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Dad Darius Degher writes lyrics for his daughters - and himself

“What I respect most are song lyrics that do something wholly new.”

Darius Degher: writing for himself and the next generation.
Darius Degher: writing for himself and the next generation.

Degher and his daughter duo: “W.H. Auden said that reading your own poetry is like smelling your own farts,” says singer/songwriter, producer, and published poet Darius Degher. For some reason, I imagine the noxious fumes flowing into and then being served in a brandy snifter. Sniff sniff! “You know, they have lyric-writing contests, and the winner is usually a Nashville songwriter who can say something pithy about romance in three verses and a chorus. That’s not really what interests me most.”

When I ask him about favorite lyricists, he responds by asking how many hours I have. “What I respect most are song lyrics that do something wholly new, that boldly go where no man’s gone before, that bring some real poetry into the songwriting form. And for that, I’d probably answer your question with the old masters: Dylan, Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello.”

I mention Roger Waters and David Bowie, and he acknowledges their influence. “That kind of bold risk-taking is what I hope happens in my own lyric-writing, too. Though of course, it’s hard to know what your own lyrics are like.” When I request a lyric sheet, Degher seems surprised that someone would care specifically about the words. But lyrics can make or break a song for me. The man delivers on songs like “Good News” from his latest album Open Question to the Sky, in which he untangles the misinformation highway with lines like, There’s good news, but it don’t sell soap, the screens are off and I can feel the hope. What a place our world is at, there’s good news too, but you don’t hear about that.

“But, hey,” says Degher, “I do write pop lyrics now and then, too, if you can call them that, like the ones I wrote for the Stark Shay songs for their album Treasures.” Wait. Pop lyrics? “Stark Shay is my daughters Cleopatra and Cordelia singing some of my songs. Because I love to hear them sing together, and because I wanted to hear what my songs sound like with real singers singing them. So I wrote the songs, recorded all the instruments, and then they sang on the tracks when they were home on holidays. It’s just me doing my mad-scientist writer-producer thing, with the girls as vocalists. Like that Avicii guy. Except we’re all in the same family.”

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His daughter Cleopatra was 20 when she released her own debut EP in summer 2012. His other daughter Cordelia dropped her debut EP Open Up in 2015. The sisters joined together as Stark Shay in 2020, with a debut single and video, “We Begin Again.” The song, which was about climate change and climate activism, released on Earth Day, and was dedicated to “Greta Thunberg and all of the young climate activists out there.” Their single “USA/Mexico Borderline” covers a song from their dad’s album Garage Sale of the Soul. Says Degher, “I’m thankful to be able to record with my dear ones. That it’s been nominated for a Best Pop Album San Diego Music Award is beautiful icing on the cake.” (Degher himself is no stranger to the SDMAs, having been nominated for his CD The Coyote Cantos.)

Given that the man is so passionate about words, it surprises me to learn that he has also released instrumental surf music. But then, I realize the ocean is a source of inspiration, and he describes surfing as “pure fun.” It’s not surprising that many of the themes on his latest record concern the environment — with lyrics more akin to a protest punk album than granola munching pseudo-hippie music — demonstrating a clear passion for protecting the earth and his beloved Encinitas. You can see that approach on the new album in songs like “Open Question,” with lyrics like, Is there some central mystery in intermolecular space? Are there multiple dimensions in any given place? What is really lurking at the center of the earth? How can someone ask how much a human life is worth? Don’t bother asking why. These are open questions to the sky.

“I suspect that approach is what’s gotten me the critical notice that I have had over the years,” says Degher. “Interestingly, most of that praise came before I got a master’s degree in poetry-writing in England and taught creative writing for years. So, these days, I’m even more focused on the craft side of things. And, you know, I also write poetry-poetry, without music, which has been published in many literary magazines, and a poetry collection.” Sounds much better than sitting around smelling one’s own farts.


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Darius Degher: writing for himself and the next generation.
Darius Degher: writing for himself and the next generation.

Degher and his daughter duo: “W.H. Auden said that reading your own poetry is like smelling your own farts,” says singer/songwriter, producer, and published poet Darius Degher. For some reason, I imagine the noxious fumes flowing into and then being served in a brandy snifter. Sniff sniff! “You know, they have lyric-writing contests, and the winner is usually a Nashville songwriter who can say something pithy about romance in three verses and a chorus. That’s not really what interests me most.”

When I ask him about favorite lyricists, he responds by asking how many hours I have. “What I respect most are song lyrics that do something wholly new, that boldly go where no man’s gone before, that bring some real poetry into the songwriting form. And for that, I’d probably answer your question with the old masters: Dylan, Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello.”

I mention Roger Waters and David Bowie, and he acknowledges their influence. “That kind of bold risk-taking is what I hope happens in my own lyric-writing, too. Though of course, it’s hard to know what your own lyrics are like.” When I request a lyric sheet, Degher seems surprised that someone would care specifically about the words. But lyrics can make or break a song for me. The man delivers on songs like “Good News” from his latest album Open Question to the Sky, in which he untangles the misinformation highway with lines like, There’s good news, but it don’t sell soap, the screens are off and I can feel the hope. What a place our world is at, there’s good news too, but you don’t hear about that.

“But, hey,” says Degher, “I do write pop lyrics now and then, too, if you can call them that, like the ones I wrote for the Stark Shay songs for their album Treasures.” Wait. Pop lyrics? “Stark Shay is my daughters Cleopatra and Cordelia singing some of my songs. Because I love to hear them sing together, and because I wanted to hear what my songs sound like with real singers singing them. So I wrote the songs, recorded all the instruments, and then they sang on the tracks when they were home on holidays. It’s just me doing my mad-scientist writer-producer thing, with the girls as vocalists. Like that Avicii guy. Except we’re all in the same family.”

Sponsored
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His daughter Cleopatra was 20 when she released her own debut EP in summer 2012. His other daughter Cordelia dropped her debut EP Open Up in 2015. The sisters joined together as Stark Shay in 2020, with a debut single and video, “We Begin Again.” The song, which was about climate change and climate activism, released on Earth Day, and was dedicated to “Greta Thunberg and all of the young climate activists out there.” Their single “USA/Mexico Borderline” covers a song from their dad’s album Garage Sale of the Soul. Says Degher, “I’m thankful to be able to record with my dear ones. That it’s been nominated for a Best Pop Album San Diego Music Award is beautiful icing on the cake.” (Degher himself is no stranger to the SDMAs, having been nominated for his CD The Coyote Cantos.)

Given that the man is so passionate about words, it surprises me to learn that he has also released instrumental surf music. But then, I realize the ocean is a source of inspiration, and he describes surfing as “pure fun.” It’s not surprising that many of the themes on his latest record concern the environment — with lyrics more akin to a protest punk album than granola munching pseudo-hippie music — demonstrating a clear passion for protecting the earth and his beloved Encinitas. You can see that approach on the new album in songs like “Open Question,” with lyrics like, Is there some central mystery in intermolecular space? Are there multiple dimensions in any given place? What is really lurking at the center of the earth? How can someone ask how much a human life is worth? Don’t bother asking why. These are open questions to the sky.

“I suspect that approach is what’s gotten me the critical notice that I have had over the years,” says Degher. “Interestingly, most of that praise came before I got a master’s degree in poetry-writing in England and taught creative writing for years. So, these days, I’m even more focused on the craft side of things. And, you know, I also write poetry-poetry, without music, which has been published in many literary magazines, and a poetry collection.” Sounds much better than sitting around smelling one’s own farts.


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