A&E Dal­las Smith bring­ing the hits to CN Cen­tre

The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Frank PEE­BLES Cit­i­zen staff fpee­bles@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

The pop­u­la­tion of bona fide stars in the Cana­dian coun­try mu­sic scene is get­ting crowded, which makes the po­si­tion of Dal­las Smith even more special. He doesn’t have the field to him­self, yet he is a stand­out in the na­tion’s coun­try genre. Few have put more hits up the charts, few have had clus­ters of hits the way he has, and few have strung to­gether years of sus­tained suc­cess the way he has. It’s get­ting to the point now that the name Dal­las Smith is ac­com­pa­nied by words and phrases like “ever” and “of all time” when sum­ma­riz­ing his ca­reer.

Even more re­mark­able is his young age and fu­ture po­ten­tial. In base­ball, he would be one of those rare veter­ans who still pos­sesses up­side. And Smith is start­ing to get that elite cred from mu­sic fans.

He is one of the very few Cana­dian coun­try mu­sic acts to headline at CN Cen­tre, for ex­am­ple. He was here just a lit­tle more than a year ago as a sup­port act for Keith Ur­ban and now he is back again, this time at the top of the mar­quee.

He called the Cit­i­zen dur­ing this 28-con­cert jun­ket to talk about the dif­fer­ences be­tween be­ing an opener and be­ing the head­liner. On one hand, he was re­spon­si­ble for the en­ter­tain­ment value of the show. The fans paid their money to see him, not some other star, so he had to de­liver the goods.

On the other hand, the head­liner has a long set. The head­liner can play a lot more songs, and he wouldn’t be do­ing this if he didn’t have the depth. Consider all the op­tions: the plat­inum puncher Tip­pin’ Point, the ubiq­ui­tous bal­lad Au­to­graph, the young love an­them Wastin’ Gas, the sum­mer jam Cheat Seats, and the youth­ful gear-grinder Kids With Cars.

His most re­cent al­bum, Side Ef­fects, has launched six sin­gles up the charts and he has two other al­bums be­fore that to also draw from. (Re­mem­ber, he was also the lead singer for the power-rock band De­fault so he could even reach back into that ma­te­rial if he ever wanted to.)

He said the setlist doesn’t change all that much from night to night, but there is some lee­way and there is also a lot of spon­tane­ity in the stage ban­ter. He is a stage vet­eran at this point, de­spite be­ing less than 40 years old, so he likes to mix up the chat. Each au­di­ence is dif­fer­ent, he said, so he re­sponds ac­cord­ingly, es­pe­cially when some­thing re­ally ex­cep­tional hap­pens, like the times when cou­ples get en­gaged right there at the show.

“Au­to­graph has sort of be­come a big mo­ment in the set where a lot of peo­ple want to reach out and use that song, use that op­por­tu­nity, to make some­thing special of it, so things like that have hap­pened. It’s been re­ally great. To have that song used in a lot of wed­dings and pro­pos­als and that sort of stuff, it’s what you hope out of a song. It has a lot of mean­ing for peo­ple, which is fan­tas­tic.”

The mu­sic in­dus­try has shown Smith a lot of love, these past few years.

He’s won buck­et­loads of awards, from the B.C. Coun­try Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion (he is based in his home­town of Lan­g­ley), the Cana- dian Coun­try Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion, and even the highly prized Juno Award.

He puts lit­tle per­sonal stock in the tro­phy case, but he can take the val­i­da­tion of the sales num­bers straight to heart.

The fig­ures don’t lie. He re­ally is ver­i­fi­ably one of the best-sell­ing Cana­di­ans in the his­tory of the coun­try mu­sic genre.

It makes the crit­i­cal ac­claim a lit­tle eas­ier to sit com­fort­ably with, and that of­ten talks about his en­er­getic stage show, but it al­most al­ways men­tions his voice. He has a gift, the tech­ni­cal ob­servers say. His throat is a rare in­stru­ment, and he cares for it as such.

“There are tricks you learn tour­ing over the years,” he said. “Just get enough sleep, lots of wa­ter, and just tak­ing care of your­self. It just comes down to be­ing healthy, not get­ting sick, not overus­ing it. It’s hold­ing up good. The trick now is lots of wa­ter be­cause we’re hit­ting the prairies and the air is su­per dry. That’s where you can kinda get into trou­ble. And in the sum­mer, mak­ing sure you’re not spend­ing too much time in air con­di­tion­ing. That can be a pain in the ass as well, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, so you just have to be mind­ful of it. I don’t drink a whole lot any­more be­cause that kind of stuff (al­co­hol-based bev­er­ages) can dry your voice out. Once you start dry­ing your voice out, things start swelling up and you’re in trou­ble at that point. You’ve got to re­ally, re­ally adapt and be mind­ful of the en­vi­ron­ment and use those tricks you learned over the years. It’s im­por­tant.”

He has to watch it, with this head­liner tour rolling out 28 con­certs fin­ish­ing in mid-November, less than two weeks off, fol­lowed by al­most 60 ap­pear­ances in 15 days on the CP Rail Hol­i­day Train tour with Terri Clark and Kelly Prescott to raise funds and re­sources for food banks in Canada and the U.S. It’s the sec­ond year in a row that Clark and Smith have done the mu­si­cal train cam­paign to­gether.

Af­ter that, he will take a se­ri­ous break to get his voice rested and ready for the ul­tra im­por­tant task of record­ing the next al­bum. He has spring ses­sions booked, aim­ing at a sum­mer re­lease.

So are you still writ­ing songs for that project or has the ma­te­rial mostly been col­lected for the record­ing ses­sions?

“Mm­m­mmm, a bit of both,” he an­swered. “There’s lots of ma­te­rial but we’re al­ways try­ing to im­prove on the stuff. You know, bet­ter is bet­ter, so we’re go­ing to just see what we have at the end of the day be­fore we hit record.”

Smith and his band (which in­cludes Prince Ge­orge gui­tar player Jer Breaks) will push play on Wed­nes­day night at CN Cen­tre. Tick­ets are on sale now at the venue’s box of­fice or on­line at www.tick­et­snorth.ca.

CIT­I­ZEN FILE PHOTO

Dal­las Smith opened for Keith Ur­ban at CN Cen­tre in Septem­ber of last year. Smith re­turns to headline his own show at CN Cen­tre on We­dens­day night.

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