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Meet Trailblazer Darcy Nelson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Darcy Nelson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Darcy. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a singer/songwriter and music has been part of my life from a young age. Growing up, my brothers would complain at how much I’d just run around the house belting out off key songs all the time. I started singing at church when I was about nine and was totally fearless about what others thought. Experiencing music in this way gave me an appreciation for a sacredness of the art and the unifying power music has to create shared experiences between people when we come together seeking it.

I recorded a demo in my teens (back when cassette tapes were a thing) and was encouraged to pursue music seriously at the time, but I didn’t know anything about opportunities to get started, and I felt intimidated by the idea of putting myself out there in any way. Like many young girls, I was afraid of being really seen and potentially judged on appearances. I was also observing how female stars in the country music industry were being treated when they expressed their personal views. (Anyone remember the Dixie Chick’s career killing moment when they made a remark about the President as America was heading into war with Iraq? It wasn’t pretty.)

After high school, I pursued college and was attracted to jobs that had me working in or near the creative arts in Tacoma, Washington. I was getting burned out working for organizations that were overtaxed with too many needs and too few resources and found myself just wanting a totally fresh start some place where I didn’t have a professional persona to maintain. I wanted to feel freer to express my creative voice and didn’t know how to give myself permission to do that where I had built a community, so I moved.

In July 2018, I abruptly put in my two weeks notice at work, figured out how to sell or donate nearly everything in my apartment and packed up a carload of what was left with my guitar and hula hoops to start a new life in a city where I didn’t really know anyone or have clear job prospects. I had visited Denver and Boulder several times and felt happy here. Applying for jobs out of state hadn’t yielded many leads, and I hoped once I was there physically it would be easier to compete in the job market.

One day as I was still in my job hunting mode and living from my savings account, I picked up my guitar and decided to see if I could make a few bucks at a farmer’s market in Littleton. I didn’t have permission to play and didn’t check in with the market manager — just plopped my guitar case open with a handwritten sign that said “Tips,” and a started playing cover songs I thought people might know. I remember counting a small mound of cash afterward an hour or two of busking. I earned exactly $21, and treated myself to a matinee with gluten-free toast and Prosecco at the local Alamo Drafthouse theater.

That first busking experience led to the opportunity to perform (with permission) at three farmer’s markets hosted by Denver Metro Markets, and that summer my guitar literally fed me while also paying for my utilities and phone bill. I didn’t think I sounded really great at the time, and I still have SO much more growth I want to achieve, but it was this moment of recognition that my art could help sustain me from even that starting place that inspired me to keep plugging away and really be more brave about expressing myself through music and sharing my original songs.

Has it been a smooth road?
The journey to sharing my music has been challenging mostly because of the energetic hurdles I’ve needed to overcome in order to put myself out there and share and grow. I struggle with perfectionism and always want things to be better than they are. A quote along the lines of “perfect is the enemy of done” inspires me to do my best, share what I am working on, and keep becoming better as I go along. I also heard someone on an NPR interview say “You’ll never become a great artist if you don’t allow yourself to be a bad one first.” This has also been a powerful mantra helping me get of a space where I let my inner critic paralyze me.

I’ve also really grown as a person learning to embrace different emotions that aren’t as simple or socially encouraged when you feel like people expect you to be a “nice girl.” Sometimes I write stuff that’s sad, or angry, or sassy or nerdy and it really takes courage to own those songs and remind myself that I can’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I like my songs so I’ll sing them.

If I could share any advice with younger musicians, I would encourage them to seek mentorship from resources like Denver’s Youth On Record which can provides education about the industry and opportunities to grow. I wish there would have been a space like this for me back when I had been encouraged to pursue recording.

I’d also say get comfortable in your skin and own your full truth! Share it with the world and don’t be ashamed to be your full self. Some of my female friends in their 50’s and 60’s have told me how much freer they feel with each decade. They care less about what others think of them. I really absorbed that and thought, why wait a couple more decades before I get to enjoy that freedom? I want that now!

As for current challenges, I still have so much to learn about the publishing and recording industries and need to grow in massive ways and find my tribe to collaborate with in order to record an album (this is on my life bucket list). But I’m in a good place of making time and connections to move forward with my creative goals. Anyone reading this who has resources to recommend, I’m all ears!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a songwriter who happens to play acoustic guitar as a way to share my music. I’m honing my craft and developing my skills so that I can eventually make and record music that I’d want to listen to even if I or a friend hadn’t been involved with making it.

My musical tastes are pretty broad ranging from jazz, folk, country, pop, classic rock, electronic house and dance music, and experimental music. I want to create a unique sound that is fluid between genres and borrows some of my favorite elements of each of these influences in a way that resonates and maintains a minimalist feel.

I’m older than most people when they get started in music, but this brings a maturity to my perspective and lived experiences. If I would have started songwriting at 16, I probably would have only explored topics of faith and love, but having lived through a few more seasons I cover heavier topics like female identity, grief, and finding your dreams. I still write plenty of music about love and longing but even these stories have more nuance than they would have if I wrote them at a younger age.

Right now, I play live for restaurants and hotels, farmers markets, small groups, and community events. Sharing in intentional listening spaces where I can drop in a poem or two and talk about what inspired me to write each song is my favorite.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
Women can sometimes bring a more collaborative approach to their work, and we also can tap into this divine feminine wisdom that the world needs for healing and motivation to creating a world we want to live in.

Men can certainly lead in these spaces too, but as women I think we bring a special gift of this inviting, nurturing, and truth-from-love voice that is often missing in mainstream spaces of entertainment and culture.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal photo: Corinna Lander; Kenzi Everitt (photos under tent)

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