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Darden Smith
Based in Austin, Texas, songwriter and educator Darden Smith is a 30 year veteran of the music business. He is the founder and creative director of SongwritingWith:Soldiers, which pairs professional songwriters with wounded soldiers to write songs based on their experiences of combat and returning home. Smith was the 2011-2013 Artist-in-Residence at Oklahoma State University’s Institute for Creativity and Innovation, presented at the 2013 TEDxAustin, and continues to be an in demand performer, speaker and educator.

Growing up in rural central Texas in the 1960s and 1970s instilled in Smith a driven, independent artistic vision. He wrote his first song when he was 10 years old. Smith moved to Austin, Texas to attend the University of Texas, and immersed himself in the vibrant music scene. By the time he graduated in 1985, he was a regular headliner in clubs across the Lone Star State, eventually signing to Columbia Records.

Highly creative, Smith expanded his reach far beyond the recording studio. In 2003 he founded The Be An Artist Program, a series of school based creativity and songwriting workshops has been presented across the United States and Europe. SongwritingWith, which uses the power of collaborative songwriting to help tell the stories of participants, has worked in homeless shelters, conflict resolution, and in South Africa and Botswana to help tell the stories of those affected by HIV and AIDS. He has released fourteen albums, written a symphony and produced radio documentaries.

Smith’s latest CD, Love Calling, was released September 2013 on Compass Records.

Entries by Darden Smith


(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 12:48 PM

When I started out as a singer/songwriter, the last thing I wanted to do was collaborate. I saw it as a sign of weakness, the inability to do it on your own. My musical heroes were all solo artists - people like Neil Young, Bob Dylan,...

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Just Show Up

(0) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

What if you showed up for work?

I mean really showed up.

Remember when "Take Our Daughters to Work" happened? Today it's called, "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work." The idea is for children to explore the idea of having jobs and careers. I remember hanging out at...

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What Are You Worth? Artists and Self-Respect

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 11:53 AM

Making a living as an artist is difficult under the best of circumstances. Opportunities fall through. Good rides end. We do whatever's necessary to keep the wolves away from the door, while trying to stay creative. And when we get desperate, we start accepting lower and lower fees for our...

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Bouncing Off the Brick Wall

(0) Comments | Posted March 28, 2014 | 5:38 PM

Brick walls are underrated. Just because a phone doesn't ring with job offers doesn't mean that it's gone completely silent. If you're lucky, if you've been through it a time or two, when you hit a brick wall and no one is calling you for work, then creativity meets boredom...

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Why I Travel

(0) Comments | Posted October 10, 2013 | 1:20 PM

People ask me all the time why I keep playing music on the road. Traveling here and there, across the U.S., across the Atlantic. What makes it worth the trouble? Why wrestle with the flight delays, hotel room beds, rental car counters and bad dressing rooms? It wears you out....

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Why Do a TED Talk, Anyway?

(0) Comments | Posted August 13, 2013 | 4:48 PM

The best part of a TED talk doesn't even happen at the conference. It isn't the time spent onstage, the connections you make at the event, or even the YouTube video of your talk. All that is just echo, a necessary wave that moves outward from the event, like a...

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Carrying Stories: After Songwriting With:Soldiers

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2013 | 5:18 PM

The days and weeks after a SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreat can be a difficult time for me. The stories I hear during the writing sessions stick around. They revisit me and alter my step in unseen but unmistakable ways. Sometimes it's just a mood, a darkness that follows me around...

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SongwritingWith:Soldiers -- Behind the Music

(1) Comments | Posted April 22, 2013 | 11:41 AM

About four years ago I wrote a song with my friend Radney Foster called "Angel Flight." The song changed my life. We wrote it for the Texas National Guard, to honor the pilots who fly the planes that bring fallen soldiers home. Radney put the song on his Revival CD,...

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Using Your Gift: Creativity in the College Classroom

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2013 | 7:06 PM

Although my official title at Oklahoma State University's Institute for Creativity and Innovation is artist-in-residence, I think a better job description is provocateur-in-residence.

I see my role at Oklahoma State as someone who pokes holes in the students' minds, nudging them towards the question of why. Starting with, "why are...

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