Darren Watson

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Darren Watson
Darren Watson 2013.jpg
Background information
Birth name Darren Watson
Origin Wanganui, North Island, New Zealand.
Genres Blues, Soul, Pop
Occupation(s) Musician
Years active 1985–present
Labels Pagan Records NZ (1988-1998)
Red Rocks Records (2005-2011)
Unsigned (2012-present)
Website www.darrenwatson.com

Darren Watson is a New Zealand singer, songwriter and guitarist in a wide range of blues styles.


Darren Watson was born in Wanganui. His first musical experience was playing drums and trumpet but he soon moved on to guitar and was playing in bars and clubs throughout his years at Hutt Valley High School (1980–83).

In 1985, he formed Chicago Smoke Shop with harmonica player Terry Casey and, although Casey left the band in 1987, the band went on to record two charting LPs and several radio hits. The group was also in big demand as a support act by international touring bands. Between 1987 and 1990, Smoke Shop (the 'Chicago' tag was eventually dropped) opened for NZ tours by Robert Cray (twice), Koko Taylor, George Thorogood, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Since leaving Smoke Shop Watson has recorded four successful albums: King Size (2002), which was nominated for Best Roots Album at the 2003 New Zealand Music Awards,[1] South Pacific Soul (2005) which received favourable reviews from both local and international media, Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy (2010), and Introducing Darren Watson (2014).

In late April 2009 Darren won 1st place in the blues section of the prestigious International Songwriting Competition in Nashville, USA, with his song "All Going Wrong", a cut from South Pacific Soul. Judges for the competition included Tom Waits, James Cotton, John Mayall, and Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer.[2] Watson has gone on to finish on the 'podium' in 2010, judged in 3rd in the blues category of the International Songwriting Competition for 'Can't Get Enough of You'.[3]

Watson' released Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy in November 2010 on Red Rocks Records. The album was widely praised both in local and overseas media. [4]

In July 2011 Darren was selected to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Previous winners include Sean Costello and Suzan Tedeschi. The event takes place in February 2012.[5]

In Feb. 2012 Darren performed at The Australian Blues Music Festival in Goulburn, New South Wales, and in May of the same year he headlined the Blues on Broadbeach Festival in Queensland.

Watson's fifth solo album Introducing Darren Watson was released on November 7, 2014. [6]

Planet Key[edit]

In August 2014, Watson released the single "Planet Key", which satirised the New Zealand prime minister John Key. As the song had been released in the run-up to the 2014 general election, the Electoral Commission advised that the song would be viewed as an electoral programme and therefore could not be played on New Zealand television or radio, nor could it be sold unless it was labelled as an election advertisement.[7]

Watson chose to remove the song from the iTunes store, claiming the commission's advice was censorship.[8] John Key commented that the song and its music video was, "quite professionally done. It was anti-us but as a parody it was okay."[9]

In September, before the general election, Watson took the Electoral Commission to the New Zealand High Court to challenge their advice. Justice Denis Clifford reserved his decision, saying the issues were complex.[10]

On April 2, in a landmark 76 page judgment, Justice Denis Clifford ruled comprehensively in favour of Watson and Jones. [11]Significantly, he held that the Electoral Commission’s interpretation of the legislation: “would impose limits on the right of freedom of expression of the plaintiffs and New Zealand citizens more generally in a manner which… cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” [12]



Year Title Details Peak chart
1998 Overnight Sensations
  • Label: Pagan
  • Catalogue: PACD1138
2002 King Size
  • Label: Beluga Records
  • Catalogue: BELNZ001
2005 South Pacific Soul
  • Released: 15 November 2005
  • Label: Red Rocks Records
  • Catalogue: RRR007
2010 Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy
  • Released: 27 October 2010
  • Label: RRR104
  • Catalogue: Red Rocks Records
2014 Introducing Darren Watson
  • Released: 7 November 2014
  • Label: Beluga Records
  • Catalogue: BELNZ002
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

With Smoke Shop[edit]

  • Chicago Smoke Shop (1989) Charted #47 Official Albums Chart
  • So Glad (1990) Charted #29 Official Albums Chart
  • Fusion at Room Temperature (1996)

Guest appearances[edit]

  • Bill Lake Home Truths (1996)
  • Marg Layton Trouble Then Satisfaction (1998)
  • The Underwatermelon Man (1999)
  • Midge Marsden Travel N' Time (2006)
  • Matt Hay Inside Stories (2007)


Year Single Peak chart
NZ Artists[13]
2014 "Planet Key" 5 Non-album single
1989 "Mind On My Sleeve" 37 Non-album single
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.


  1. ^ "Vodafone NZ Music Awards 2003 Winners". 5 July 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Burgess, Dave (5 July 2009). "It's all going right for songwriter". Fairfax New Zealand. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "International Songwriting Competition Winners Page". International Songwriting Competition. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  4. ^ http://static.radionz.net.nz/assets/audio_item/0020/2424521/ntn-20101022-1107-New_Music_with_Sean_McKenna-m048.asx
  5. ^ "Kiwi Bluesman Taking On The World". Scoop.co.nz. 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  6. ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/music/63085061/in-his-prime-darren-watson
  7. ^ "'Planet Key' songwriter prepared to contest ban in court". One News. TVNZ. 16 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Satherley, Dan (21 August 2014). "Last chance to hear 'Planet Key'". 3 News. MediaWorks. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  9. ^ Bennett, Adam (13 August 2014). "Electoral Commission orders musical dig at Key off the air". APN New Zealand Ltd. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "No exceptions for Planet Key". NZ Herald. APN. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  11. ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67601974/judge-rules-planet-key-satire-not-an-election-broadcast
  12. ^ http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1504/S00042/high-court-finds-electoral-commission-wrong-on-planet-key.htm
  13. ^ "18 AUGUST 2014". Official NZ Music Chart. Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 

External links[edit]