Like a moth to flame, Ryan Darton has always been drawn to music.
“I remember from a very young age connecting to music and the emotional aspects of it – how it made me feel,” says the self-described rural boy from Utah and current LA transplant. “I just loved how music could mold me in that moment.”
Darton’s fourth grade autobiography hints at his dreams for a career in music, but things that trajectory didn’t truly launch until middle school, when he gathered together a bunch of his musical friends to start a band. Though it was Darton’s brainchild, it turned out that there was just one problem – he didn’t have a musical background and he was too shy to be the singer.
After an ill-fated go at the trumpet (“which is not an instrument you can self-teach,” Darton laughingly notes), his guitarist suggested he take up the bass. A life-long love affair was born and the rest, as they say, is history – or at least history in the making.
Darton’s passionate affair with music propelled him from his teenage band to underground indie faves Kid Theodore and eventually a burgeoning solo career. The nascent bass player soon became a guitarist and pianist and routinely picks up anything that makes noise. (That’s a khim – a Cambodian version of a hammered dulcimer – on “Camel’s Back.”)
As “I Am A Moth” demonstrates, Darton’s also a supremely confident singer and songwriter who’s come full circle by focusing on music’s emotional power.
“As a songwriter, I like to recognize the beauty in all life’s experience and try to tap into it,” Darton explains. “The songs I write are songs that you can connect to. Some of them are about love, some of them are about loss. Everyone passes through such a diverse palette of experiences in life but there’s beauty in all of it. It’s all worth recognizing.”
Of course, life’s not often an either/or proposition and Darton’s compositions handle everyday ambiguity and anxiety in a way that’s both instantly relatable and undeniably infectious. For example, “Divorce Generation” may initially seem like a pessimistic treatise, but it’s actually a declaration of faith in love trumping fear. And “Living This Way” turns existential crisis into a buoyant romp – capturing the frustrating sensation of feeling like you’re going 100 miles an hour and just spinning your wheels.
On the latter, Darton – who now resides in LA – might be showing the frayed nerves of a carefree kid from the outskirts of town, transplanted to the nerve-rattling merry-go-round of Tinseltown. After all, it’s hard not to long for the halcyon years spent roaming the hills outside of Salt Lake City when you’re stuck in traffic on the 405. And while the fourth grade Darton may never have envisioned living in Hollywood, he’d be proud to death of “I Am A Moth” – and the fact that it’s being released on Utah’s birthday.