Darren Criss FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview

Photographer / Creative Director: Raen Badua

Stylist: Ashley Weston

Grooming: Andrea Pezzillo using Tatcha and Oribe at TMG-LA.com

Photo Assist: Julian Nieto

Studio: The Audrey LA

Words: Miles Holder

Every artist has their unique reasoning behind releasing a Christmas album, however, few are as personal as Darren Criss’. 

Whether you know Darren from his acting or singing talents, you’ll know he throws himself headfirst into every project and this album is no exception. While featuring several Christmas classics, the album still manages to be a wholly unique listening experience, and for better or for worse, it arrests your attention and evokes an emotional response. 

We sat down with Darren to find out more about his process, creative direction and of course, his FAULTs. 

What was the thought process behind releasing a Christmas Album?

I feel like at some point in a musician’s life, we all wonder what sort of Christmas album we would release. It’s a genre that happens once a year and you can’t avoid it. I’m a big fan of holiday music and I’ve always been fascinated with how the rules change just for the season.

As a self-proclaimed genrephile, I can’t help but be fascinated with musical ecosystems. I’ve always wanted to make a Christmas album, but I didn’t want it to be a cash grab but a significant part of who I am. Arguably this one could be my most personal project. There’s been a considerable amount of time granted to us this past year, I would’ve been a fool not to work on the album, it’s something that’s been long gestated and considered.

Sweater,shirt,pants: Valentino
Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Jewellery: David Yurma

We’ve never heard River performed in such a way, can you talk us through your song selection process and how you came to the final creative direction?

I had a couple of goals, and if I had it my way, it’d be a bunch of songs no one had ever heard of, but I’m not an idiot. To make it accessible, I chose familiar songs which would hopefully gateway to my more left of centre choices.
I wanted songs that people know but performed uniquely; I don’t like serving what’s expected or feels safe. I like the avant-garde but in my very humble musical facility.

For River, part of me is like, “how could you do that?” But then I thought, what an interesting way to reconceptualize a sentiment. There are a lot of songs that have this cognitive dissonance between a heartbreaking sentiment, and an upbeat sonic landscape. I like f*cking up those wires a little bit; for better or for worse. The Sonic palette of this album is to employ as many Christmas sounds to a non-traditional track – embracing the things that make me, me, and trying to inject that into the music as much as possible.

Have you taken the time to stop and recognise how far you’ve come on your creative journey or has it passed by in a blur?

All I see are the things that I haven’t done, maybe that’s my neuroses, but if anything, I should take more time to appreciate what I’ve completed because all I see is the vast landscape of things that I have yet to do. In my mind it’s a lot of output, but like low visibility.

I’m so obscenely appreciative of where I’m at and what I have, but I’m also at the same time obscenely aware that it’s fleeting, which is a very strange way to exist.

Jacket,tank,andPants: DZJOCHEN
Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Jewelry: David Yurman

What is the biggest creative hurdle that you have had to overcome?

There’s always gonna be another mountain always gonna be a new hurdle that everybody wants to get over. If I have five plates spinning, one’s gonna fall so a hurdle is trying to make sure that I can keep the plate spinning, but not at the expense and jeopardy of longevity. I thrive on chaos and, and I work best doing a lot of stuff, but I am envious of those that can just really focus on one thing and have done very well doing that.

Every artist’s greatest hurdle is themselves. I’d much rather fail with something that I’m proud of than succeed with something that I’m tepid about. To be a part of something that gives me prosperity, but no pride is a strange hell. I’m very lucky to say that that hasn’t happened a whole lot. There’s plenty of things that I have done that I don’t think a lot of people would know about, those things are huge points of pride for me and were huge turning points in my life.

Jacket,tank,andPants: DZJOCHEN
Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Jewelry: David Yurman

Is it difficult to make decisions for yourself that might be at odds with what fans want from you?

I think any artist’s journey is a constant compromise between what, you know you can do and what an audience is willing to accept. Luckily because of the transparency of artists and their process to audiences, the social kaleidoscope has shifted in my favour because audiences are smart and they don’t just see one thing.

No matter what your spectrum is of how you consume culture, I wanna leave a lot of options.

What part of the creative process don’t people get to see enough?

Being an artist is honestly, the smallest but loudest part. Everything else is like the day to day tedium of emails, phone calls, bearing the brunt of a lot of annoying tasks that torture artists. Wanting to be perfect, chasing the next thing, putting that all together would be unbearable if it wasn’t for the payback of doing something you’re proud of.

Think of any artist, whether you like them or not but you ask yourself ‘how is so and so famous?’ it doesn’t matter if you like their song, the hustle is so high functioning that it may just be a confluence of a lot of serendipities of a certain moment in time, but it is not without a significant amount of draw and hustle.

This has nothing to do with the art itself, but it has everything to do with the art that has reached you. That’s a really interesting concept that I think people don’t really see. I can’t throw a rock at anything in culture because I understand the degree of insanity that it takes to wanna pursue that.

What have you done to benefit your mental health?

Before the COVID era, people would ask me, “what’s your dream?” I would love to just say “time to do nothing.” It took a global shutdown for me to just have time to read and invigorate my mind and consume culture the way I did when I was a kid. I would have preferred to not be by way of, of a global crisis, but like many people, the silver lining is I did get the time to do a lot of stuff that I’d always wanted to do.

Shortly before the pandemic was one of the most congested, tumultuous times in my professional career, this Quibi show, was the most I’ve ever worked on anything in my entire life.

I got married in 2019 soo having the time for domestic bliss with my wife and sitting at home and watching things was a fantasy, so getting to do that for a bit of time was really special.

What is your FAULT?

I just wish I could do more and it drives me insane that all I see in my own life are things I didn’t do, or haven’t done. It’s also can be debilitating because during this time I just feel useless. It’s like, what have I done? Especially in the age of compare and despair, where you can see what everybody else is doing. That is a byproduct of our social media generation and it doesn’t matter how old you are, you feel it. If you see all this stuff other people are doing, you can’t help be like, “my gosh, I should be doing this.” It’s not totally healthy. I’m so old fashioned, I don’t like sharing everything about my life and, weirdly, it’s now expected of me.