I'm a British guitarist and songwriter, born and raised in London.
Some of my earliest musical memories were from my grandfather, a farmer who used to make musical pipes out of reeds with a penknife. One of these pipes was my first instrument, followed by a mouth organ, another gift from my grandfather. I had piano lessons when I was seven but fell in love with the guitar when I was 14 or so.
I absorbed a lot of different music growing up, mainly from the second-hand Tape & Record Exchange in Camden Town - Adam and the Ants, The Jam, The Selecter, 80's synth, SKA, Soul, Classical, Jazz, Prog Rock, and a dose of Heavy Metal. I slept outside Hammersmith Odeon once to get front row tickets for Iron Maiden. I have Nikko McBrain's drumstick in my drawer and a Tommy Lee drumstick too. I saw Ozzy Osbourne front row at Hammersmith Odeon with Jake E Lee soloing in front of my nose - I plucked plectrums from his pickguard. They really were purple, and they had his autograph on them. I met BB King once backstage at Hammersmith too, and in the same year had a jam with Huw Lloyd-Langton from Hawkwind.
But as an acoustic/folk guitarist I was possibly most blown away watching Jerry Donahue playing The Claw on a telecaster and hearing Jorma Kaukonen's Embryonic Journey for the first time. Possibly the earliest songs I loved were from an 8-track of the magical Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
I released my first EP of acoustic pieces at the end of 2015 which received some nice feedback from Folk and Indie listeners. My 2018 single “Give Me Your Horse” was a bigger, jazzier number which had airplay on both Folk stations as well as Jazz including the BBC’s Jazz Nights.
In May and June 2019, I was in the studio recording some pieces on acoustic guitar. I was pretty happy with them but thought I'd have to step things up a bit to reach the sound of "Give Me Your Horse", the single from the album. So I asked the players if they'd come in again to record a couple of live tracks and colour in some of the acoustic takes. It was a pleasure and honour playing with Hammond maestro Steve Lodder, the unique Marc Parnell on drums and the fantastic Davide Mantovani on bass - as it was, obviously, with the great jazz trumpeter Steve Waterman and the legendary Guy Pratt on bass on the single.
These ten new recordings and the single make up my first album “Fag Ash and Beer" released in September 2019.
2020/2021:- Fatea Magazine nominated "Fag Ash and Beer" for Debut Album of the Year, and I released a handful of tracks during the lockdowns. I'm currently working on a new album which I hope to release some time in 2022.
Darren talks Fag Ash and Beer with guitarist/singer-songwriter Jake Aaron
"I caught up up with Jake recently to discuss the album, some of the musicians he’s worked with, his choice of cover artwork and his teenage love for Iron Maiden."
Interview with Darren Johnson