Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the kind of PEV artist we hear about well before we ever feature him – he’s a regular on the “people we should be keeping a watchful eye on cause they’re awesome” list we keep from talking to other musicians every 48 hours. The Dublin, Ireland native has story-telling chops in his genes – and whether you’ve sampled his music yet or not doesn’t matter; you’ll recognize it just by reading the XXQ’s below. We asked him what made him realize that this way of life was the one for him… his answer is one of the best we’ve heard.

“The ‘I am really onto something’ moment came in one of the lowest moments. After the band (MrNorth) had been dropped I had been playing Irish pubs and stuff to pay the rent, by myself, acoustically. These were pretty non musical environments where a dude playing brittle music in the corner came a distant 72nd to inane drunken chatter and whatever bullshit sports was on the TV… Somehow, in the midst of the din, I heard my inner voice, for maybe the first time in my life. I think in the time leading up to then I was trying to be something, to be someone, to live up to an idea of what it was to be a rockstar, a front man, an idealogue, or whatever badly misconceived notion I had. Right then I had nothing. That's when my soul stepped up and contradicted me. I don't have to be anything but myself. I wasn't responsible for the happiness of the audience, at least not by trying to please them. It doesn't work like that. Say what you want. Do what you want. Sing what you want. Be who you are.”

The album you’re going to be picking up immediately is called “The Wilderness” – the first solo effort for Smith. We really have no right describing what you’ll hear on the record with a man like Smith threading words, so here they are: “I think I come from a soulful place. When I write well, it's the soul that allows me to do so. Same with singing and performing. I guess the sound of ‘The Wilderness’ is Rootsy, Poppy, Rocky, Americana-y, Klesmer-y, spooky (you're sorry you asked now, right?).” Never. Excellent stuff. Check out more on Smith, pick up “The Wilderness” and of course, read on for the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Colin Smith

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Colin Smith (CS): I'm still terrible at answering this. I think come from a soulful place. When I write well, it's the soul that allows me to do so. Same with singing and performing. I guess the sound of The Wilderness is Rootsy, Poppy, Rocky, Americana-y, Klesmer-y, spooky (you're sorry you asked now, right?). If I stand out over others, it's because I'm doing what I do well. I learned to listen. To myself, and to the music and to rely on nothing else to be effective in stirring thoughts and emotions in the listener.

PEV: Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

CS: My family was my main influence. My parents were beautiful singers, and they met singing. Music was always being played in the house. No one played any instruments, but everyone could sing. I mean really sing. And everyone was really into music. So I listened to everything from Opera, Musicals, Lieder, to Elton John, The Bee Gees to Motown to Zeppelin, The Beatles and Thin Lizzy. The artists that were my obsessions were Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, R.E.M and Depeche Mode. I have to mention Fairground Attraction's "First Of A Million Kisses". Incredible record that everyone should have.

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

CS: I'm not sure how I would have gotten into music had I not met my cousins, the guys in MrNorth. They played instruments and had been in bands jamming for a good few years. I was fifteen. We met my Grand-Mother's 100th birthday. We started MrNorth a couple of years later and had an odd career path. We played gigs around Dublin and did OK, but to be honest we delivered a lot of promise and not a whole of substance just yet. So luckily, we were taken out of our element, that I think would have seen us possibly stagnate, to Italy. There we worked in a studio, writing songs, and recording. It was the best thing for us. We were forced to get more serious about song craft, and along the way learning studio craft. Then for a couple of years we played clubs 6 nights a week, playing covers, and sometimes our own material. That definitely brought our performance game up many notches.

All through this time, we had made timid advances to record companies, but nothing ever made a dent until we came to the States. By that time the song-writing had really come along, and improved exponentially while we were here. We worked really hard while here to get a publishing deal and a record deal, which we managed in a year and a half. However this all happened at the time that the record industry started to really fall apart. Maybe we should have been better earlier.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

CS: There were many "Aha!" moments along the way. From learning how to play a song on guitar, to stepping in to the O’Malley’s garage to play with a rock band, to first songs and recordings, etc. However, the "I am really onto something" moment came in one of the lowest moments. After the band had been dropped I had been playing Irish pubs and stuff to pay the rent, by myself, acoustically. These were pretty non musical environments where a dude playing brittle music in the corner came a distant 72nd to inane drunken chatter and whatever bullshit sports was on the tv. I had been writing The Wilderness at the time. Somehow, in the midst of the din, I heard my inner voice, for maybe the first time in my life.

I think in the time leading up to then I was trying to be something, to be someone, to live up to an idea of what it was to be a rockstar, a front man, an idealogue, or whatever badly misconceived notion I had. RIght then I had nothing. That's when my soul stepped up and contradicted me. I don't have to be anything but myself. I wasn't responsible for the happiness of the audience, at least not by trying to please them. It doesn't work like that. Say what you want. Do what you want. Sing what you want. Be who you are.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Colin Smith show?

CS: If people listen, I try to repay them with truly soulfully communicating with them. I'll look into their eyes, and feel the thrill of overcoming awkwardness and turning it into something valuable. Terra Firma emotionally. Or, you know, just rock out. Whichever.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

CS: Something mundane, probably.

PEV: Tell us about the early days with your band MRNORTH when you moved to Italy, wrote and recorded in a studio, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 3 months. What was that time like and what did you learn from it?

CS: I guess I answered that upstairs.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

CS: I find it best to write about what you know. Even more urgent is to write about a revelation about something that you already thought you knew everything about. That's really true when the subject is relationships. That's why people write so much more about break-ups. Break-ups and relationship struggles in general demand analysis. From analysis can come revelation. Hey presto : song,

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, "The Wilderness". What can fans expect from this work?

CS: It's my first solo effort. It's a pure album, and I couldn't be more of it for that reason alone. Lyrically, I found my truest voice to date.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

CS: Writer's block came to me hard on the heels after completing the writing of The Wilderness. It lasted a long time. I was conflicted with the whole "should I write because I am inspired or because I should just write?" I really didn't want it to be the latter. It felt forced, like I was doing it for the sake of just wanting attention or something. I have since come to peace with that, and am writing again. Writing with friends and family really helped me do that. I regret that I hadn't done so earlier, as I might have been able to contribute to MrNorth's latest record, "Everything". Oisín had asked me repeatedly to chip in. I didn't have it in me at the time. He did a wonderful job regardless, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Colin Smith?

CS: I'm not sure what you expect, so that's tough. I'm running the NYC marathon this year.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

CS: When I left college to go to Italy.

PEV: What one word best describes Colin Smith?

CS: Gemini

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

CS: I haven't toured in a while. Being broke. That sucks.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

CS: Truthfully, everywhere that I haven't been.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

CS: My friends and family have more confidence in me than I do in myself, or maybe they're really good at making me feel that way. They're proud of me, supportive and excited for me.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

CS: I like to cook, run, play soccer, watch movies and booze.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

CS: Ari Hest. Simply unmissable.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

CS: Hate to be that guy that quotes himself, but here I go. "Love, if you're not my everyone, then anyone is fine". If it's not my passion, it doesn't matter. Whatever makes the most money, I guess. Or not. Maybe something charitable. So, you know anything between extreme greed and ascetic altruism. Is there a craigslist category for that?

PEV: So, what is next for Colin Smith?

CS: A shower.

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