Sometimes you find yourself in a rut. You think you’ve heard every type of music, read every type of written content and met every kind of person…then you meet D’Arcy.
About a week before the New York City-based sober, queer songwriter released her new EP Hard to Kill, D’Arcy was gracious enough to sit down with us to discuss the new record, her recovery and her perspective and impact as an LGBTQ+ artist. The conversation was, at once, a refreshing reminder that new and innovative things can still be done in music, that recovery only helps the creative process, and that I could probably be doing more with my life.
For the Record…
The songs on Hard to Kill are years in the making. The record is the product of collaboration with multiple producers and songwriters, an experience for which D’Arcy says she was grateful: “I got to write with some really amazing musicians,” said the artist on our Zoom call, flanked by an arsenal of musical gear and a torso-shaped boxing dummy you can’t help but pity when you realize D’Arcy’s natural level of energy and focus. “It was a very different process and a really exciting and unique step for me, musically.” She goes on to say she penned the teaser track “Crush” by herself in her bedroom but was joined by select songsmiths on others.
Hard to Kill captures a wise-beyond-years look at love, vulnerability, sacrifice and personal growth articulated through infectious melodies, gut-punching lyrics, crunchy yet airy distortion and masterfully tasteful synth work.
So…where did this record come from? When asked about some of the influences that helped inform the material, D’Arcy fires off a list of diverse artists: “Fiona Apple is one of my absolute favorite artists, from her music to just who she is. Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails has also been very influential for me. There are some very quiet and serene moments on there and then there are some really sort of crunchy, distorted, almost a bit hard-to-listen-to parts. So I think I tried to incorporate my singer-songwriter sensibility with a sort of punk and rock-and-roll energy and marry those two together.”
It’s at this moment in the interview that the delightfully jarring distortion parts on Hard to Kill get a wee bit more context.
You Can Knock Me Down A Million Times, But I Will Always Get Back Up…
D’Arcy also discussed the lyrical fuel that gave Hard to Kill its fire. Even a casual listen reveals life experiences, introspection and empowerment that, while perhaps typical of a debut record that has a lot to say, is still a pleasant and substantive surprise: “In the past, I’ve only ever made really dark music. I was at a point where I was feeling largely good about life, and I just wanted to make something that’s not only fun and happy but also motivational and empowering. Something that says, ‘you can knock me down a million times, but I will always get back up.’”
D’Arcy self-released Hard to Kill on August 6th through her media company, DrØme, which, ya’ know, just happened to start as a magazine featuring a slew of contemporary artists and storytellers, including Billie Eilish…no big deal. She has plans to release film projects and graphic novels through the imprint, as well.
If you hear a little extra “wisdom” in D’Arcy’s music, you’re not imagining things. Like many artists with her insights and lived experience, there was a time in her life when she battled alcohol and other types of substance use, a battle that she says started early on: ‘There hit a point when I was about 15 that I just felt the depression was impossible, but I also didn’t really even know what depression was. I was swimming in this black hole, and I didn’t really know what was wrong with me, so I dealt with that and expressed that in not-the-best ways.”
These “not-the-best” ways included drinking more and more, which D’Arcy says at the time she thought was fun and socially acceptable. Things escalated when she moved to Berlin for a year to DJ, and she became immersed in the city’s often-drug-fueled techno culture. By the time she reached legal adulthood, she says she was done: “This is enough. I’m sick of waking up with a hangover and sick of saying I want to stop and not being able to.”
Soon after, a friend introduced her to the recovery process, which she fully embraced after about six months. Through three and a half years of sobriety, she has never looked back and has no plans to. She’s even quit smoking and cut out coffee.
Straight People Don’t Have to ‘Come Out’…
Although D’Arcy is now comfortable and plain-spoken about her sexuality, there was a period early on when it was not that simple: “It’s not easy to feel like you’re different during a time in life when everyone else is interested in being the same. It’s just hard to know there’s something different about you and worry about being judged.”
She also discusses the considerable evolution that LGBTQ+ awareness has experienced in recent years: “I know it’s only been ten years, but I feel like it’s very different now. When I was 15, it wasn’t really talked about. There was never anything that I can remember about gender issues and sexuality in any kind of health class.”
D’Arcy then raises an issue that even some of the most ardent LGBTQ+ allies often miss: “Straight people don’t have to ‘come out.” While she’s happy to discuss her experiences, she is justifiably guarded about having to “explain” or “clarify” things related to her sexual identity.
In the end, she says that through finding community and “just meeting people” who understood what she was going through, she was able to be more comfortable in her own skin; but she also used music to help her through it: “I did what I always do, which is turn more to music than people. I recorded my first album when I was going through all that, which was a great outlet. I didn’t even care if anyone liked it. I needed to just do it for me, which is a feeling I’ve tried to carry with me even though it’s getting harder with social media and everyone weighing in with their opinions about what you’re doing.”
I Was Only Able to Do Any of this Because I’m Sober
One of the highlights of our conversation was hearing about the tangible benefits of sobriety in her creativity and songwriting. “I wasn’t really able to make any music that I liked when I was drinking and using. I feel like I have so much time and I use it wisely. Not being sober, your brain is like mush for so much of the time. Just in terms of time and potential, the access that you have to parts of your brain when you’re sober is a game-changer. I was only able to do any of this because I’m sober.”
D’Arcy ends the conversation by deftly and candidly tying sobriety to self-esteem and empowerment, and by telling us her plans for the immediate future. On August 14th, she began a 25-date tour with Lee DeWyze, which started in Salt Lake City and will end in Phoenix on September 27. After that, it’s an ambitious tour schedule, the specifics of which are still pending.
Listen to Hard to Kill on all music-streaming providers and catch D’arcy on tour in a city near you…your ears will thank you.