BWW Interviews: 'Piano Man' Darren Holden
Darren Holden, the former Piano Man in the Broadway and first national touring productions of the hit Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical Movin' Out, returns to the U.S. for some August concert dates with the new Irish Ballad group, The High Kings, whose members include Brian Dunphy, Finbarr Clancy, and Martin Furey.
Darren, who played over 1,000 shows, received unanimous critical acclaim for his performances in Movin' Out in the U.S., Canada and Japan. Darren's current CD, Roadworks, is the result of two years of writing and recording while touring the USA and Canada with Movin' Out.A few years ago, Darren was invited to become a member of The High Kings. Their self-titled debut album, produced by David Downes (Riverdance, Celtic Woman) - has gone platinum -- and their debut concert DVD was released on the EMI/MANHATTAN label.
This August, The High Kings will do a mini-tour in advance of the release of their latest CD, Memory Lane (Universal) to be released in the U.S. in February, 2011.
Tour dates and stops include: August 15, 2010 - St Paul, MN, USA Irish Fair of Minnesota (www.irishfair.com); August 16, 2010 - Cleveland, OH, USA Cleveland Westside Irish American Club; August 17, 2010 - Chicago, IL, USA Chicago Irish Heritage Center (www.irish-american.org); August 18, 2010 - Philadelphia, PA, USA Brittinghams (www.brittinghams.com); and August 19, 2010 - New York, NY, USA Connollys www.connollyspubandrestaurant.com.
Darren continues to be involved in numerous personal appearances and charity events both in the U.S. and Europe. In 2009, Darren participated in a charity mountain trek in Peru to raise funds for Autism Action Ireland.
Darren has appeared in concert at The Cutting Room in New York City, Crawdaddy's in Tokyo and the famed Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles, performing original songs and backed by members of the Movin' Out band. He has become a favorite of sports teams and other events for his phenomenal rendition of the U.S. National Anthem.
The former Piano Man recently caught up with BroadwayWorld to discuss his latest ventures, being on the road, his fondest Movin' Out memories, and whose music he would like to see showcased on Broadway next.
Tell us about the High Kings.
The High Kings were formed in June 2007 after our manager Dave Kavanagh (Clannad, Celtic Woman) contacted me in Florida, and asked me if I would fly home to have a meeting with him about a possible venture. I had just finished Movin' Out and was doing a lot of corporate work with Billy Joel's band, so I took the meeting with a pinch of salt, thinking I would be back in the USA really quickly. However, when Dave sold me the concept of the group and told me the plan he had in mind, I decided to give it a shot, and its been a good move for me. Our first album went to number 2 on Billboard Charts here, and went double platinum in Ireland. We have since toured the U.S. twice and we release our current album, Memory Lane, there on Febuary 1st, with a tour to follow.You're performing with them in New York soon. How do NY audiences differ from others?
There's a magic to a New York audience - a vibrancy that you don't feel in too many other cities. I have been blessed to appear in 2 major Broadway shows, one in which I actually played a true living, breathing New York legend. What I remember about Movin' Out was that the NYC audiences accepted me into their hearts as one of their own, and being part of that awesome city prepared me for the role more than anything else. Ultimately its the honesty in a New York audience that stands out for me.What's your fondest memory of Movin' Out on Broadway and on tour?
The first Saturday night that I performed the lead role on Broadway and took my bow, Billy crept up onstage behind me, took my hand and punched the air as the audience went nuts! It was an endorsement like nothing I will ever recieve again probably. That was pure magic and a career high. On tour, it could have been any night in any city we played in. The show broke all previous box office records, and I was doing major press all over the States, from TV to radio and press interviews, singing the national anthem at major baseball, basketball, ice hockey games, to performing for the President and First Lady at The White House. That entire cast and crew was pure gold. The utmost in professionalism.
What would you be interested in doing on Broadway again?
I would give anything to sing the songs of Jim Steinman on Broadway! I had the honor of having dinner with Jim a few years ago, after he heard me perform in Movin' Out. We talked about a few projects that might be right for me and became friendly enough to remain e-mail buddies. I live in hope that one day, Jim may write a killer show with me in mind!!
What Broadway shows have you seen recently?
I have seen Memphis and Rock of Ages and was blown away by both of them. I thought Constantine was wicked in ROA. What a voice!Whose music would you like to see on Broadway?
Richard Marx has songs of immense quality, He is a gifted songwriter and I have a feeling that if a musical were to be written around his hit record, Hazard, there might be a buzz on Broadway. Of course, I would need to sing it! Ha!
What's coming up for you after the tour?
A major U.K. release for our new album, Memory Lane, including radio and a TV campaign, followed by a 10 date tour.Favorite/least favorite thing about the road?
My favorite would have to be the diversity in audiences in each city. It totally keeps you on your toes, and I love meeting new and old friends everywhere we play and experiencing the vibe there.
Least would have to be being away from my wife and 3 children for weeks at a time. That sucks big time. Oh and not being able to find a Starbucks!Anything else you'd like to add?
This upcoming High Kings USA tour is just a taster for what is planned for the USA next year. We are, in essence, re-launching the group there, as it is totally different from The High Kings that stormed the charts 2 years ago. The band remains the same, but there is a rawness and streetwise side to us now that was not there before. We felt that the need to play our instruments and sing real Irish music would burst out through us if we couldn't show the world that side of us. This is a classic Irish ballad group for this generation. A double platinum new album has confirmed that.
We can't wait to play to the American audiences!!!!!