Darien Brockington Talks Gospel Influences, Artistry & Independence

The state of North Carolina has been the home for some of the greatest singers and musicians in the history of music. Nina Simone, Ben E. King, Shirley Caesar, Roberta Flack and George Clinton are just a few artists in a long lineage of incredible, groundbreaking talent. The next in this line is R&B singer/songwriter Darien Brockington. Brockington hails from Durham, NC and has been singing since the age of six. For most R&B artists, their origins begin in the church and Brockington’s story is no different.

Since the inception of the R&B genre, the formative years of many vocalists were shaped in the choirs of Baptist, Pentecostal and Seventh-Day Adventist faith-based churches. Brockington’s first exposure to music came when he was two years old and his love of singing grew exponentially. His parents were instrumental in providing a concrete foundation for his burgeoning, eclectic taste in music. After his first solo at age six, he began performing in community events and talent shows in his native city eventually leading him to pursue a career in music.

Once deciding on a career in music, he began attending North Carolina Central University and in 2000, he met rapper Phonte of the Hip Hop collective Little Brother. This meeting would put forth in motion the first of numerous collaborations between them merging the worlds of hip-hop and R&B to create a formidable sound.

This week, Brockington took the time to speak with SoulCulture about his musical journey.

Brockington spoke in-depth about the artists who influenced him growing up and how he chose music as a desired occupation. “My background in my music, like for most R&B artists, started in the church”, says Brockington.

“I listened to a lot of different artists growing up from gospel to R&B. On the gospel side, the artists I listened to were Commissioned, Daryl Coley, Bebe & Cece Winans, The Winans, Kim Burrell and Mary, Mary. On the R&B side, I listened to Brandy, Donny Hathaway, Faith Evans, Stevie Wonder and everything in between.”

“I was inspired by many different artists in different genres honestly. From my religious point of view, in my church we had a lot of anthems and hymns and it opened me up to a classical realm of music, which exposed me to another side of music altogether. As I got older and went to college I majored in music so that exposed me to more music as well.”

Dubbed as one of R&B’s brightest new stars, Brockington primarily writes and arranges his own material. He has worked with a plethora of producers spanning from 9th Wonder to Pete Rock. Perhaps, he’s best known for his multiple collaborations with critically acclaimed groups The Foreign Exchange and Little Brother. His music is a refreshing combination of past and present that speaks of life, love, faith and many more traditional themes of R&B music.

In 2003, Brockington was inducted as the first R&B singer/songwriter in the North Carolina based crew The Justus League. The following year, he conspired with the then little-known soulful group The Foreign Exchange where he was featured on three tracks (“Come Around” “All that You Are” and “Call”) on their debut studio album, Connected. Brockington went on to make appearances on Little Brother’s second album, The Minstrel Show on songs “Slow It Down” “Not Enough” “All For You” and rapper Big Pooh’s solo album, Sleepers, respectively in 2004.

Brockington tells how the initial collaboration with Big Pooh transpired and how it led to his first collaboration with The Foreign Exchange.

“I went to school with Phonte and Big Pooh and they saw me perform and I saw them perform so it started out from there,” says Brockington. “I believe when Little Brother first started taking off and they had their first tour in Japan I ended up running into Pooh at the bank and he told me how he was about to start work on his solo project and wanted me to be a part of it.

“I was like ‘cool’ and sure enough once he returned home from Japan he called me to come over to his house and he let me hear the song, which everyone knows by now, called ‘On My Mind’.

“Since then, I’ve been working with them and the thing that really set things off for me was the song I did with Foreign Exchange called “Come Around” and ever since then it’s been a whirlwind for me.”

Brockington’s discovery came via the internet through the ears of R&B aficionados when his nine-track EP, The Feeling, was released in 2005.

This album transformed him into a global artist with a diverse fan base. In 2006, he debut his first full length LP, Somebody To Love under the independent record label, ABB Records, which featured the hits “Don’t Say Goodbye” “Can We Fall in Love Again” and “Come on Over.”

He has also toured in the US and abroad with a surfeit of talented artists including gospel legend William Becton, fellow R&B singers Jaheim, Jaguar Wright, Eric Roberson, Trina Broussard, PJ Morton, Gordon Chambers among other acts.

Brockington made reference to what makes him different from his R&B male counterparts in today’s music scene. “There aren’t many male artists who have come out as of late that when you put on their CD and you hear them live they’re doing exactly the same things on the CD,” says Brockington.

“I feel that’s where I differ from other contemporary artists because whatever I do on a CD I can back it up in my live performances.”

Brockington attributes two people for turning him into a better recording artist over the years. “Two people that stand out to me in terms of helping me would be Phonte from Little Brother because his method is complete madness,” says Brockington. “He’s great at what he does. I remember when we first started working together. His penmanship is what stood out.

“My penmanship back then was pretty good, but when I worked with him and saw his styles he helped me step my writing game up tremendously. I’ve seen him tell stories with his words in his songs through the years and it’s helped me to be more articulate in my choice of words and my thought process.”

“The other person I would have to say is Eric Roberson because we recently did a song with Zo! on his album Sunstorm called “This Could Be The Night” and his showmanship is really something to behold. His ability to command the stage, to engage the audience and to think outside of the box are things that I’ve been taking notes on and trying to figure out how I can transfer that same type of energy in my own way for my shows.“

In 2008, The Foreign Exchange released their second album, Leave It All Behind where Brockington is featured on “Take Off the Blues”, “All or Nothing” and “Something to Behold.” “Take Off the Blues” was released as an official single and he made his first appearance in a music video for the song.

Earlier this year, Darien released his follow up mixtape, The Cold Case Files, venting his frustrations with today’s industry – but by the end deciding to remain dedicated to expanding his artistry. The album features leading track “Rain” alongside a few other gems such as “Girl, It’s You” “Breaks On Us” “Here We Go” and “Superwoman.”

Brockington prefers to remain an artist on an independent label because it allows him the freedom of expression that he truly craves. “It allows you to have the kind of administrative and creative control that an artist wants,” says Brockington.

“If I were to do a major deal, it would have to be such a great deal that I would be foolish to pass it up. I like the space that I’m in because I have the flexibility to do what I want to do and not having to compromising myself as a person just to please a label. ”

“I want my career to become a well-oiled machine and to stay consistent in my artistry. I think I’m in an OK place now and I really just want to become more consistent. I don’t need a lot as long as I can pay my bills, I’m good.“

Brockington is currently spot touring with Yahzarah and The Foreign Exchange on select dates throughout the US and working on his next album, Affected: The Story Of John Doe, slated for release in 2011.

Darien Brockington online: www.dbrockmusic.com / @DBrock914 / MySpace / YouTube / Facebook

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