Derek vanderhorst

It's not often I get to meet someone with the same last name as mine, and even then it's a relative of mine. So imagine my delight when I had the chance to talk with Derek Vanderhorst at this year's Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Missouri. The Golden, Colorado-based singer-songwriter had just released his latest album Be Kind

Derek started in music in 1991 before embarking on a successful career in movie sound production, working on films like No Country For Old Men, Hidden Figures, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye and many more.

"I worked with Adam Sandler for many years and then with Fox and Universal studios."

But it was a serious health scare which brought him back to music.

"I had a diagnosis of Stage 4 head and neck cancer. My oncologist said I was going to have trouble with my throat so he got me some voice rehabilitation."

All of this was happening right at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak so Derek started playing his guitar again after many years, with the goal of writing a song a day for 150 days.

"Whether it was only 20 seconds long, it had to have a beginning, middle and end. And I was okay with it being terrible."

The process of writing a song a day was something akin to going to the gym every day.

"The first day it hurts, the second day it hurts and then some days it doesn't hurt as bad."

The exercise continued past the 150 days and at one point he said to his voice coach he intended to release an album of his songs, sung by a friend of his.

"At the time I couldn't sing at all. I could barely talk. He said, 'Why don't you wait a year and then you'll sing on it?'."

That album was Wildflower, released in 2022. The album featured the support of Gabe Witcher of The Punch Brothers, Jimmy Paxson of The Chicks and bassist Mike Valerio.

As the songs improved Derek was comfortable with playing them for friends. Their encouragement lead to Wildflower being posted on Spotify and Derek taking early forays into performing. At the beginning he didn't have enough songs for a whole show so he invited friends to join him in an "in the round" setting.

For his new album, Be Kind, Derek had 50 songs to choose from but it was 4 newly-written songs that changed the tone of the release.

"I decided I wanted the album to take a different meaning and feel. So it became about forgiveness and friendship."

Wanting to address recent family struggles, the four new songs were finished in December before going into the studio to record in January. His friend, fellow singer-songwriter Steve Poltz suggested he record the album at The Studio Nashville, which is owned by The Wood Brothers.

"The engineer, Brook Sutton, and I hit it off instantly. Steve joined in and we made an amazing album with the best players I could ever imagine!"

After a brief tour in France and The Netherlands, Derek has gigs coming up in Tennessee, Colorado and California.

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