BLUES IS SMYTH

Steve Smyth’s sec­ond al­bum is called Ex­its but he is en­ter­ing the pub­lic con­scious­ness in a big way after start­ing off play­ing Nir­vana cov­ers

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD - Steve Smyth and Jesse Pumphrey, Great North­ern Ho­tel, Satur­day night.

With his grav­elly, wolver­ine howl it is no won­der the coy­otes heckled back when Steve Smyth recorded his lat­est al­bum in the shadow of the Hol­ly­wood Hills last year.

The itin­er­ant NSW blues­rock mu­si­cian had just fin­ished a tour sup­port­ing An­gus and Ju­lia Stone when they lent him their band to record a demo in LA.

This made its way to Joey Waronker – drum­mer for the likes of Thom Yorke and Beck – who of­fered to co-pro­duce the al­bum Ex­its in his Echo Park stu­dio along with Gus Seyf­fert on bass (The Black Keys, No­rah Jones).

“Beck was one of my first con­certs I went to on my own. To be able to work with him was phe­nom­e­nal,” says Smyth, a car­pen­ter by trade.

The son of trav­el­ling min­is­ters who built churches from scratch, Smyth of­ten had a stage full of in­stru­ments at his dis­posal and at eight he stole his sis­ter’s gui­tar to play Nir­vana cov­ers and never gave it back.

His sec­ond al­bum Ex­its, bears signs of all his great­est in­flu­ences: Jeff Buckley, Tom Waits, Neil Young and Howlin’ Wolf. But it was a veteran Amer­i­can mu­si­cian named Jack Lowry who taught him the most.

“He’d point at the page and say ‘What does this say?’ I’d say ‘This means this to me’ and he goes ‘Well I don’t be­lieve you, I don’t be­lieve how you’re singing, how this is com­ing off out of you, I don’t be­lieve th­ese words’.

“If it’s some­thing that’s not 100 per cent or hon­est, it’s just go­ing to lose ev­ery­thing you set out to do, to ex­press. The song is king and you got a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do it jus­tice.”

Ex­its moves from sepul­chral rock ( Get On, Shake It) to achingly sparse, melodic bal­ladry ( Dig­i­tal Heart, Manuscripts) in the blink of an eye as it showcases a voice that is equal parts Ed­die Ved­der and Scott Walker.

Smyth, also a dab hand on gui­tar with a poet’s turn of phrase, fills out his sketches of songs with brush­strokes of strings, keys and pedal steel.

“Ev­ery op­por­tu­nity which comes along I grab with both hands and do my best,” Smyth says.

Smyth is con­tin­u­ing to travel across North Amer­ica, Europe and through­out Asia.

“I’ve got a prob­lem with say­ing ‘No’,” he says with a laugh.

But of course, like most mu­si­cians, he says he would not have it any other way.

NSW blues-rock mu­si­cian Steve Smyth’s lat­est al­bum re­ceived a kick along from Beck.

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