ACOUS­TIC

Stu­art Ryan in­tro­duces a player whose song in the film Good Will Hunt­ing gave him fame, but whose de­pres­sion led to him tak­ing his own life.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Stu­art Ryan in­tro­duces the trag­i­cally starred Amer­i­can singer-song­writer, El­liott Smith.

the world took no­tice of smith when his song miss mis­ery was se­lected for use in the film good will hunt­ing

Agifted but trou­bled singer-song­writer, El­liott Smith stunned the mu­sic world with his vi­o­lent sui­cide on Oc­to­ber 21, 2003. Born in Ne­braska in 1969, Smith spent most of his child­hood years in Texas and later re-lo­cated to Port­land in his early teens. A dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with his step­fa­ther saw him es­cape into mu­sic as a child and he be­gan to play gui­tar when he was 10, a year af­ter tak­ing up the pi­ano. He started his first bands while as a stu­dent at col­lege in the early 1990s and was gig­ging and re­leas­ing mu­sic by 1992. Although he recorded al­bums with his group Heat­miser it was his first solo record, 1994’s Ro­man Can­dle, that brought him far greater recog­ni­tion and also saw the end of his band. A se­ries of solo al­bums fol­lowed with his dis­tinc­tive acous­tic gui­tar parts ac­com­pa­ny­ing his equally dis­tinc­tive wist­ful, mul­ti­tracked vo­cals. The world took no­tice of Smith in 1996 when his track Miss Mis­ery was se­lected to ap­pear on the sound­track to the film Good Will Hunt­ing – the suc­cess of the film and an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion for the track it­self cat­a­pulted him to re­luc­tant star­dom. In­deed he was asked to per­form the track at The Os­cars cer­e­mony, re­fused and only ca­pit­u­lated when told that if he didn’t per­form the song some­body else would. In­evitably a ma­jor la­bel deal fol­lowed, with Dream­works, in 1998 but was also ac­com­pa­nied by a de­scent into de­pres­sion and his first sui­cide at­tempt. Drug ad­dic­tion marred work on sub­se­quent al­bums though by 2003 it looked like Smith had re­formed and was again ap­pear­ing live. Trag­i­cally, how­ever, he could seem­ingly could not es­cape his demons and com­mit­ted sui­cide in the win­ter of 2003. Smith’s acous­tic gui­tar style is highly idio­syn­cratic and of­ten chal­leng­ing. He worked with many al­tered tun­ings and his chordal style will make some de­mands upon your fret­ting hands. He def­i­nitely had his own sound on the in­stru­ment though this was also formed by his in­flu­ences who ranged from The Bea­tles and Bob Dy­lan through the clas­sic rock of Led Zep­pelin and AC/DC to coun­try, Elvis Pres­ley and even Ger­man rock­ers The Scor­pi­ons. In­ter­est­ingly, his main ap­proach to song­writ­ing was very much fo­cused on chord changes and this, com­bined with his use of some­times com­plex al­tered tun­ings, al­lowed him to cre­ate a dis­tinc­tive and in­di­vid­ual ap­proach to the in­stru­ment.

El­liott Smith: an­other un­usual tal­ent trag­i­cally gone too soon

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