With a captivating new EP, a RightOutTV award, and an album and a documentary in the works, it won’t be long before dance-pop musician Darren Ockert has “arrived as the famous,” as he puts it in award-winning track “This Modern Life (1984).”
That tune won as Best Electronic/Dance/Hip Hop/R&B Song in October at the RightOutTV Music and Video Awards, which promote and honor the contributions of out LGBTI music artists. It’s one of four songs on Ockert’s recently released EP, The Rain From London, which mixes infectious instrumentations with introspective, haunting lyrics.
“I’ve always loved a good, well-written pop song, and I’ve always been fascinated by electronic music,” says the singer-songwriter-producer, an Englishman now living in Miami.
Being a musician, he says, has been his lifelong ambition. He grew up with music-loving parents — “I remember my dad getting a John Lennon album and just playing it on repeat” — and he was encouraged in his ambitions by “a really amazing music teacher I had in primary school” and was the first person to show him a synthesizer.
He also grew up listening to the pop music of the 1980s and ’90s, developing a love for such acts as the Eurythmics, Madonna, George Michael, ABBA, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Ockert’s music recalls the best of that era, yet it’s clearly contemporary as well.
While poised for greater fame, Ockert is not exactly unknown. He released his first album, Anything Is Possible, in 2005, and it brought him substantial critical praise and a 2006 OutMusic Awards nomination. He has several singles to his credit, and he cowrote and produced Grace Garland’s album Lovers Never Lie (in Bed).
Now he’s finishing his second studio album, tentatively titled Short Story Long, consisting of what he calls “quirky electro-pop” songs; it will be released next year, and he’ll be touring to support it. He’s also the subject of a documentary being made by Merciless Studio Films, expected to be finished and submitted to film festivals in the new year. The filmmakers had spoken with Ockert about doing some music videos, and they decided they’d like to make a documentary about him.
Among his distinguishing characteristics is the fact that he’s been out as a gay man from the beginning of his career. “That was not an easy decision, but it was a very considered decision,” he says. “If you can’t be true to yourself … it just wouldn’t feel right to me.” Still, he says, he is not defined by being gay any more than a straight artist is by being straight: “I consider myself a musician who just happens to be gay.”
His lyrics, sometimes touched with irony, sometimes marked by yearning, tend to avoid gendered pronouns; he’s often an “I” singing to a “you,” and sometimes a “we.” “If it’s in the first person, it connects with the listener more,” he says.
While realizing his lifelong dream of connecting with audiences through pop music, Ockert is doing so after a slight career detour into theater. He’s a graduate of the London School of Musical Theatre, and he became one of the youngest theater producers in the British capital, working with the Young Vic. This work was responsible for an important change in his life: It brought him to the United States, when the Young Vic’s production of Arabian Nights had a limited run in New York City in 2000.
“I came to the U.S. to see the show and fell in love with it,” he says. He’s been a U.S. resident for a little more than 10 years, initially living in New York, then moving in 2010 to Miami, where he now lives with his partner.
He loves Miami, which he has described as perhaps “the sexiest city on the planet,” but the life of a musician means he has to leave home sometimes. Fortunately, he’s looking forward to hitting the road in support of his new album. “I can’t wait to be out touring and sharing this music with people,” he says.
For more about Darren Ockert, go to his website here. And watch the video for his single “Celebrity du Jour” below.