For Darity, a new year faintly shines in the distance.
Specks of wintry sunlight peer through thick January clouds and serve as a hopeful reminder of better times ahead. Those far-flung rays symbolically represent the gratitude Darity expresses in her latest uplifting single, “Everything,” which dropped Tuesday via all streaming platforms.
“I wrote this song for myself initially. I just think it’s so easy to think about all the things we don’t have. This song started like a long journal entry. I went on a tour with a band pre-Bitterroot and had a lot of conversations of the leader of that band about the struggles of being an artist and a band leader. I noticed that a lot of it was centered around being on the edge of losing hope and feeling like we didn’t have what we needed to be an artist,” said Darity, aka Linsley Hartenstein.
Throughout “Everything,” Darity, a Cincinnati indie rock singer-songwriter, poignantly captures the fight for hope as twirling synths, pulsating bass, vivid electric guitar, delicate drums and soft cymbal taps slowly surround and envelope listeners. She calmly sings,” Run after it/Desire breathes by design/You’re my dream not a fault line/And disappointment’s bound to dig a cliff/But I will walk with you through all of it/You were made for this edge.”
“Recording vocals for this song was painful because this is such a hard truth to swallow. All of the things, all of the outside support that maybe we think we need, or that we do need, we are all put on this planet to do something specific. If that is your worldview, then you as a person have everything you need. That’s a power and a posture that’s so hard when the whole world is telling you that you lack something,” said Hartenstein, who initially wrote the track in 2017.
After laying the initial foundation for “Everything,” Darity teamed up with Coastal Club frontman and producer Alex Hirlinger and drummers Simon Alexander and Dan Crowe to record the track. Together, they infused the hopeful, whimsical sonic quality to evolve it.
“Alex is one of the best arrangers I’ve ever met, so he did all of the production around it. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I gave him what the band and I had been playing live, and he rewrote everything aside from the drums. He is responsible for the world around that song, and I’m really grateful,” she said.
Darity also dropped a stunning lyric video for “Everything,” which features her strolling along a deserted roadside near the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. It simply captures the personal time Darity needed to process her feelings and develop a mindset filled with gratitude.
“Josh and I made this lyric video here in Montana. When the pandemic hit, I was on tour on the west coast, so I figured I’d put that Easter egg in there and make a little video,” said Hartenstein, who developed the video with her partner Josh Kemp of Au Gres. (Check out Au Gres’ dreamy, pro-soulmate single, “Nervous.”)
Silver Spoon and Bitterroot
Pensive, gleaming synths, pounding drums, bouncy bass, crashing cymbals and bright electric guitars instantly seize the soul as Darity quietly sings, “I heard you’re over back to the Carolinas/As it only was a matter of time/I was your neon classic, your silver spoon/You played the game and all that you wanted to/So where do we go from here/Will you ever talk to me when you’re gone.”
“Josh and I were going through a weird time, and both of us were having relational issues. The song doesn’t really have any straight up deals about that, but I just noticed this communication issue that all humans seem to have. It’s harder to be specific and give people closure and find closure ourselves within situations because of ambiguity,” Hartenstein said.
“It’s hard to have the conversation. I was trying to capture this universal feeling of like, ‘What do you do with that stuff?’ One day you wake up all of a sudden and realize you don’t have this specific friend anymore, and you don’t know why.”
Despite questioning relationships and friendships on “Silver Spoon,” Darity worked with her Ghosty comrades Nayara Nieto (vocals), Clay Carmody (lead guitar) and Charles Stout (rhythm guitar) to develop the bridge for the track. (Ghosty also dropped a soaring, romantic new single, “Chance,” on Jan. 3.)
“Ghosty was a last-minute addition to the bridge. The biggest bummer of this track for me was that I was in Montana, and the bridge really wasn’t doing it for me for some reason. I got that mix as the shutdown happened, and I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do,” Hartenstein said.
“I knew I couldn’t go and see them. I asked Clay, ‘Hey, can the Ghosty clan do some background vocals and give that part of the song some power and have it be more distinct?’ Honestly, I love that part of the song and having them on it really made that for me.”
Darity also worked with Carmody on her emotive, reflective full-length debut album, Bitterroot, in 2019. The contemplative nine-track album takes listeners on a personalized journey of heartbreak, healing and renewal after a difficult breakup.
Inspired by the majestic, vast surroundings of the Bitterroot Mountains near Victor, Montana, Darity wrote the tracks for Bitterroot while seeking solace from personal relationships and inner struggles. In a sense, it serves as highly relatable journal to share with others experiencing similar emotions and situations.
“The record came through a really hard breakup with someone I had been with for five years, and then I dropped out of school. It was a time frame of when a lot of trauma happening at one time. Our house in Montana became my safe place during all of that,” said Hartenstein, who wrote the tracks for Bitterroot over a three-year period.
“A lot of the songs on the record were written here, but the album wasn’t made here. The whole record is meant to be a circle from heartbreak to healing, and it’s the realization that we live in a world where that’s probably going to happen again.”
Three of Bitterroot’s standout tracks include the airy, scintillating ballad, “Liturgy,” the hypnotic ode to recovery, “Rest,” and the soft, cinematic piano-fueled anthem, “Further.” This eclectic trio beautifully exhibits the spectrum of intense emotions Darity shares throughout the album.
“The piano that was written for ‘Further’ was during my last semester at school. There was an old piano up on one of the floors, and I would go up there before my 8 a.m. class and play that over and over again. My life felt chaotic, and it was 20 minutes of my day that I could sit and play. It was me trying to keep my head on straight, and it has very special sentimental value to me. I ended the record with it because there was nothing more I wanted to say,” Hartenstein said.
A native Ohioan, Hartenstein’s musical beginnings date back to her childhood in Cincinnati. At a young age, she learned piano from her grandmother and developed a love of writing poetry. By age 14, she joined a church youth band and took guitar lessons to build her musical foundation.
“I had a guitar teacher who said I should write songs. At first, I wasn’t super into it, but once I started writing, I got hooked on it. I was in the folk scene with my first band in Cincinnati,” said Hartenstein, who’s inspired by Noah Gundersen, Gungor, Patti Smith and Paul McCartney.
After high school, she moved to Memphis and studied songwriting at Visible Music College for three years. There, Hartenstein met several musical friends and collaborators, including members from Ghosty, but left to pursue music full-time in Cincinnati.
“I learned a lot and continued to fall in love with the creative process from songwriting to a finished product. Before I released Bitterroot, I was contemplating the idea of having a moniker primarily for my own mental health and creating some space from Linsley the person to my music and whatever that career would entail,” she said.
As the next step in her musical journey, Hartenstein selected Darity as her artist moniker, which is derived from “solidarity” and represents a unified collective. Today, she fronts her own musical collective as a songwriter working with a rotating group of artists, musicians and producers.
“Darity’s not really a band. It’s my writing and whoever I have around me. Darity hasn’t really landed in a specific genre for an extended amount of time because of that. You bring different people into different projects, and they leave their own fingerprints,” Hartenstein said.
Today, Darity has evolved into a heartfelt full-length debut album and two spellbinding follow-up singles. This year, she plans to release two additional singles, including “Six Feet” and “Out of It,” and hopes to record a new EP and write a track with Kemp.
“Josh and I have a song that we’re planning to work on together at some point. We have both decided that we want to make sure Darity and Au Gres are a priority, but we love making music together. I think he’s going to be a little bit more involved in the EP,” she said.