Here, in a nutshell, is a portrait of the contemporary singer/songwriter in the age of a dire global economy.
Darren Hanlon, the young and smartly romantic Australian musician who headlines in Southgate House’s Parlour in support of his first American album, I Will Love You At All, is talking to me from Chapel Hill, N.C., a tour stop. His phone number has a Minneapolis area code — he bought a phone there after arriving from Sydney for this tour. The album, by the way, was produced in Portland (it was more affordable than Australia). His conversation is peppered with references to friends and favorite influences — Stephin Merritt’s quirkily, jauntily literate American band Magnetic Fields, the gifted confessional Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman, fiery and soul-bearing British troubadour Billy Bragg.
Hanlon, who is established enough in Australia to have released four studio albums plus a B-sides/rarities disc, has toured with both Bragg and Merritt.
“I’m drawn to people who write good lyrics,” he explains.
“I’ve had many talks with Stephin Merritt about songwriting and I’ve talked to Billy, too.”
Another name comes up — Paul Kelly, the Folk/Rock-based Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist whose shrewd, tender songs won him a devoted if modest American following in the 1980s and 1990s. Hanlon, whose primary instrument is the guitar (often acoustic), acknowledges he was a big fan.
“I inflect sometimes like Paul Kelly,” he says. “Certainly he was an early influence.”
Hanlon has actually played Southgate before, accompanying the fine Minnesota songwriter Dennis Dondero. For this show, he is accompanied by Shelley Short (who provides harmonies and sings duets with him on I Will Love You At All) and Australian drummer Stephanie Hughes. Short, from Portland, will open the show and sing from her own recordings, with Hanlon and Hughes accompanying her.“With this lineup, we have drums and harmonies,” he says. “And we can do the tour in a little Ford Festiva.”
Darren Hanlon plays the Southgate House Thursday, April 7 with guest Shelley Short. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.