Kick Off - Darin: "Now a brand new era is starting for me"

He broke-through as the timid 16-year-old and got a bunch of girls screaming after him. Now he has landed in himself and releases his sixth album Exit. Kick Off has met Darin.

Darin is extra brown on his cheeks. He has just got back from a spontaneous trip to Thailand with his cousin. Right before Christmas, Darin looked at his calendar and realized that the upcoming week was blank. Two days later he sat on the plane for nice vacation before the promotion and tour of his sixth album fill several upcoming months.

Life feels good right now. Very good. I look forward to finally releasing the album and go out on a tour, says Darin and leans back in the low, red, modern spinning armchair.

We're sitting in a spacious and stylistically pure conference room at the record company Universal's office on Östermalm in Stockholm. A coffee-table is separating our armchairs. Darin, dressed in marine blue jeans, white knitted sweater, and shiny blank sneakers, rests relaxed and smiling in his armchair. He is happy with the album, which under our interview is going through the final mastering before the release at January 30th. Darin thinks that the lyrics and the sound on the album have reached a higher level than his previous albums.
- It's more of an own sound - a Darin sound that I and the producer Jim Beanz found. It sounds cool and feels like music all ages can listen to. The first years I did mainstream pop. This album is more commercial, but have a more specific sound. I think that it can work out internationally.

The album, which was named Exit, was made during one and a half month in the USA. In the beginning of november Darin came back after a time in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York where he together with worldwide known producers had been sitting in studios and writing songs. Producers who have written music to artists like Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Pink and Kelly Clarkson.

- Jim Beanz and I have written more than half the album. We clicked right away. The funny thing is that we wrote the first single first. We ended up making 6 songs in 5 days. There was no time for vacation in the US.
Darin's days consisted of go to the studio in the morning, work until night and "pass out" on the hotel bed.
- But I enjoyed it all the time. To be creative is something that I always have liked to be, all from writing to painting and build things. But just catch a feeling from melodies and lyrics and then share it is one of the best things I know, he says with a smile.

The love for music was born when Darin was around 3 years old and found the happiness in moving his body to the tones from MTV. He had no clue then that the music, 13 years later, would make him rich and famous. When Darin was going to start first grade he moved with his parents and his four years older sister from the Stockholm suburb Alby to Husby. There they lived in an apartment across from Dalhagsskolan. From the balcony on the fourth floor you could see the school yard and the small mountains where Darin and his classmates used to play. Even today some of the friends from Husby are his closest. But first in high school Darin found his equals. He had high grades and had to choose between the theoretical program or the music program. After that he had been accepted to three music gymnasiums in the centre of Stockholm he chose the classically concentrated Lilla Akademien.
- My parents have always said "do what you enjoy to do". It was good that I got that support, although it wasn't that safe to go for the music.
Darin puts his foot up across his leg:
- I felt that I had found home at the music school. Musicians are a peaceful kind of people. I like that. If there had been too much intrigues I would have thought that it was tough. I don't like that kind of stuff.

The year was 2004, Darin had gone one year in the new school when he saw the commercial for the talent show Idol on TV. He applied, got in and ended up at second place in the show. The record label Sony BMG was impressed by his performance and offered the 16-year-old Darin a record deal right away. He dropped out of school. The life as a pop star - songwriting with Max Martin, concerts and interviews - took all of his time. The girls were crazy about the brown-eyed boy with braces who sang lovesick ballads and danced like Michael Jackson. They begged him for a hug on the subway, tented outside the apartment in Vällingby and published love declarations on the website. But in the cacophony of female fans Darin also could read less nice words, and when he was out in the clubs it sometimes happened that guys came to him and said that he shouldn't think that he was something special.
- It was particularly hard in the beginning. But you land in it. Now it's in a different way, it's not tough anymore. People are very nice in Sweden, there are no paparazzi like in the UK.

Has the attention for you changed?
- During some of the festival gigs in Sweden last summer I felt that the hysterical atmosphere wasn't there anymore. People danced to the music and sang in a more natural way.

What has happened with the fans from before?
- They have followed me here. I recognize them from concerts and know the name of many of them. I guess they are around 23-24 years old today. Sometimes I meet them outside the hotel or at the place where I'm gonna play. It's really cool. They have such good knowledge about everything - all the concerts dates and everyone I'm working with, he says and laughs.

What is it like to get new friends when being like you, known among all your contemporaries?
- It gets a little special to see people when they already know who I am, but I don't know who they are. You never start from scratch. Mostly I hang out with my old friends, the ones I got to know when I was 11-12 years old. They know me for real.

Now it has almost passed one decade since the break-through in Idol. Darin has had 4 number one albums in six years and a few weeks ago he got a platinum record for the last years' hit single Nobody Knows. Still he has noticed that many had the old picture of him being a timid teenager. Thanks to his participation in TV4's Så Mycket Bättre last fall, he thinks that that image is starting to disappear. In the show he has shown his musicality by interpreting other artists' songs. His version has climbed highest on the iTunes and Spotify charts during the latest weeks.
- Many remembered me as the 16-year-old with the braces and hadn't had so much knowledge about how I have developed after Idol. Therefore I thought that it would be good being in that kind of show where I could show where I am musically. This fall I have shown who I am today.

What are you thinking about the Idol time when you look back at that?
- After such a TV-show many people think that you're just an artist who sings written songs. But I have shaped my own career and started writing songs to others when I was 14 years old.

How has the medial picture of you changed?
In the beginning I got so incredibly much attention. Then it's easy to lock yourself in and I was shown to be more retired and shy than I was privately. When I did interviews I was careful and didn't want to say too much. During the latest years I have processed being a celebrity and landed more in myself. I've become calmer.
Are you that nice, perfect son-in-law that you appear to be?
I am a pretty nice and positive person. But I have a crazy side as well. I like adventures and to party, he says.

A guy from the record company opens the door and says that Darin shall come and listen to the mastering after the interview. They are afraid that he's going to go away and that they won't be able to reach him. He has no phone since it got stolen the second day in Thailand. Darin realized that it was pretty nice to get rid of it. But when he made his first big money after the debut album in 2005, it was fun with gadgets and new technic. Then he was almost in the same age as his parents were when they fled from Kurdistan to Stockholm. Since then his father has worked as bus and taxi driver and his mother, who speaks 6 languages, as an interpreter and teacher in Swedish and English.
The first thing Darin did when he had gotten his first big check was to take his family on a holiday to Greece.

Does it ever feel tough that you have so much more money than your parents and childhood friends? That you feel like you must serve them up?
With my family it has never been that way. They are having a good time and that I make a lot of money isn't something that anyone of us thinks about. It's almost reversed. My parents usually call me and say Wwe’re going shopping, do you want us to get you something?", says Darin and smiles.

What do you rather do with your money?
I bought an apartment in the centre of Stockholm and travel as soon as I can. I’m economic but also want to live and eat good. Before, I liked gadgets but in the latest years I enjoy small things in my life. Like good food, a nice view, feeling comfortable or hearing a good song.
What kind of food do you like?
Tapas and sangria. And italian like carpaccio and caprese. Or kurdish chicken with rice that mum and dad often cook. I'm quite good at cooking too. Spaghetti bolognese and salmon in oven. I never do as the recipe says, I like experimenting. It's the same thing with the music. I have always preferred pitch instead of theory.

You said that you try to think that you will take risks and have the guts to be spontaneous to in the end feel like you did what you wanted. What do you mean by that?
There are many times in life when you discover that you want something but you're afraid of doing it. For me it's important to do it anyway. Like when I chose the music program in high school. I realized that if I hadn't gone for the music I wouldn't have been happy, says Darin and continues: Or when I was in Brazil last year and was going to dive at 22 meter deep water. I was terrified but I knew that I would have regretted it if I hadn't done it.

What's your dream with music?
The goal now is to get the new album out and promote it as much as possible. To get to share these songs, he says.
I'm here and now and a don't like either looking backward or forward. But of course I have high goals. I named the album Exit - the exit to something new. It feels like a new era is starting for me now.

Age: 25 years old.
Lives: Apartment in the central part of Stockholm.
Current: With his new album Exit which will be released the 30th of January and also a tour this spring.
Loves: To be able to be spontaneous.
Hates: Unpleasant people.
Dreams about: Traveling and seeing more beautiful places on Earth.
Secret load: Salt, I often salt the food before I even taste it.
One thing you didn't know about Darin: I'm shortsighted and don't see things well at long range.

Translated by Nathalie Pentler.