Former Toadies Guitarist Darrel William Herbert Lets The Music Take Him Wherever It Wants To Go On Debut Record

“If you listen to the Beatles, they did pop, country, jazz, hard rock, show tunes and psychedelia,” Darrel William Herbert says. “They just went where the music took them. So, I don’t concern myself with what people might think about my songs.”

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Herbert is discussing the writing process that went into his debut solo record, An Unwelcome Moment of Clarity, a decidedly different sound from fans who might only know him from his days as lead guitarist for the Toadies during their Rubberneck days.

Set for an October 9 release, An Unwelcome Moment of Clarity is preceded by the album’s lead-off single and opening track “If You Still Believe,” an up-tempo minor key ‘REM meets the Cure in a Texas roadhouse’ song available for streaming below.

At nine songs and just under 30 minutes, the album moves quickly along the music highway, rooted in country Americana and psychedelia, with rich electric and acoustic guitar tones, fast fretwork, rock solid Texas swing and wry, heartfelt lyrics.

“I’ve always been a ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ kind of a guy,” he proudly states. Growing up in Texas, Herbert’s musical tastes ranged from Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings to ZZ Top and the Butthole Surfers. “The Ramones were big for me too- their personality and style.”

Though he wasn’t the original lead guitarist in the Toadies, replacing original guitarist Charles Mooney, Herbert joined the Texas band just as they hit it big with 1995’s Rubberneck, which featured their massive hit “Possum Kingdom,” written by band founder Todd Lewis. Herbert did have three writing credits on the breakthrough album, his playing was all over MTV and radio in the late ‘90’s and he logged serious time on the road. When the band was dropped by their label, Herbert joined with his Dallas friends, The Tomorrowpeople, for a few years before going to work as a recording engineer for Nile Rodgers in NYC and then moving out west to Los Angeles in 2015.

After amassing a pool of 25 song ideas of his own, the soft-spoken Texan decided it was time to put out a record under his own name. “I had a cohesive idea of what I wanted it to be. The album is about self-discovery, finding and pushing yourself to see what you can do.”

In preparation for the record, Herbert holed up for a couple days with drummer Mitch Marine, an old Texas friend who now tours with Dwight Yoakam. “Mitch’s thing is that you have to work it out on an acoustic guitar. When he goes into a room with Dwight, they’ll hash it out playing just an acoustic and snare to see if anything is there.”

The two cranked out the bulk of the songs in a few days in a California home studio owned by John Avila, longtime bassist for Oingo Boingo, with keyboardist Rich Hilton (Chic) and guitarist Paul Williams (Tablet) rounding out the musicians on the record.

When it came to decide the album track order, Herbert recalled his days in the Toadies. “We had huge arguments about sequencing the songs on the album, mostly between us and the record label. And for this record, I didn’t have a label so I could do what I wanted.”

“I knew I wanted ‘If You Still Believe’ to be the first song on the record because it’s my favorite, and then maybe it would be someone else’s too. And I knew ‘Diamond’s Glittering’ would be a good closer. Everything else I tried to give it an ebb and flow.”

The inspiration for “If You Still Believe” involves an acoustic guitar and a series of dreams.

“I came up with the riff for ‘If You Still Believe’ while I was messing on the acoustic, an old Tokai that I got from a friend. I’d been writing on the acoustic and came up with the first chords and the riff and humming a melody with no lyrics. I put it away and a couple mornings later I dreamt the whole first verse. I wrote it as fast as I could when I woke up. I’m not a good sleeper so I’ll wake up, play my guitar and write. And then a couple days later, I dreamt the whole second half of the song. It just happened! I don’t know if I could do that again.”

When he recorded “If You Still Believe” into his Pro Tools rig, Herbert ‘Beatle-ized’ it. “The Tokai is like a J-45 knockoff, with a magnetic Fishman Rare Earth pickup. Instead of putting it through an acoustic amp or DI box, I plugged into a Fender Deluxe and recorded that sound, along with using a close mic. It gives it a little more depth and presence.”

“I like to put limitations on what I’m trying to do. For this record I wanted to work with simpler, roots-based chord structures. It ended up working and helping me in the songwriting process. It’s harder to write a simple song than it is to write a prog-rock song.”

“My strength is my ability to self-edit. I try to be as unsentimental as possible during the writing process. If it’s not working, drop it. That’s crucial. Every word or chord pattern you write isn’t magical. That’s something I’ve learned as I’ve worked through this record.”

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