Powderfinger farewelled WA fans with three magnificent concerts on the Supreme Court Gardens in September 2010. Guitarist Darren Middleton has tangible memories of those shows - the boisterous crowds' renditions of the Brisbane band's biggest hits, These Days and My Happiness, are still ringing in his ears. "They were the loudest gigs crowd-wise on the whole tour," he recalls.
The 42-year-old father-of-two moved to Melbourne shortly after wrapping up the Sunsets Farewell tour to plan his post-Finger career.
Middleton, whose side-project Drag released an EP in 2002 and an album in 2005, took until late last year to finally unveil his debut solo album, Translations.
The affable guitar gun is also finally coming back for his first WA gigs since those memorable performances with Powderfinger.
He's totally cool with the fact 10,000 fans won't flood into his "acoustic, intimate" gigs with Skipping Girl Vinegar violinist and keyboardist Kelly Lane at the Ellington Jazz Club and Mojos next week. "It took me a while," Middleton says from Melbourne. "I'm glad that I've stepped out and I've come to accept the level that I exist at now, which is starting again to a large degree. I'm really loving it.
"Actually being able to reach out and touch people for a change is a big positive. You lose that a bit when you're in such a big machine.
"Look, it has been pretty tough and challenging," he admits. "I've got to lug my own gear and the crowds are a lot, lot smaller but that's not such a bad thing."
Translations features contributions from high profile friends including Clare Bowditch, Pete Murray, Something for Kate's Paul Dempsey and Jet's Nic Cester.
Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning sings backing vocals on Lover's Shoes - a rare chance for Middleton to outshine his former band mate.
After initially planning to leave the Finger catalogue behind, Middleton has been pulling out a few personal favourites at his solo shows, usually songs he co-wrote or sang.
In addition to recording Translations, Middleton has collaborated with all-girl rockers Stonefield and a contestant of The Voice. He has also donated his time to The Push, a mentoring program for budding songwriters often from underprivileged backgrounds, co-ordinated by former Icecream Hands main man, Charles Jenkins.
He also tries to influence nascent musicians much closer to home but is troubled by his 12-year-old daughter's recent penchant for "super commercial" radio. "But my (eight-year-old) son is a bit more of a Jack White fan. He's learning guitar," Middleton says. "There's hope for him."
Darren Middleton plays The Ellington Jazz Club on May 31 and Mojos on June 1. Tickets from the venues.