Darrin Bradbury (https://darrinbradbury.bandcamp.com): A left-of-center folk musician. With a batch of songs that celebrate the humor and heartbreak of everyday American life, he's spent the past decade traveling his way across the country, making pit stops at dive bars, listening rooms, punk houses, and world-class theaters along the way. The people he's met during his cross-country trips — the seedy characters filling America's underbelly, the corporate elite working out of corner offices, the blue-collar everymen who refill our coffee cups and ring up our purchases at Office Depot — all find their way into his music, which follows the left-of-center tradition of John Prine, Shel Silverstein and Cory Branan.
Forget those songwriters, though. Darrin is his own man, armed with an acoustic guitar and a sense of humor he developed while growing up in New Jersey, raised by parents who'd met in the circus. (His mom was a clown for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, his father sold concessions, and Darrin was the result of their brief, off-kilter union.) In the age before Instagram and Wikipedia, Darren broadened his horizons the old-fashioned way by leaving town and hitting the highway as a teenager, visiting 38 of the 50 states before he turned 20 years old. He also began writing songs, focusing not only on melodies and chord progressions, but punchlines, too. To him, songwriting often felt more like writing an audio cartoon.
A half-decade run as the frontman of Big Wilson River gave Darrin the chance to headline venues like Webster Hall in New York City. Even so, he did some of his best work as a solo artist. Traveling alone (or, as his own career picked up steam, as part of a duo featuring bass player Cameron Carrus), Darrin played as many as 125 DIY shows a year. He'd hit up a new college town, find the nearest bar, meet a new group of friends while downing a few beers and, before the night was up, book a show in whatever sort of venue presented itself. Sometimes, Darrin would find himself singing on proper stage. Other times, he'd play his songs in the corner of a dorm room, hoping the cops didn't show up. His audience grew steadily, one performance at a time, and Darren eventually pointed his car toward East Nashville, where the transient songwriter began putting down some roots in 2014.
"I usually say sad songs about funny people, or funny songs about sad people," he says. "It's a sound rooted in American folk music, but I'm not trying to embrace any sort of tradition or contingency. I can't sing about being a minor or riding a box car train. I can sing about sleeping in Walmart, though. It's 21st century existentialism. The truth is the only thing that counts, so I focus on making myself laugh first, and if others get the joke, great."
East Nashville has been kind to Darrin. It's given him the chance to record a string of EPs with a rotating backup band, filled with pickers and players like Tim Carroll, Laur Jomets, and Megan Palmer. It's allowed him the opportunity to gather praise from magazines like American Songwriter, who featured his best-selling Bandcamp recording, The Story of Bob, in a glowing review. Finally, it's given the transient songwriter a home, with Bradbury taking his place amongst the off-kilter folkies who help balance out Nashville's country reputation.
Bradbury is still a traveler. This is just first stop along the way.