Classically Trained Costa Violinist a John Lennon Songwriting Finalist
In 2016, notorious rock and roll band Guns N Roses shared a video on their Facebook page of a 10-year-old girl slamming out Slash’s guitar riff from their 1987 hit “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The girl, wearing a pink bandana around her head à la Axl Rose, is Manhattan Beach resident and Mira Costa High School student Salem Darling.
Darling, now 14, is a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (JLSC). The contest, founded by Yoko Ono in 1997, gives both amateur and professional songwriters a platform for expression and potential exposure. The contest is judged by a panel of celebrity musicians including The Runaways’ Lita Ford, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the godfather of funk George Clinton. Darling submitted a song she wrote about a friend she lost to ovarian cancer just two years ago.
“[My friend] was really kind and sweet. She loved sunsets and butterflies and I wrote a song with those words because they meant something to her and they mean something to me, too,” Darling said. “I wanted to write a song that would have meant everything to her.”
Since the coronavirus-induced lockdown began, Darling shifted her focus from guitar to songwriting and has been writing at least one song a week. With guidance from her mentor DeeDee O’Malley — a three-time winner herself of the JLSC — Darling has found comfort in songwriting.
“It’s a great way to get a strong message out there,” Darling said. “It feels great doing it.”
Darling’s mother Kelly Meade says Darling’s ascent into music was unintentional. “[When she was] three years old, I wanted her to take Mandarin and found someone who would teach her the language. He was a classically trained violinist from Julliard,” said Meade. “When she went to see him, he would teach her violin and piano. The music came easily to her; learning Chinese was not as easy for her.” When Darling was eight years old, she started guitar lessons at Coast Music in Hermosa Beach under mentor Dave Stark.
Aside from her affinity for electric guitar and newfound talent in songwriting, Darling is working on strengthening her singing voice. She is also a violinist in Mira Costa’s Sinfonietta Orchestra.
While her roots may be deeply grounded in classical training, Darling’s groove is a direct product of classic rock. When asked to name a few guitar players who are most influential to her, Darling let out a flustered laugh. “This is going to be hard,” she said. She was able to narrow it down to three: Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, and Slash.
Darling has won three Battle of the Bands titles; two with the band XYZPDQ, one with Live Wire. She was set to play at Staples Center before a Los Angeles Kings game in March, but the performance was postponed due to the pandemic. She has now been asked to perform live for the JLSC.
Darling says she’s ready to pursue a lifelong career in music, whether it be performing or songwriting — or a mixture of the two.
“I want to focus on my solo career now. I want to improve my songwriting, I want to improve my guitar [playing], I want to improve my singing. I want to keep finding my style,” she said. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing: creating and putting stuff out there.”
To listen to Darling’s music:
Facebook: Salem Darling Official
Originally published on easyreadernews.com