In today’s digitally-inclined world, people claim to be masters of many a trade following the viewing of a YouTube How To. It would seem that the definition of a Renaissance Man (or woman) is becoming a bit blurred. Enter Darius Holbert, an award-winning composer of music for film, television, and new media. Following his studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music and the University of North Texas, Darius had his music featured on television shows such as American Horror Story, Grey’s Anatomy, and American Idol; he’s composed for award-winning films at Sundance, LA Film Fest, and more, even winning the award for best original film score at the Moondance International Film Festival. Not one to be put in a box, Darius is the man behind the curtain on many records (producing), musical productions (directing), and artist development, rounding out his career, and making him a true Renaissance Man.
“Both of my parents are musicians, so [my working in music] was pretty much a given. Although if the Texas Rangers called me today to be their starting 2nd baseman, I’d drop everything. I’m pretty sure they need a late-30s musician with a bad back, don’t you think?” Darius is quick to joke.
He may have never become a baseball star, but Darius has worked with a plethora of well-known artists, including (but not limited to) The Wu-Tang Clan, Everlast, and even Britney Spears. “I’ve been insanely lucky so far to be able to work with so many killer folks,” he says sincerely. “Most have been life-altering (Dave Brubeck and Everlast spring to mind), but some have been nightmares (not saying who, but her name rhymes with “Schmitney Schpears”).
“Working with Rza and the Wu was just a short thing – an incredible experience, but just a few sessions. Everlast on the other hand, is now one of my close buds and we’ve worked and toured together a ton over the past few years; we’re actually framing out a new project for this year–it’s hush hush for now but it should be great.”
Along with his already crazy schedule, Darius is currently working on a country album with singer Nicole Britton. “I’m from Dallas, so I cut my teeth in honky-tonks all around the Chittlin’ Circuit. It’s great to get back to one of my first true loves with this record,” he admits. “I never get to do much with [country] in LA or NYC, since I’m mainly scoring film and TV these days, so there’s very little call for a horror film with wall-to-wall pedal steel music…although that could be pretty scary.”
Working as a solo artist, under the name DARIUSTX, Darius has released four albums, which he claims will be a good indication for listeners of where this project with Britton will fall. “Fans can expect similar stuff like I’ve always done, but with a lot more of a country twist. I’m super excited about this project–it’s going to be kind of reminiscent of country duets a la George and Tammy from the ’70s. I can’t wait to get started!” He exclaims. “We’re still in the writing phase and some killer producers have already expressed interest in lending a hand.”
His knowledge and passion for the country genre in itself displays itself the more he speaks, as well as his strive to compare against the best of the best. “The Tin Pan Alley guys like Cole Port and even the Brill Bldg writers went on to write country music in the ’60s and ’70s. To write that kind of wide, epic storytelling and pack it into a 2 and a half minute song takes amazing talent.
“Take a listen to George Jones greatest hits and then try to write something like ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ It’s a heroic feat!”
Following his time at university, Darius has garnered plenty of experience to make most artists nervous to be in his presence, and most people’s eyes widen at the thought of his calendar and “to do” list. While it may look like a “heroic feat” to most, for Darius, it’s a challenge to see how much he can accomplish. “I was just telling someone today how lucky I’ve been to have a bunch of disparate stuff going on at all times. In fact, if I’m scoring a feature and that’s all I have on the docket at the current time, I’ll go out and pick up a student film just so I can bounce back and forth. Plus I get to work with a young filmmaker on something cool as well, so it’s pretty win-win for me. Which is always a win-win.”
While working with these young filmmakers, Darius has quickly developed the film bug, but when asked whether he would ever act or direct, he laughs. “That’s funny you should ask: It’s been my new resolution to make any filmmaker I start working with to put me on camera! It’s been awesome so far. It’s just background/extra work, but I can tell that there’s already awards buzz around my performances. Maybe not a Golden Globe, but at least a Participant ribbon from the local sporting goods store,” he jokes with ease. “As far as getting into directing, hell no! That job is for crazy people!”
Despite admitting that studio and network project typically produce more money, Darius is quick to dispel the romance behind them. “I try to stick to independent feature, [because the studio and network projects] always mean more headaches. There are usually a bunch of tight ass people with business degrees trying to tell you why your music doesn’t work and thereby justifying their ridiculous salaries. I much prefer indie films because it’s usually just you and the director and a handful of producers making all the creative decisions. There’s a lot more latitude in creative choices when you’re not trying to please the head of a cable network who thinks music stopped when Celine Dion did a pop record.
“[However,] as far as TV shows, Quick Draw has been an absolute blast.”
Speaking of degrees, Darius has done well for himself in post-secondary education. “I have a pretty extensive music theory and practicum background and that has allowed me to jump around so much in my career,” he says, no arrogance to the statement, just pure fact. “But if you’re kick ass at one thing, and that’s the only thing you want to do, I’d say to just get your talented self out there and do it! I think it all depends on the end goal.”
Be on the lookout for a number of new projects from Darius: he just wrapped on the score for a Peter Berg documentary to kick off Berg’s new HBO docfilm series next month. He’s not only developing a score for his second season on the Hulu exclusive show, Quick Draw, but also for a number of new films including the new horror feature Old 37. The upcoming slate for Holbert also includes works for a NYC modern dance company, a Norwegian documentary series, and a new album from Everlast.
PS: If you had to pick one score that has inspired you the most, which would it be and why?
DH: I should probably pick something really obscure to be a pretentious ass, but I’ll pick two famous ones instead:
“How the West Was Won” – Alfred Newman. It was the 1st LP I ever owned as a kid and I wore that damn needle to the nub on it.
“Amercian Beauty” – T Newman. I’m a huge Thomas Newman fan and this score is absolutely iconic. It redefined drama film scoring for our generation, IMNHO. And amazingly enough, Alfred is Thomas’ dad. *Cue “The More You Know” music*
PS: If you could tell your younger self me thing, what would it be, and why?
DH: Don’t sweat the small stuff–do what you love, do it well and everything else will work out. Except for becoming the Rangers’ 2nd baseman, that’s just not happening.