Here’s a thought: How many songwriters exist in this town who have been quietly composing their tunes, jotting them down in a notebook, or demoing them to their phone or laptop, and then just sitting on them? My arbitrary guess is that there are four, possibly five people in the Greater Fort Worth area who fit that description. And until last summer, Daryel Sellers could count himself among them. Sellers, a thirtysomething musician who moonlights (or “daylights,” I suppose) as a middle-school science teacher, told me he has a book of about 50 songs he’s compiled over the years, 11 of which he finally got around to recording and releasing as a bare-bones, endearingly DIY album in June.
Though it took him a couple decades to record an album, Sellers has been playing music since he was a percussionist in his high school band and jamming with his friends.
When he was growing up in the Saginaw/Eagle Mountain Lake area, he was in a band with Andrew Skates (Leon Bridges, Telegraph Canyon, Quaker City Night Hawks), Matt Skates (Shuttle, Panther City Bandits, The Cleverlys), and Austin Morgan (Kevin Aldridge & The Appraisers, a long list of country artists). Back then, he said, “there wasn’t much to do.”
After high school, Sellers found a full-time drumming gig in a Denton-based Texas Country band, playing four nights a week while taking a full load of classes at UNT. Sellers said he wasn’t really into that scene, and the rigors of all that gigging wore him out.
“But you know what?” he asked, “It paid bills, and it got me through college. And then I got burned out and took a really, really long break.”
A self-described introvert, Sellers said social anxiety also had a lot to do with his stepping away from music. After college, he got married, landed a job teaching, and started a family. But eschewing the stage didn’t mean he stopped making music. He just required a little encouragement to take those ideas from his notebook to the studio. He credits Grackle Art Gallery’s live-in proprietor/impresario Matt Sachs with giving him the initial push.
“He was the one last summer who basically saw me and said, ‘You play guitar? Come play the Grackle,’ ” Sellers said.
Sellers played a couple of shows at the Westside gallery last year, which he said forced him out of his comfort zone and helped him grow as a person. Last July, he booked a day at Cloudland Recording Studio with Britt Robisheaux and laid down guitars and vocals on 14 songs. And then the songs languished for another nine months.
Like a lot of us, Sellers is prone to getting the blues when summer gives way to fall and winter. “I was going through some pretty bad depression/anxiety episodes during those months,” he said. “But I finally crawled out in April and went back to the studio and did a half-day –– laid down drums on everything I wanted drums on.”
He took another day to finish the songs with bass and keyboards. He laughs about the low-budget, bargain-bin gear situation that characterized his recording session.
“I brought my late-’90s Casio keyboard, and the first thing I said to Britt was ‘don’t judge.’ The overhead of the whole operation is very minimal.”
Recorded in fewer than 20 hours, The Lost Years is a little more than half an hour of DIY folk that blends storytelling with impressionistic lyrics.
“I don’t really know what it is when I write it,” he said. “It just presents itself and flows.”
Sellers cites Kurt Vonnegut, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and Franz Kafka as a few of his favorite authors, and he’s fascinated with the existentialism driving The Beats, as well as the concept of paradoxes.
“Light, dark, hope, insecurity. I’m trying to create an image from those kind of things,” he said.
Recently, Sellers has been teaming up with various musicians to flesh out his material for a live setting.
“I’ve been seeking more creative input lately,” he said. “It would be nice to collaborate with a band, and that’s why I’ve been playing with a few people and trying things out.”
Sellers might not be terribly social, but he is a studious observer of social situations. “I’ll watch for a bit, I’ll get the feel, I’ll get the sense of it,” he said. “Then I’ll go home and write a song.”