Derrick Hart Interview – by Issy Condon

A Kansas Native, a self-proclaimed troubadour, and an explorer of the inherent ironies of being human, Derrick Hart brings a particular authenticity to the experimental folk genre. In his 2011 album, “The Shock You Experience at the Sudden Recollection of the Moment You Were Conceived”, Derrick allows the reader to dive into his thoughts, his spiritual beliefs, the bitter-sweet moments he’s faced throughout his time and travels, specifically after his experience in rehab. His work often conjures the image of a lonesome cowboy wandering the American west in search of himself and while he may seem lonely his work makes it clear that none of us truly are.

What sets Derrick apart from many other musicians is his integrity. People have a great capacity for arrogance and selfishness. Artists are no different and sometimes perhaps they’re worse. Thankfully, some are able to suppress those human faults but not without effort. Hart made that effort. David Bixby saw this in him at their first interaction when Hart requested to cover Bixby’s “Free Indeed”. He could have easily chosen to cover the song without permission as many have done in the 50 years since its creation, but he didn’t, and instead a beautiful friendship and fruitful business relationship was born.

I thankfully was able to discuss some of these things with Derrick.

To begin, I’d love to hear more about your relationship with David Bixby. Based on your music, I get a sense that you and David are kindred spirits of sorts. When did you first hear his music? What inspired you to cover Free Indeed?

I first heard The Great Dave Bixby in 2010. A friend of mine said “Hey Derrick, you like unusual things. This is a Dave Bixby record. He lost his mind on acid, joined a cult, and made this album Ode To Quetzalcoatl.” And then I did like it right away. I knew immediately I wanted to cover “Free Indeed” for my own album when I heard him sing “So then I changed my style. It took a little while but I made it”. That line might explain how we are kindred spirits. I sought him out and he generously gave me permission to cover it. We quickly became friends and did a short tour together in the Midwest. 12 years later we’re still working together on creative and business endeavors.

You’re described both on Bandcamp and by David as a troubadour. In your view, I’m curious about what it means to be a modern troubadour.  In what ways do you identify with the image of a lonesome traveler?

I’d probably have a better answer for that if I haven’t been on hiatus for soooo long. But your question made me think of a time when I was hitchhiking down the west coast to see about a record deal in San Francisco (ambitions of a younger man). A strange and nervous man picked me up in Salem, OR. I noticed he was plucking hair out of his arm as he was driving. Then I noticed he had a Wendy’s cup on the floor by his feet that was full of arm hair or otherwise. He dropped me off after about 10 miles. I think I recommend not hitchhiking.

Your EP Prodigal Songs conveys a sense of detachment and reattachment to the world around you. It begins with songs written during active addiction and concludes with a love song to the world written in recovery. The final song, “What A Beautiful World”, feels sort of like the moment you wake up from a bad dream. Was it sudden like that or did it come on gradually, eventually culminating into this newfound hopefulness? What was the main catalyst for this change?

Yes, Prodigal Songs is a collection of songs written before and during long term rehab in Denver, CO. Your question makes me think of a person named Chaplain John Raney, the man in charge at the rehab. He was a tough but loving man, God rest his soul. My attitude sucked when I showed up to rehab. I didn’t want to be sober and didn’t want to be there. I was warned several times by the Chaplain about my not following the rules. He told me he’d had enough and to pack my backs cuz “You’re outta here”. On my way out he called me back to his office and explained he’s going to give me one last chance and then something immediately changed. I successfully completely the 1.5 year program and even worked there after for another 1.5 years as a house manager of the facility. The road of waking up ever since has been long, difficult, and blessed. God bless Chaplain Raney, a father to the fatherless.

I imagine your album, “The Shock At The Sudden Recollection Of The Moment You Were Conceived”, was also informed by this change. Can you expand on this title? How does this existential awareness of your being inform your work and your actions in life?

I just thought it was an interesting thought if you could remember the very instant you came into existence. As for awareness and how to live, I’m still trying to get it through my head that if I always trust in doing the right thing, things will work out somehow.

In the album, you target powerful people who prey on the vulnerable, namely televangelists and bullies. You’ve described being a victim of childhood bullying and I’m curious if you have a similar firsthand experience with television preachers too. What drives you to confront these people?

Haha! I think it just made for some interesting imagery.

Hear the above mentioned music and more at Derrick’s Bandcamp site.

– Issy Condon, Journalist Harbinger Magazine

Derrick reached out to me in 2011 for permission to record Free Indeed. I asked him to set up a concert tour for me. He did just that and that was my first concert tour of O2Q since 1969. Derick became my manager and is handling sales and shipping for the Ode To Quetzalcoatl and Harbinger LPs. He is such a good PR person and communicates to everybody who purchases an LP. He invented the O2Q T-shirt and invested his own money to make it happen. We have since then sold out and are considering purchasing new inventory. Derrick has been a good friend over the years.

Please listen to his rendition of “Free Indeed” on Bandcamp and take a listen to his CD.

David Bixby

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