Singer-songwriter Adam Smith was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, raised in Cloverlick, Kentucky, and discovered on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, but now calls Arizona home.
His debut album ‘Another Way to Get to Heaven’ was released in 2010, and has been described as a return “to the early days of the totally committed, self-aware and in depth solo singer/songwriter”. Smith later released a song titled ‘A Friend is a Stranger’, which he was inspired to write after being introduced to the organization Teen Lifeline, a teen suicide prevention hotline based in Arizona. Smith has all the proceeds from this single donated to Teen Lifeline.
His sophomore album, ‘Around the Bend’, was released January 2013 and features 13 songs plus a bonus track. In addition to the title track, the album includes songs like ‘Something Beautiful’, ‘Days Go By’ and ‘Something to Believe In’. Now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Adam Smith is scheduled to release his first single, appropriately titled ‘Cupid’, February 14. ‘Around the Bend’ will be available on iTunes, Amazon.com and other online music retailers.
Prior to the release of ‘Around the Bend’, I had an opportunity to speak with Adam in an exclusive interview.
EXAMINER (PL): How does [Around the Bend] differ from your debut album “Another Way to Get to Heaven”?
Adam Smith (AS): In a lot of ways this album is more me. It’s more a glimpse inside of me. I produced it all myself. I usually produce all my music on my own but this was really a certified homegrown project. I didn’t go into a studio, I made it myself using my laptop and Pro Tools. It really shows how I’ve grown and matured in the last two years as an artist.
PL: Does this album include guest appearances or friends of yours?
AS: A little mix of both. I began this project with Shane Cooley…he was the first person that I collaborated with. We had been touring together for a couple of years and we met in Harrisburg Pennsylvania at a music conference. So he played drums and did some harmonies. Local singer songwriter Tina Angotti, based here in Phoenix, also did some harmonies on it as well. An amazing cello player from Sedona, Courtney Yates, performed on this. And a Native American flute player named Jesse Kalu, played some beautiful flute on this. It’s been quite an interesting mix of instruments and it was exciting to be able to engage my friends, which I prefer to do than hire a stranger [laughs].
PL: Was this a personal album for you?
AS: It’s a personal record. It was really good to have my friends who know me and to help me interpret these songs; it takes a lot of trust to do that. So that was wonderful.
PL: I read that Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album is such an inspiration for you. Why is that?
AS: I think it has a lot to do with the time period that I discovered her music. I was still a young teenager when I discovered ‘Blue‘. I was a little bit naïve still and I think more emotionally open and emotionally connecting to music, as opposed to thinking about things technically from a producing standpoint which is a lot how I think about things now. There’s something about when you’re younger and the way that you feel music when you’re younger. I felt something in her music that just ignited me. I loved her ability to tell a story with images and the way the words rolled into each other. Joni Mitchell I think really more than any other artist that I’ve heard has really mastered lyric writing, and that’s what really turns me on about ‘Blue’ and led me to explore all of her music eventually. Even the stuff she did in the 80s and up to her latest release ‘Shine’. A lot of people are a fan of her stuff in the 60s and 70s and that’s really all they know of her, but she has an amazing catalog of music.
PL: Not only are you a musician, but you’re also a painter. Do you find any difference in how you express yourself between the two mediums?
AS: Yes, definitely. For me there are a lot of parallels. I think the difference is that with my music it’s more of an emotional exploration and its more of me recording and documenting experiences that I think that all human beings have, but through my eyes and my unique perspective. Painting is really about me having a physical window into my imagination and also allowing other people to see inside with their eyes. I would say that painting and visual art is a bit more me escaping into a fantasy world and with my songs I’m writing about real events and reality - rising above difficult things. That’s the contrast I would say.
PL: You were inspired to write the song ‘A Friend is a Stranger’ with your connection to Teen Lifeline, the peer-to-peer suicide prevention hotline. And all the proceeds from the song go to Teen Lifeline. Tell me about that.
AS: My manager Jim Colletti was working with them doing marketing and creative advertising for them. He told me about them and arranged for me to spend a day with them at the call center. I got to know them and their stories. I got to actually see up close what they do and how they touch people’s lives. I was so moved by their selflessness and their willingness to help and their love, I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what I could do, so I came home and I wrote this song, “A Friend is a Stranger”. The lyrics of the chorus are ‘Sometimes a friend is a stranger/ to tell your problems to/When there’s nowhere else to turn/and life is so cruel.’
What’s unique about Lifeline and organizations like them is that when a teenager calls in another teenager, trained to listen and to deal with the kinds of problems that teenagers call in for, is answering the phone. Teenagers call in for suicide and other problems too. They feel more comfortable talking to another teen as opposed to their parents, no matter how close they may be with their parents, there are just some things teens feel better talking to their peers about. [Teen Lifeline volunteers] are trained to deal with these kinds of things and that’s the real hook that makes Teen Lifeline so amazing. They’re the ones who should be commended and praised. I feel honored to be connected with them in any kind of way. It’s really about what they do and like you said the proceeds go 100 percent to benefit them and we have been able to help support them with this single. And I talk about them from stage wherever I sing everywhere I go and tell people about them.
PL: With your latest album set for release (January 2013), are there plans for a supporting tour?
AS: Not as of yet. We’re still brainstorming on what the best way to promote that album.
Currently were doing a media tour, mostly press and things like that. But there will be a tour and as soon as we know the details we will posting that up at adamsmithmusicart.com
PL: Do you find, when it comes to your music, that there’s something you haven’t done yet that you want to do?
AS: That’s a really interesting question. I guess my answer to that would be ‘I don’t know’. Basically, because I’m a prolific songwriter, I have a huge amount of songs written. My next albums would be a matter of selecting songs already written. Here lately, and especially with this album, I have become a lot more concerned about our planet and the environment. And nature is the biggest inspiration for me so I hope to continue that with each record. There’s a song called ‘Sky Under My Skin’ which is basically a praise and workshop song to nature of how resilient nature is and how beautiful our planet is. So in terms of doing something with my music that I haven’t done yet…we’ll have to see.
Adam Smith’s newest single ‘Cupid’ is set for release this Valentine’s Day and will be available for downloaded on iTunes. Be sure to visit his website adamsmithmusicart.com where you can watch videos, view photos, and check out art by Adam Smith. Also, you can preview the title track from Smith’s latest release ‘Around the Bend’.