Throughout a career that has produced nearly twenty hit singles, including three #1s, as well as chart-topping albums and sales in the millions, Darryl Worley has set himself one primary goal.
“I’ve always set out to make sure every song on every album is a good one,” he says. “I want every cut to be a potential single.”
It is an approach that has helped to make Darryl a mainstay of modern country music. His unquestioned musical integrity earned him an enviable connection with the American public and a reputation as a genuinely traditional country artist who doesn’t follow trends or fads, but rather his own bedrock convictions as an artist and a person. It doesn’t hurt that he is a distinctive singer and first-rate songwriter whose music chronicles life, love and the world situation with equal facility.
He has topped the charts with singles including “I Miss My Friend,” “Awful, Beautiful Life” and “Have You Forgotten,” which accomplished the feat for one, two and an incredible seven weeks, respectively. He hit the Top Twenty with the first three singles from his impressive major-label debut, Hard Rain Don’t Last–”When You Need My Love,” “A Good Day to Run” and “Second Wind”–and followed with smashes like “If Something Should Happen,” “I Just Came Back From a War” the iconic “Tennessee River Run,” and “Sounds Like Life To Me.” Along the way, he earned nominations for five major ACM and CMA awards, including “Song of the Year” and “Single of the Year,” and wrote songs for other artists including George Jones.
A dozen years into his remarkable career, with his upcoming studio album, his outlook is as positive as it has ever been.
“This is one of the most exciting years I’ve had in a long time,” he says. “My personal life is better than ever.”
Musically, the latest addition to his highly respected catalog is One Time Around, which more than lives up to his every-cut-a-potential-single pledge. He calls it without hesitation “as strong a project as I’ve ever put together.” In essence a celebration of his longevity and of artistic maturity, One Time Around is at once a renewal and a return to the approach that marked Worley’s dramatic entry into the national spotlight a decade ago.
“I consciously made a decision I wanted this record to have the same kind of substance as my very first record,” he says. “That album was pretty straightforward country and it had some really great songwriters’ songs on there–well crafted, clever, but with substance. I also wanted something uplifting and fun, something that sounded different and had great grooves.”
Produced by longtime friend Jim “Moose” Brown, the record took shape slowly, a process he prefers.
“I work on music continuously,” he says, “and we’ve been working on this project for about a year and a half. I was never a fan of the way we used to have to go in and do everything at once. We cut a few tracks here and there and gradually it evolved and took shape. It makes for a record that really gels.”
Darryl wrote all but two of the songs, working with longtime friends and collaborators like Wynn Varble, Don Poythress, Brett Jones, Steve Leslie, and Kevin Grantt. Songs range from the album’s lead single, “You Still Got It,”a musical “state of the union,” to “Cold Beer,” a bit of mid-winter escapism, and “All I Can Do,” about the trial that is separated love, to songs that indulge Darryl’s philosophical edge, including “Things That I Can’t See,” “You Never Know,” and the title-cut, “One Time Around.”
In addition to the lyrical mastery Darryl and his co-writers are known for, this project is one of his most compelling musically.
“I was real adamant this time about saying, ‘Let’s let this music be driven by the groove.’ There are times as a listener when it’s not the lyrics but that groove, that funky feel that catches me. I’ve written a lot through the years with intense subject matter and messages, but this project, more than anything I’ve ever done, is for people who just like stuff about life and love that feels good. It’s very real and very personal, and there are two or three uptempo things on there that I get a bigger kick out of than just about anything I’ve ever done.”
The record also revisits a few songs Darryl felt had been overlooked in previous projects. They include fan favorites that didn’t get the chance to be singles, including “Find Me” and “I Need a Breather,” and one of his most compelling and beloved songs, “Slow Dancin’ with a Memory.”
“My job as a songwriter,” he says, “is to listen to people and come up with something they’ll relate to.”
It’s a journey that took route in Hardin County, Tennessee, among people whose lives were defined in part by hard work, economic hardship, deep religious conviction and bootleg liquor. It paid to be tough and smart, and Darryl was both.
He was also musical–his grandfather played banjo and his mother sang in church, and he took after them. Tall and athletic, Darryl might have earned a sports scholarship to college, but he lost the opportunity when he broke his back playing basketball. Still, he earned a degree in biology with a minor in organic chemistry, playing music in honky-tonks all the while. He continued playing as he worked in the chemical business and taught school for a year, torn between the pressure he felt to establish a secure career and his deep-seated need to pursue music. Finally, his preacher father helped him sort it out.
“One day he said, ‘If you’re still thinking about that music thing you better do it now’,” says Darryl, “‘because if you don’t, you’ll be trapped by the obligation of the debt and the responsibilities that come with life.’ That was all I needed to hear.”
A gifted and hard-working songwriter, he signed a deal with Fame Publishing in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to write songs for $150 a week. Years of hard living and honky-tonk nights made their way into his music, and artists like George Jones cut his early work. He was signed to Nashville’s EMI Publishing and in 1994 made his way to Nashville. After half a decade of sometimes frustrating development deals, in 1999 he earned the label deal that moved his career into high gear.
It is telling that Darryl was quick to turn the resultant celebrity to good purpose. His Tennessee River Run is one of the longest-running and most artist-identified charitable events out there.
“We hit our ten-year mark last year, and it’s been an amazing decade,” he says. “We’ve continued to bring in great entertainment and hold a variety of events for people all around my home town. We continue to refine it in ways that bring in even more for the charity, and that’s the bottom line.”
Darryl was able to make a $200,000 payment to the local cancer treatment center which bears his name, paying off the debt completely.
He has been a tireless performer for troops here and overseas following a 2002 visit to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Uzbekistan that helped inspire “Have You Forgotten?” He has been back nine times since then, playing both full band concerts and special acoustic sets at remote Forward Operating Bases for troops who rarely receive celebrity entertainment.
Darryl has been honored with the VFW’s Americanism Award, the USO Merit Award and the U.S. Army Appreciation Award. He has also been cited by the Tennessee House of Representatives for his contributions to country music.
A dedicated family man, he credits the current stability in his life to wife Kimberly and daughter Savannah.
“I feel like my wife and baby girl have breathed new life into me,” he says. It’s made me want to be a better man, a better Christian, a better husband, a better role model. I feel like I’ve got my priorities in order.”
Through it all, his ability to draw on real life to make deeply moving music has made him one of country’s most passionately appreciated artists. With the completion of One Time Around, Darryl adds to that already rich legacy.
Darryl Worley is available for corporate events, private shows, fundraisers, and more.