vocal stylist but does believe her pipes have a roughness that’s just part of her sound. There’s a strength and sense of place in her voice that would recall Bonnie Raitt if she was from Parker County, Texas. Rather than roughness she sings with a confident tenderness that has traces of vulnerability.
“Most of the time I don’t think about what I’m doing with my voice, it just comes out,” she said. “It’s more something I feel. My dad says I’m at my best when I’m losing it.”
Bar smoke, late nights and allergies often have her right on that edge of being unable to perform. She described a recent ill-advised cigar bar gig that took a few days to recover from. That won’t be a problem at her Norman show, it’s a smoke-free venue.