Dario: Advocate

On Track
Pop singer and dance artist Dario talks about his latest album, Alpha, and his HIV advocacy work
by Alina Oswald

Photo by Armando Sanchez
Photo by Armando Sanchez

When your last name is too long or too difficult to pronounce (think Madonna), you might just decide to skip it altogether and go only by your first name. It keeps things simple, and it really works, especially when you are a celebrity. Enter Dario, Billboard Top 40 pop singer and dance artist, and also a strong believer in doing one’s part and in the power of giving back to the community.

For over a decade, Dario has shared his music with the world through his albums, top-charting singles, and sold-out tours across the country and around the world. As mentioned on his website, Dario “is known for his distinctive attitude, infectious personality, and pop-style vocals with a dance algorithm at the base of his music.”

Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Dario grew up together with his five siblings. He discovered his love for music at a very young age. His album, Revolution, debuted at No. 1 on Amazon. Several tracks, including “Save You,” on the debut album, reached the top of the music charts, including Billboard’s Top Dance Chart. In 2006, Dario moved to Los Angeles where he started working with Arie Dixon of Tommy Boy Records. Tommy Boy Entertainment, formerly known as Tommy Boy Records, is an independent record company started in 1981, in New York City, by Tom Silverman, and which has helped launch the music careers of many artists, including Queen Latifah. One year after Dario started working with Arie Dixon of Tommy Boy, he released his second album, and then several more albums in the following years.

Dario is a role model for many people, in particular young individuals, and connects with his fans through his music, and also through his work outside his music. He started working with AIDS nonprofits in Arizona. The first one was Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1997, SAAF was formed by the merging of three local AIDS agencies—Tucson AIDS Project (TAP) founded in 1985; Shanti Foundation, which started right after TAP; and PACT for Life, a grassroots organization of People with AIDS Coalition of Tucson founded in 1987.

When I caught up with him, Dario was getting ready to kick off his new U.S. tour, to promote his latest album. Released on May 27, Dario’s new album, Alpha, ended up breaking into the top 100 albums of the Billboard 200. The debut single, “Try It,” became an overnight success, making it to No. 4 on the Billboard Breakout Dance Club Chart. On July 15. Dario released the remix album with all the dance remixes many might have heard in nightclubs.

Alina Oswald: You are a successful recording artist and singer. What triggered your passion for music?
I think I’ve known ever since I was three years-old that I would somehow be involved in music. I remember when I was about that age, I was driving somewhere with my dad and a friend of his. I was in the backseat, singing, and my dad’s friend looked over his shoulder to see if [I] was [the one actually] singing the song. He turned to my dad and said, “This kid has something; you should get him a guitar.” I knew at that moment my life was going to be in music.

What inspires your music?
There is so much that inspires my music and my work—life, people, places. I love it and dislike it at the same time. I love it, because everything I do now has meaning and a purpose. But it can be difficult because everything that I do and everywhere that I go inspires a feeling or a thought, and I have to find a way to turn it into an experience, which eventually becomes a song. I sometimes wish I could turn that off and just be still.

How has your music evolved (if at all) over the past ten years, from your first album to the most recent album, Alpha?
My music has evolved tremendously! I am definitely a better writer now than I was ten years ago. I’ve experienced a lot over the years, which has allowed me to grow personally, professionally, and musically. I’m also much stronger vocally than I’ve ever been—I can now do things with my voice that I couldn’t do even five years ago, and I love it! I figure that’s what life’s about: We’re here only for a short amount of time; we might as well make it count.

Your most recent album, Alpha, was released on May 27. Tell us briefly about it, and also about the successful lead single, “Try It.”
I’m so proud of Alpha. I think, considering where I am right now as an artist, it is for sure my best work. I love the fact that my production team wasn’t afraid to test the waters and try new things with this record. “Try It” was honestly not my first pick to be the lead single, but now that I’ve heard it so many times, I’m glad it was. The music video got over 100,000 views in less than two weeks, and the album broke the Top 100 on the Billboard 200 chart. I can’t wait to perform it all live on tour.

Could you take us behind the scenes, and explain briefly, if possible, the process ofdario-2-web creating your music?
Usually, when we schedule a writing session, we always start out by talking about what’s going on in my life at the moment. My production team and co-writers will ask me what I want to talk about or say on the album, and we go from there. I don’t like to title the album or have an idea of what I think it should be beforehand, because that restricts us in a way. If we write the album first, it allows us to write a story, take it somewhere, and then give it a title. It’s much more organic and creative that way.

You are a very young, very successful artist, and a role model to many people, young people in particular. How do you use your music to inspire others, especially the youth? And why do you think that is important?
Anytime I go into the studio, I try my hardest to stay true to who I am as an individual. I write and sing about overcoming obstacles, not caring what others think and never giving up. Because of that, I think I’ve always appealed to the underdog and I love it because I am one. It’s probably why the younger generation gravitates toward my music. Inspiring them is what it’s all about, and if I do that for one person, I did my job.

You also give back to the community. You work with several foundations to end HIV and AIDS, among others. Why is that?
I love to give back, because I believe it is part of the reason why we, as human beings, are here on Earth. I’m originally from Tucson, and when I lived there I would donate my time to SAAF or Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. Now that I live in Los Angeles, if I’m not on tour I [help raise funds] and walk for AIDS Walk LA. I believe that there is a cure out there, and I’m not going to stop fighting until we [find it].

How do you think we can end this epidemic once and for all? What can we all do, in general, to make it a reality?
I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but as a regular person who has seen what this disease does to people, I [think] that as long as we stick together and fight for the cause, as long as we ask questions [about HIV] and stay safe [from it], maybe we can start to see [the number of HIV infections decline].

As I mentioned earlier, you are a role model, and it seems, in more ways than one. What would you tell those looking up to you, especially young individuals, about HIV and AIDS?
Be safe and get tested! I know that we can’t tell anyone to avoid sex or drugs. People are going to do what they want with their lives. Part of life is making mistakes and learning from them, but you owe it to yourself to be safe. [Therefore, when it comes to HIV, in order to stay safe,] use condoms, don’t share needles, and protect yourself and others. I know it sounds like a cliché and redundant because you’ve heard it so much, but please be safe, always, because you matter and because you are loved.

To find out more about Dario and keep up with his tour, his latest album, Alpha, and other happenings, visit him online at www.darioonline.com.

For more information about the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, check out www.saaf.org.

Alina Oswald is Arts Editor of A&U.