Darren Watson

" Darren Watson is New Zealand's finest practitioner of the blues - a singer and guitarist who can give you goosebumps with the passion and intensity of his playing. He's also an original songwriter of rare skill and imagination. " Nick Bollinger | Radio NZ


Darren Watson gained New Zealand-wide fame in the late ‘80s as the song-writing, front-singin’, guitar-slingin’ front-man for rhythm n’ blues outfit Chicago Smoke Shop. The group of blues-mad Hutt Valley teenagers made two albums, had several bona-fide radio hits, and with a few years hard touring won a secure place in the hearts of Kiwi music fans. Before they imploded Smoke Shop earned multiple NZ Music Award nominations, and shared stages on NZ tours with international artists like Koko Taylor, The Robert Cray Band, George Thorogood, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Since leaving Smoke Shop in the early 90's Watson has cemented his reputation as the nation's most original, contemporary blues voice. As of late 2017 he has released four world-class albums: 2002's King Size(which was nominated for a NZ Music Award), 2005's South Pacific Soul, 2010's internationally acclaimed Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy, and Introducing Darren Watson from 2014, an album that did a very rare thing for a Kiwi blues artist in the 21st century - spent time in the mainstream album charts, peaking at a respectable #26, while hitting #6 on the Official NZ Top 20 Albums Chart.

That same year Watson had to fight and win NZ High Court and Court of Appeal battles to have his satirical song Planet Key made available for sale and broadcast after it was banned by the NZ Electoral Commission. 

In May 2018 Watson released his latest album Too Many Millionaires. It spent five weeks in the Official NZ Top 20 Albums Chart peaking at #3. And 6 weeks on the IMNZ chart peaking at #1. The album was favourably reviewed in Blues Matters (UK),  Rhythms (Australia), Blues Blast (USA), and Downbeat (USA). 

Watson's latest album Getting Sober For The End Of The World was released in September 2020. It entered the Official Top 40 Albums Chart at #23. The recording features a cameo by Mavis Staples guitarist-band leader Rick Holmstrom. 

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