ENCINITAS — It’s safe to say that music and songwriting has been a part of Darius Degher for nearly his entire life.
He still remembers the first original song he wrote while in sixth grade, and credits his father and older brother for his early start in music.
Degher, a native of Riverside, Calif. moved with his family to Leucadia when he was 15; a spot that he would leave twice, only to find himself yearning for the seaside community time and again.
Now back in Leucadia, Degher is celebrating the release of his newest album in eight years, “The Coyote Cantos,” which was released this month.
Degher, who at one time went only by “Darius,” has reinstated the use of his surname, appearing for the first time on any of his previously released albums.
His first band Darius and the Magnets, which formed in Leucadia in the ‘80s, became associated with the “Paisley Underground,” a movement noted for its psychedelic sound and folk-rock influences.
The band shot their first music video in Leucadia at an abandoned house called the “castle,” before moving north to play gigs in Los Angeles. After a few years the band had broken up and Degher was inspired to pursue a solo career.
The shift from the Magnets to his solo career came from a want to create a more lyric-based song, he explained.
“I was always interested in the lyrics of my songs,” Degher said. “But as that became…almost a more important aspect than the music, I started feeling that all of that loud stuff that was going on was just kind of getting in the way of the simple message of the lyrics and the core of the song.”
For Degher the reason he writes songs has changed a lot over the years. He admits that he’s lost any great aspirations that his music will be played over the radio or have millions of listeners hearing his songs. The songs he writes now are more for him, he said. “I’m trying to make music I think is good.”
Degher’s definition of good music: “Music that’s true; that doesn’t have too many affectations,” he said.
“The Coyote Cantos,” is a work five years in the making. A “canto” is one of the main divisions of a long poem, fitting for Degher, also a creative writing teacher for an online college in Sweden, and a poet in his own right.
“The songs on this record are very story, narrative-centered,” he said. “Most of them have some kind of a little tale in them. They’re not first-person points-of-view usually,” he said. “But there are also some autobiographical moments.”
One of those autobiographical moments comes in his “Leucadia Love Song,” which Degher calls “real personal.” It was written a year ago, following a return from living abroad in Sweden with his family; he’s been married for 26 years and has two daughters Cleopatra, 21, and Cordelia, 12. Cleopatra, also a singer/songwriter, appears on vocals on his new album.
In his twenties, Degher said it was easy to leave Leucadia because of the changes he saw happening to the community in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But after spending several years in Sweden, he had been itching to get back.
“I travelled around a lot and I sort of realized that this place is as good a place as I’m going to find anywhere. I used to have romantic ideas about maybe there being some greater place I wanted to live out there…now I’m comfortable in knowing that I’ve seen enough of the world to know that this is the great place to be,” he said.
A realization that’s captured in the song: “Stars are now filling the sky. Maybe I’ll sleep out of doors. Seems that I had to leave Shangri-La/ Just to see I was blind. So, I’ll sing this Leucadia love song tonight.”
Degher regularly attends city council meetings to champion for issues including fighting for bike paths (he rode his bike to the interview for this article.)
At 54, Degher has happened upon another realization: he’s given up his search for coming up with something completely original.
“I used to think it was possible, and (with) the Magnets…I used to think that was something worth striving for,” he said.
Even when he released his first solo album “Cardboard Confessional,” in the ‘80s, Degher said it was still possible to come up with something “a little bit original.” It’s pretty hard now, he said, and he’s now more interested in honing the music and getting it right, “making sure that each lyric has its own original kind of twist or aspect to it. You can do it in the lyrics still.”
Once more in “Leucadia Love Song” he writes: “Oh, I’ve seen the glorious towers/ Climbed in the mountains so high. Witnessed the boulevard’s powers/ Drifted through deserts so dry. Now I’ve seen what I’ve seen. And I’m finding there’s just less to find.”
He’s accepted there’s less to find and accedes that it may stem from his age. “Maybe it’s not the place for people my age to be doing the wacky, new stuff anyway,” he said laughing.
“I think there’s a lot of great music around, but it doesn’t seem to have a single kind of direction. In the ‘80s there was that post-punk thing…and then there was heavy metal…now, there’s just everything at the same time. It’s a kind of post-modern age, I think. So it makes sense that post-modernism would cause a kind of fractured splintering of genre constraints,” said the musician and writing teacher.
“I think there are more good, young acts,” he said. “We just have to kind of seek them out.”
Degher can be sought out Saturday when he performs at the E Street Café to celebrate the release of “The Coyote Cantos.”
Darius Degher releases
“The Coyote Cantos”
Where: E Street Cafe, 128 West E Street, Encinitas.
When: July 14, 7:30 p.m.