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STEVE SMYTH Like Living Beings


Steve Smyth
Steve Smyth

Touring the country in support of his Exits album, Steve Smyth continues his WA run this Friday, November 21, at Redcliffe On The Murray; Saturday, November 22, at Mojos, and Sunday, November 23, at the Indi Bar. BOB GORDON checks in.

You’re doing a long run of shows and getting to a lot of places, how are you feeling about it?

I’m ecstatic about it, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get out past the capital cities and get out and spend some time in the heart and into the country. Get to some places that wouldn’t necessarily get a lot of music. I remember myself being in a country town and have always appreciated and was pretty stoked to know someone was coming my way. So I’m excited about this so hopefully people will enjoy what I’m putting out.

You’re not long back from a European run of dates, how was that?

It was an amazing time, amazing people there, great to see some old faces. Amazing food and wine and the hospitality is pretty mind-blowing and delicious. The shows were incredibly open and welcoming and the fact that when I do play in Europe that English is not readily known and for them to connect with the set and the songs is really powerful and never ceases to amaze me and I feel very privileged to have that opportunity. It’s been really encouraging.

With the album, hearing the first few songs you have a notion of what the rest is going to be like but then there really is a lot of peaks and a lot to get your head around. After your debut LP in 2012 was there a lot of pre-planning going into this or was it more organic?

I feel like it was focused in the sense that I chose these songs to tell a story, that the album would run a certain way that would be able to be played from start to finish. To have a vibe to run with, to bring extremities between the elements as much as I could and gather in song and in the progression of the story. From very raw and almost violent to soft, tender and careful. Like a good film or book. In music you have an open palette to be able to expand that and push into different elements and try and bring out something you people identify with.

The departures from one song to another are really great. 

That’s nice to hear.

Many solo artists may not be as brave to be as far-reaching as you have. I love the song Paris. It’s its own kind of excursion…

Paris is a feeling of the unknown. That moment before you lean in for the first kiss. The fire in your veins that is full of desire. The unknown. Before a chance is taken. Yeah ray, his violin and his viola to have on the track was amazing. There was no other title I could have because it was rather ambiguous to the environment I was trying to create. It’s written in Paris. I know, how original!

But he usually plays with Mariachi El Bronx and now he’s with Childish Gambino. His playing is very incredible. I knew the part needed to be intertwined with the vocal so it was almost two lovers in that sense. Intertwining, but not really meeting.

You  recorded at Echo Park, that must have been pretty great?

Pretty mind blowing for me that Joey Waronker (Atoms For Peace, Thom Yorke, Beck) wanted to work on the record. I did some demos on the road when I was with Angus Stone and he was kind enough to lend me some of his boys in the studio for a day, they were amazing, you know Rob Coleburn and Matt Johnson, who’s incredible and played with St Vincent and Jeff Buckley and many people like this. I’m pinching myself that I’ve been able to have time and share instruments and a room with incredible musicians that I’ve really respected. Joe called Gus Seyffert (The Black Keys, Norah Jones) up and they both were vibing off it and after a couple talks it just seemed like the right thing to do.

I wasn’t really to keen with LA, like it doesn’t sit right with me… fake plastic and full of starry-eyed dreams and washed up people. But when I got there… their world is pretty phenomenal… there’s a real calmness and ‘genuine-ity’. It was good to finish a track and head down the road to the satellite and watch The Zombies and see the bass player who was from The Kinks. Incredible experiences. It was a great studio, it was a house on a hill… you know, you opened the cupboard to find a glass in the kitchen and you found (effects) pedals stacked high. The desk had an old Muddy Waters photo sitting in front. It was a great experience.

With the performing of the songs, is there more opportunity to do band stuff?

This tour, a band is coming with me, trying to bring the album as closely as we can. In the sense as not too rigid or ironed out and too much of perfection. The live show loses a lot of its on character and spontaneity when that happens. Nothing’s ever right until a couple of shows into the tour when the speakers are hitting bodies.

Is it like teaching yourself something that you have created?

Yeah well there’s different players, that’s one factor.  You’re trying to re-establish or replicating a building an environment that we’ve laid down to tape. There were some other elements on the album with keys that we’re trying to cover with my guitar. You know, pulling down and reconstructing, you never replicate. By the end of this tour the songs will be at a different place and that will be okay. Natural. Like living beings.

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