Winner of two Golden Guitar awards for his work in country music, singer/songwriter and actor, Darren Coggan has been impressing audiences around the country with his show 'Peace Train – the Cat Stevens Story'. A musical journey through the life of one of the most prolific artists of our time. And it has been quite a journey for Coggan as well, as I found out during our recent interview. “I'm very grateful we've had such a good run out of it,” he says. “We've done a few shows around the country and I feel very blessed to have had such longevity out of it.”

The initial idea for the show came about because Darren had been including some Cat Stevens numbers in his own set and was constantly told by fans how much he sounded like the man himself which then led to questions about Stevens and whether the artist was still making music these days. Darren had to admit that he didn't have answers to these questions and curiosity led him to do his own research to learn more about the singer. “The further I went, the deeper I'd go. I became pretty fascinated by his story; his journey of self discovery.”

Cat Stevens walked away from fame and fortune at the height of his career, turning his back on the music industry. “In our show,” explains Darren, “We attempt to portray the journey he went on and hopefully answer some questions about what led him to that point where he'd had enough and he just wanted to say goodbye to all that. It's a very uplifting show. I think people will come expecting to hear some well known songs but they'll walk away from the show having learned a lot about Cat Stevens and feel inspired by his journey. The underlying theme of the show is that we all have that ability to make changes in our lives, should we not be content with what we are or where we are in our lives.”

Darren says that he has always wanted to perform Cat Stevens' music but wanted to treat it with the great respect he felt it deserved. “The production elements of the show raise it above that stereotypical tribute show,” he tells me. “We really wanted to do it properly. We narrate his story. It's not an impersonation. I don't come out and pretend to be Cat Stevens or anything like that. I come out as myself, just Darren, and narrate his story and play some amazing songs that are in the show. The messages of these songs are great messages of peace and understanding that are also very relevant in our world today especially in the light of recent tragedies that we've seen in our world. I think today's generation is inspired by Cat Stevens and his original band back in the seventies. The message of peace has never been more appropriate. ”

Music has been a part of Darren's life from a very young age. His father was a drummer who played in jazz bands and his mother played piano. His sister is also a piano player. He has very fond memories of growing up with family sing-alongs and band rehearsals in his parents' lounge room. Darren has worked on the stage as both an actor and a singer/musician and enjoys both creative disciplines but he admits that music is where he is most comfortable. “But I love the challenge of acting,” he tells me. “From a young age, I have acted in local theatre companies and things like that in Wagga Wagga where I'm from. When I moved to Sydney, I had opportunities to do some musical theatre and I enrolled in a new acting course. I love the discipline of acting. I love the challenge of it but I'm more of a singer, I would say.” He is a very proud winner of two Golden Guitar awards but says that being a performer is not about winning awards. “I think it is to perform and write as best you can. That is the real challenge,” he says. “But it's nice to receive a pat on the back from time to time and have people recognise what you're doing. That's a great thrill.”

However, there is another award that was bestowed on the singer and has pride of place on the wall in his music room and that is The Centenary Medal Award.

“I'll be perfectly honest,” he admits. “I have no idea who nominated me for that or how that came about. I received a letter from the office of the Prime Minister (John Howard it was at the time), saying that I had been nominated for this award and there were other members of the community who had been nominated as well. It was to recognise outstanding achievement in the Performing Arts. I was absolutely gobsmacked to be honest. It still remains a mystery as to how I was nominated but I was absolutely thrilled to win the award and I have a lovely letter there from the Prime Minister. I never go into projects with the motivation to win awards or to impress anyone in that way but to have that sort of thing happen, you sort of think 'Oh wow! That's pretty cool.'”

Once this tour is over, Darren will be heading into the studio to record a new album of his own material. “It's been a few years since I've had something new to offer. I have some songs that I've been writing over the last couple of years and I hope to have that out, probably early next year I would think.”

But in the meantime, the Peace Train is stopping in Melbourne for its final leg of the tour this year with four performances at the Playhouse Theatre in the Arts Centre. “And I couldn't think of a better place to conclude our 2014 national tour,” he remarks. “It's such a beautiful theatre there at the Playhouse in Melbourne and to have this performance there, I feel very, very privileged and I'm really looking forward to it.”

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2014. All rights reserved

Don't miss your last chance to catch the Peace Train starring Darren Coggan

Peace Train: The Cat Stevens Story
30th July – 3rd August (four shows only)
Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
Book now on
1300 182 183 artscentremelbourne.com.au
1300 136 166 ticketmaster.com.au

Last updated by Rock Club 40 Jan 18, 2015.

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