Our success as an active lifestyle accessory company has led to some rewarding partnerships with influencers who have overcome big obstacles to live out even bigger dreams. We love their stories and that’s why we share them with you. Darren Mulligan, from the hit band We Are Messengers, is one of those friends that we often invite to speak to our team at Groove HQ.
Darren’s journey from a childhood of poverty to becoming the lead singer of We Are Messengers was far from simple. His radical transition from a tiny town of 45 people in Ireland to his life as a star in the United States was full of twists and turns.
Music was a part of Darren’s life right from the beginning. He grew up in Ireland, raised in a small town of about 45 people. Sounds like a scene from the Hallmark Channel, but life wasn’t always easy for the Mulligan family. In his deep Irish accent on a recent conversation Darren told us, “I fell in love with music when I was seven, watching my mom and dad dance in the kitchen in Ireland. We grew up in relative poverty so we didn’t have things. I used to wear my American cousin’s second-hand clothes that were two sizes too big for me. My mum and dad, they were very country people, and they worked very hard to buy this house. And the bank would send letters every week threatening to take our home. They had five kids. And my dad would rip that letter up, he’d toss it in the fire, he’d cuss at it, and then he’d go and dance. And they danced to Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash. I fell in love with what music did which was take you away from just the crap of being human sometimes.”
“My daddy was a mail worker,” he says. “My mom was a clerk. They worked 12-hour shifts. Every penny they made they put into buying us clothes, buying us food. I remember seeing a picture of my dad when he was much younger, sitting in a field somewhere with Elvis Presley-type hair and a beautiful Sunburst Gibson guitar. I had never seen that guitar and I asked him one time, ‘What happened to your guitar?’ And he told me that when I was one, and my brothers and sister were a little older, he had to sell the guitar because he just couldn’t afford food. When I was thirteen, one Christmas morning - remember we were in poverty - we didn’t have things - my daddy bought me a guitar. And it struck me that the very first opportunity he had to buy a guitar wasn’t for himself, it was for me. That reminded me that my giftings, my callings, or my abilities shouldn’t be for me, they should be for others. I want to live a life that actually gives itself away instead of hoarding it and keeping it close. My daddy and my mummy showed me how to do that.”
While music was an escape from poverty during Darren’s childhood, he didn’t find an opportunity to worship in it until he reached his mid-twenties. “It wasn’t until I was 27, when I fell in love with God, that I realized that there was another purpose to music,” Darren says. “Music wasn’t just a way to escape but it was to lead you to somewhere more heavenly, somewhere more beautiful... somewhere more glorifying.”
In the 20 years between these two musical awakenings, Darren lived a tumultuous existence. He says, “In the middle of those 20 years was a lot of alcoholism, violence, adultery, and addiction. Those stories became opportunities for me to share the goodness of God in a very real, practical way. Music is a vehicle to have a conversation about life, love, and about everything in-between, and about a God who chooses to wrap us in kindness when we deserve nothing but a smack in the head.”
Darren’s faith in God began right when he needed it most. He says, ““I was a mess. I was at my wit’s end, probably wrestling with suicidal thoughts, and purposelessness. I had no hope. I was just consumed with myself and adultery, substances… whatever I could get.” After living that way for so long, Darren lost no time in turning his back on his past choices after becoming a Christian. “Coming to God was a radical transformation,” he says. He shares that choices as a Christian are not always perfect. “The difference is that Christ is good in me.”
After coming to faith in God, Darren began to play music at a youth mission in his hometown. He says, “I remember playing with my wife, she sang, and my little brother… played the drums. We played at this little thing, never asked for any money, and that’s what we did for four years every weekend. We hung out with really hurting, broken people, and we loved it. We never made a penny.”
Then, one day, Darren’s wife shared something unexpected that had been on her heart. “She said God told her I was to leave my job. I worked for residential homes, taking care of kids with disabilities and challenging behavior, and I loved it.” Before making such a drastic move, Darren wanted to hear it straight from God, and he did a year later. In obedience to that call, Darren quit his job and spent a year depending on God’s provision for survival. It wasn’t easy for a hardworking man to spend so much time without a job. Darren says, “At the end of that year, it was almost 2014, I knew that I had to go back to work. I had worked my whole life. The idea of not working was alien to me. So I prayed and I said two things. I said ‘God, I want to go back to work. I want to take care of my family.’ And the second part I had never said. For the first time as a 34-year-old man I prayed and said ‘God, I don’t need music anymore. Can I go back to work?’ And the very next day Warner Bros. in Nashville called and offered me a record deal.”
Darren Mulligan is able to live his dream to perform, record, and write music full time. We asked him for some advice for those who are struggling to know when or if it is time to pursue a passion wholeheartedly, and how to know which passion is worth giving everything to pursue.
““I think a lot of people waste their lives chasing passions they’re not equipped to carry out. It’s trial and error initially. If you’re excited about something try it… I think you need to know that you have a level of talent.”
“If you’re going to give your life to something, it really has to matter. And it goes back to this idea of, are your giftings and your passions just for yourself, or are they for the world? I think that they’re not for ourselves. I think they’re to give away. It’s hard because usually people want to do something they’re passionate about that also makes a living and provides an income.”
“Remember, it takes 10,000 hours. You’ve heard that, the 10,000 hours rule? It does. If you think you can become excellent at anything without investing that kind of time, you’re fooling yourself. Passion is always going to consume you. If you’re consumed by something that’s probably what you’re passionate about and I would imagine there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be pretty good at that thing.”
“I didn’t make any money for 24 years! I remember tearing around America in a hard rock band in 2003, living off five dollars a day with McDonald’s in the morning and Wendy’s at night. I didn’t make a penny on music, even when we came to America that first year. We were so broke, we spent every penny we had just surviving over here. And then we released a song and one day a check arrived at my house and I showed my wife and said ‘Look at this, someone paid me to do music! Someone gave me money!’ We had given our lives to music way before money had ever arrived on the scene. And the truth is, long after my career is gone because it will end sometime, I’ll still be sitting, looking out the window at trees, singing songs. And I don’t care if anyone hears them. I only ever wanted to write them to thank Him.”
“If you want to follow something that you’re passionate about, do not waste your time engaging in things that are not going to lead toward that end goal. You always have to have an end goal. What is the end goal? That starts on the big level of Jesus changing the world, and then you have to break that down into practical steps.”
“Whether anyone ever cares about your dream or not doesn’t matter. You have a responsibility to your dream and to your passion to go and pursue that. So quit making excuses why you can’t.” Darren goes on to add, “I’m not going to come to God and go ‘Oh, God, it was hard, so I stopped. Someone died so I stopped. My heart was broken, so I stopped.” I’m going to be like “God, in all of these things, You’ve been with me, You’ve carried me, You’ve walked with me. And because of that I’m keeping going. And I’m going to thank You.”
“Our lives were meant to be lived. We weren’t meant to be spending our lives dying. I want to live my life. I did enough dying in the first twenty-seven years of my life.”
When asked if he could be remembered for just one thing, what would it be, Darren didn’t hesitate. “That I love my kids and love my wife,” he says. “Sometimes it’s easier to love the world and to love your friends and neighbors, or vast groups of people. It’s hard to love your wife and kids well. It’s easy to say it but doing it is a different thing. I’d like that if when I die my kids say ‘Dad was a decent man. He did the best he could.’”
While loving his wife and kids is his first priority, Darren is passionate about showing love to everyone. He says, “We don’t have to agree to change the world, we just have to love each other to change the world.”
Darren’s passion for loving others is an overflow from the love of God that surrounds him. He says, “I don’t know how the h*ll I got here, how I got to be me. But the bottom line is God is fond of me. So in the night when the hauntings come, the melancholy comes, when that stuff comes I know that God is fond of me. So I’ll wake up the next day and I’ll go again. And I’ll make so many mistakes but He has me, that’s for sure. I just wish I held Him as tight as He holds me.”
“Groove Life employees know ‘[The Groove Life Leadership] don’t love you because you share our beliefs or you’re a Christian. We love you because you’re worthy of being loved because you’re made in the image of God.’ Why I get excited about these lads is I see what they do, where they give their money, how they love their staff, how they treat their people. They’re engaged in being the hands and feet of Jesus. That’s pretty cool. Because most people, when they make a lot of money, they keep it for themselves and then they store it and they use that money to make more money. What’s the end result? You have lots of money. Big deal. Lots of people have lots of money. But if you can use your money and your resources to change the world of your employees, and change the world of people living in Nicaragua, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Darren also loves that Groove Life is outspoken about their faith in Jesus. “They’re about it,” Darren says. “I just like that there’s a company that isn’t afraid to talk about Jesus…. The Man that breathed life into us gave His life for us. And we’re afraid to mention His name because we might offend someone? No, dude! We need more companies like Groove Life that are going to stand up and go ‘Yes, this is what we believe, this is who we are. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with the entire world, but we’re not ashamed.’”
“You’re going to need some folks saying ‘You know what? You’re not the sum of the things you’ve done or the things you haven’t done. You’re not the sum of the things that have been done to you or have happened to you. You’re not the sum of the choices you’ve made. You’re the sum of a God who breathed life into you and says I’m fond of you. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Can you imagine if you worked for a company like that full time?”
“I like to align myself with people who are risky, people who are free, with people who are not ashamed, and with people who believe that the entire world can be changed through the goodness of God. That’s why I like these geezers.”
“Like, even when you go into their little office space, it always blows me away because it looks like a cafe or a hipster coffee joint,” Darren laughs. “People seem to actually enjoy their jobs. That’s a very rare thing nowadays. These people actually genuinely seem to like their jobs and love each other.”
As music is an opportunity for Darren to change the world, Groove Life products are an opportunity as well. Darren says, “Why do I make music? I make music to change the world. They make rings and belts and watch bands and they’re doing that to change the world. They’ve done an excellent job in communicating the why so everyone’s engaged, everyone’s involved, and everyone is moving toward something bigger than themselves. That’s cool. That’s what you’re doing. And everyone’s getting a paycheck! That’s dope!”
Darren shared that the band is super excited about a new single that just dropped this past week! “It’s called ‘Image of God,’” he says. “This song is going to light it up. I’m not naive enough to think ‘It’s going to change the world for everyone!’ But it’s going to change the world within the influence that it has, and that’s enough for me.” He went on to add that changing the world isn’t always in the big huge, history book things. “Changing the world can be actually asking someone how they are and genuinely wanting them to tell you,” Darren says. “Changing the world can be meeting you and not looking around for who is more important in the room. You can change the world small or you can change the world big. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re passionate and engaged with creating a better world where the truth of the gospel is rich and where beggars and prostitutes and every race and every color and every tribe are welcome. That’s world-changing sh*t right there.”
Darren ended with this little snippet that warmed our ring, belt and watch-band-making hearts.
“You should buy Groove Life’s products. Yo, let’s quit pretending here. If you’re on the fence of whether you should buy a Groove Life product, or another product, buy the one that believes in something bigger than themselves. Because that’s your part of changing the world. If you’re going to buy a ring, buy a Groove Life ring. If you’re going to buy a watch band, buy a Groove Life watch band. Support businesses that have purposes and functions and dreams. That sounds like a pitch, but it’s true. And while you’re at it, buy our d*mn record, too!”
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