How do artists get their big break in the competitive Country field? Often, it's the result of recording one song that strikes a chord with millions of music fans.
Garth Brooks reached superstar status with Friends In Low Places. Lee Ann Womack did it with I Hope You Dance. Now, Country singer Darryl Worley has become a household name with his patriotic single, Have You Forgotten. Worley recently visited VOA to talk about the song and his new album of the same name.
I Will Hold My Ground is one of four new songs on Darryl Worley's latest album, Have You Forgotten. The collection, which debuted at Number One on Billboard's Country albums chart, also includes 12 tracks from his two previous releases.
During Darryl's recent visit to the Voice of America, he described the concept of his new CD, which will benefit military families in need. "The album comes in two segments. It's a tribute to the American soldier, the first half of the album. We put four brand new tracks that I have written recently, including Have You Forgotten, and then four songs from previous albums that really fit that theme. And then the second half is more of a look back at what I've accomplished as a singer-songwriter since I've been making records," he said. "We give the fans, who have already bought the other albums, 16 tracks for the price of a regular album and we can sell it at this price and be able to donate the money. And the people who have already gone out and bought those albums would want me to be able to donate this money because it means a lot to me, and I think it will mean a lot to the people we'll be able to help."
Darryl was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Hardin County, Tennessee. He learned to play the harmonica at age five. Four years later, he began playing the guitar. Soon after, Worley and his brothers formed a trio with Darryl singing lead vocals. His interest in songwriting began during high school and continued during his years at the University of North Alabama.
While in college, Darryl formed a Country band that performed traditional songs made famous by Merle Haggard, George Jones and Willie Nelson. Those influences are heard in Darryl's music, and he's often labeled a "young traditionalist." "I prefer to sing a more traditional style of country. I wouldn't really consider myself a crossover act. I don't lean in the pop direction at all," he said. "So, yes, I'd say that's an accurate statement, if you're gonna let the 'young' part slide."
Darryl hadn't always planned on a career in Country music. After graduating from college with degrees in biology and chemistry, he worked as a research biologist in Alabama. Eventually, he and some friends formed a successful chemical supply business. But his love for music prevailed. Darryl decided to sell his portion of the company, and with the help of a friend, made some demo tapes. It didn't take long for Darryl to secure a songwriting deal in Nashville, which led to a recording contract with DreamWorks Records. The label released Darryl's first album, Hard Rain Don't Last, in 2000.
Last year, Worley recorded his second album, I Miss My Friend. He scored his first Number One hit with its title track.
While making the video for I Miss My Friend, Darryl says he was finally able to bring closure to a relationship with a former girlfriend who was killed in an automobile accident. His next hit, Family Tree, is also included on the new album.
Darryl's current release, Have You Forgotten, took just five weeks to reach Number One on the Country Singles chart. Only three other songs have risen to the top of the list as quickly, Garth Brooks' Shameless in 1991 and Longneck Bottle in 1997, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's 1997 duet, It's Your Love.
Darryl wrote Have You Forgotten after returning from Kuwait and Afghanistan, where he entertained military troops. He's received criticism from some people who feel that the song makes a pro-war statement. But, Darryl says the overall response has been a positive one. "It was a message I believed in my heart. I knew that there were quite a few people out there who wouldn't agree with it. But, at some point, as an artist and as a human being, you have to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. If you have a message that you think is worthwhile, it's time to suck it up and put it out there, and if it causes problems, deal with them as they come," he said. "We're just very blessed that it seems to have done the opposite. I think we woke up the silent majority. Myself and my co-writer, we're just as flabbergasted about this as anyone out there. We're very happy and thankful, but we're also gracious to the men and women who spawned this. I'll be eternally grateful to the United States military, because without that experience, this would have never happened."
Darryl recently performed songs from Have You Forgotten for military troops at The Pentagon. A week earlier, he received an American flag that had flown over the Pentagon on the one-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Darryl was also recognized with this year's USO Merit Award, which is given to an entertainer who uses his or her talent to serve others. Past recipients include Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor, and film director Steven Spielberg.
On May 21, Darryl will be in Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the 38th annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. He earned his first ACM nomination this year for Best New Male Vocalist. For the remainder of the year, he'll promote his new album with concert appearances throughout the United States.