San Marcos, TX – Keynote Address

When Darden does a keynote address, it’s not your average run-of-the-mill event.
Along with insights pulled from his 30+ years in the music business, thoughts on collaboration and change, he actually writes a song with the group, and then records it. The result is that so your group has a copy of the experience that lives far beyond the end of your meeting.

If you’re interested in having Darden bring this to your organization, contact him here.

Joe Ely

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The first time I saw Joe Ely was around 1986, at the Austin Opry House. I remember saying to the person with me, “Well, that’s what Rock and Roll looks like.” It was raw like good church, a show. He was all over the stage. The songs were a crazy mash up of West Texas swing, Mexican rhythms, and flat-out rave. Loud guitars, pedal steel, drums and accordions.

A few years later, at a party at his house near Austin, I sat around a fire and listened to him, and others, sing. His version that night of “Because Of The Wind” stuck in my mind because of his voice — low, soft, full of horizon.

In 1989 I opened for him on a tour of the Netherlands, UK and Ireland. Every night was electric. We would stand backstage and watch Joe give it all. It was something like the power I’d witnessed as a kid hanging out near the chutes at rodeos around Texas.

Joe is that mix of melancholy distance and barely controlled lightning. He has more stories than most libraries (whether they’re all true or not is completely irrelevant), and he’s a master at the telling. His music is equal parts Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Woody Guthrie and Mexican folk songs. To me, he’s an American treasure.

I ran into him the other night at a party and he told me a great story that had to do with being stuck in a New York City basement during Hurricane Gloria with Keith Richards and Ron Wood.

You should’ve been there.

Freedom — 7.4.15

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Alex Marrero, the badass drummer / singer / guitar player / voice over artist, gave a great Pecha Kucha talk here in Austin in July 2015. I’m going to do my best to summarize it here for your Independence Day reading (Non-US readers, just go along with us…).

In 1962, Alex’s parents left Cuba because they wanted freedom.
Freedom for themselves, freedom for their children.
They left all that they knew behind so that they and their kids might have the opportunity to make the choice of how and why they spent their days, how their children moved through the world.

Think about that for a moment:
They left everything, and started over, for freedom.

They landed in Virginia, and it was weird.
Became citizens.
A few years later, the family moved again.
Mexico City, where Alex grew up.
They started over, again.
In his twenties, Alex moved to Austin.
To play music.
He’s Cuban, grew up in Mexico, lives in America.

Alex’s says that when he was a kid, his parents made them read the Spanish and English language newspapers. He insisted that they be bilingual. Alex understood what they were doing, but only later did he appreciate that what they were doing was giving him one more chance at freedom — freedom to navigate a bigger world, to be who he is without restriction.
Freedom to choose.

All the dislocation his parents went through,
All they put their kids through,
Was in pursuit of a very simple concept —
The ability to have some say over the way you live your life.

Alex told us that because his parents had the guts to leave everything behind, he now has the freedom to play music (which is a bit of a ball and chain in itself, but let’s don’t go there).

If you’re in the US, you have certain freedom.
It’s not perfect, it may not be all glory and silver linings,
But you do have the ability to make choices.
It’s possible to change direction.

So, on this Independence Day
Think about what the people who came before you, your family,
Your bloodline went through so that you have this luxury.
What did they give up, leave behind, overcome,
So that you can have these freedoms, big and small?

Freedom of choice.

Alex told us his story that night, looked us all in the eye, and asked us, as I’ll ask you now:

What are you choosing to do with your freedom?