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Darryl Worley lives the awfully beautiful life

By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2004

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Music was part of Worley's family. "My grandfather on my mother's side was Robert Jones, so we had our own Grandpa Jones," he jokes referring to the Grand Ole Opry star. "He was really into the story song."

Worley describes music as "an alternative means of entertainment for people who had nothing to do to do. I see it all over the country in Oklahoma and Texas when you're that far out. We don't even have a mall or a theatre, so it becomes cool to sit on the porch and play. It's a way to pass the time and keep out of trouble."

Worley started playing in church ("you know they're not going to kick you off the stage. That's positive reinforcement.") Worley later would play at his grandfather's nightclubs "We were intrigued by the whole idea of performing and making music," he says. "It was just a way of life."

"People did it for fun and enjoyment. People did it for worship purposes. Music serves a lot of different purposes."

Growing up, Worley was into folks like Haggard, Jones and Nelson.

While at the University of Northern Alabama, Worley continued playing on weekends, getting more seriously into music.

He graduated and got a successful chemical supply company going. He also made several trips to Nashville, but "it didn't work out like I wanted it too. Sometimes that going to Nashville thing is a little different than what you expect it to be. It's hard to make money in a town where people play for nothing just for the chance that they might be seen. We wound up going back home to play the clubs."

He later got a songwriter's job in Nashville writing for $150 a week for 5 years and getting a few cuts for Clay Walker and unknowns like Archer Park and the Hutchens.

His publisher, EMI, wanted to see if they could get Worley a recording deal, but he wasn't much interested in doing yet another showcase.

"I'd been through that whole process so many times - let's record several sides. Let's pitch it to record labels. Let's do showcases. I just didn't want to do it any more. Everyone was 'okay we'll keep up with you'. You've done that enough that you know what to expect. I was not going to do another showcase in Nashville."

So, he did one in his home area, about 125 miles from Nashville. A DreamWorks rep managed to find his way there, and Worley was signed.

"Honestly, the early part of the recording process and the making of the deal seemed a little bit shaky to me because I wasn't really sure they were hip to what I did. They seemed to be excited, but then it was almost in midstream they said we want you to do this. I said that's not what we talked about. I was sitting on the backburner. I was out there continuing to write songs."

"We got exactly what we wanted on that. We stuck to our guns. We didn't record a song we didn't want to record. I never will."

"I think they realized I wasn't going to be one of those artists that they could say 'here's what we want you to do and this is what we could do with you if you do this'. They couldn't just put me off forever."

By 2000, Worley's debut was out with a few hits, "A Good Day to Run" and "Second Wind."

The follow-up, "I Miss My Friend," contained a number one hit with the title track.

And then came "Have You Forgotten," written with Wynn Varble following a trip to U.S. military in Afghanistan. The song was a megahit, so much so that it killed his then single "Family Tree."

The song later also engendered controversy for the seeming link between the Iraq war and Osama Bin Ladn with no direct link between Bin Ladn and Saddam Hussein established.

"With anything you do in the record industry, there's a time frame," says Worley. "There's somewhat of a delay. You can't snap your fingers and say 'we're going to put out a single out tomorrow'. That song was specifically written about the events of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. It had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. There were some distant rumblings that could be conflict there, but that wasn't what was happening at the moment."

"The thing that was almost humorous to me was no we didn't make that connection, and if you're finding a connection, that's your thought. That's all in your head. It's all straightforward and simple in your head."

Was Worley surprised the song became such a hit?

"Me and my co-writer felt like if that song ever got on the radio, it would be a huge hit. I never knew how my record label felt about it because I felt it was what the silent majority was feeling. We never dreamed it would be on the radio. It was too in your face. The whole thing happened because one night in the spur of the moment I played it on the Opry."

And then Worley took a break recording a whole album of new music. "Have You Forgotten?" was an album with 4 new songs and 13 more from his first two albums.

Worley clearly is energized talking about his new music and is unconcerned, but hopeful about how it will be received.

"I don't think you could live your life worrying yourself what next week or what next month holds. I've been become pretty good at living my life one day at a time. I've been blessed probably more than I deserve. I think I'm doing the things I should do to give back. To me, that's almost the most important thing that we do here on this earth. It's not what we take. It's what we give back."

"Right now, we have this really cool momentum, and we haven't sold tons and tons of this new album because the single's just getting played. We haven't hit one of those real impactful songs that make people go out and buy a record."

"I think we're going to be around for awhile. I think we've established a niche, a place of our own. I think that's going to ensure us some time in this business. If it should all turn south, I think I'll have to spend some time on the farm I bought at the beginning of the year."

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