Currently serving in Afghanistan, artist and songwriter Grant Smith has been perfecting his sound and style for several years, always writing from the heart and maintaining a strong mind through personal difficulties. We caught up with him this summer to find out more about where military life and music intertwine, and what it’s really like to juggle the two worlds. Here’s how it went.
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Hi Grant – it’s a pleasure to catch up with you! How are things – where are you right now, and what are you working on?
Hi, thanks for having me back, it’s always a blast! Right now I’m deployed to Afghanistan for the next nine months. While I’m here, obviously I’m focusing on my job but I’m also working on a new single with my producer Marc Solomon, and an acoustic album when I get back home.
How have you found that serving and being on location has impacted your music – either your songwriting or the way you perform?
I’ve definitely had to reel myself in and focus more. With things going on here, I have to remind myself – go practice, go write. I’ve been writing a lot of new songs here. My writing has definitely taken a more introspective tone while I’ve been gone.
What was it that drew you to army life, and in what way does this part of you connect with that which inspires you to write and create such emotional and soulful tracks?
I’ve always enjoyed pushing through struggle, similar to when I first moved to LA. I loved maneuvering through obstacles in my life.
And as with music, I love helping people and making people happy – that’s why I became a medic.
It must be beyond difficult to be so far away from your family, from your wife – how do you manage your feelings about this, and which of your songs would you say expresses that distance or reminds you to stay positive?
I’ve actually been looking back to one of my previous singles, Black Sea, when it comes to that. I know no matter how far we are, I’ll always find my way back.
Right now we are thousands of miles away, and she’s pregnant with our first child. They keep me motivated to write, chase press, work on my craft to set us up for success when I get back.
How long have you been writing songs, and how has your style changed in recent years?
I’ve been writing since I first played piano around five. So sixteen years now. Obviously in the beginning I didn’t know much of anything. I think over time I’ve started to hone in on my specific style. I’ve become a more fast, beat guitar oriented artist. I like my music to feel fun but come from a bluesy place. Though I will always write those slow, soulful tracks that I really feel the most.
Do you hope to continue with both army life and music in the long term, or is there a greater aspiration or a bigger picture at work?
When I get back to the states, I’ll have two years left in my contract. After that is up, I’ll move my family back to LA and continue on with music. I love the Army, but ultimately music is my career.
What are the main values you want to represent as a contemporary artist?
It’s important to be yourself. It’s okay to express how you feel, as long as you know you can work on it and everything is temporary.
Do you ever write about political or social topics, or do you tend to keep things personal and reflective of your own experiences?
I keep it mostly personal, but many of my songs where I say “you” I’m really speaking to an audience and not a single person. I do have some songs that are secretly political but I like to keep that hidden for people to read into on a deeper level.
What’s your favourite lyric that you’ve written – what comes to mind, and what does the line mean to you?
From Blank Pages on the Empty Words Album, “All the blank pages, the empty words, the empty papers, the empty chords.”
It was really me admitting that sometimes the songs we write aren’t going to mean much to someone, they’re really a lot of empty words that won’t better anyone’s life.
On the flip side it was also me admitting to myself that I’m not a perfect writer, sometimes it’s like sugar’s empty calories, my chords might sound good but what does the song really mean other than an attempt at pleasing an audience?
How do you stay motivated and strong-minded when things get too heavy or difficult to handle?
I just remember why I started. I’m in it to make people happy, to change a life with a song, or at least distract someone from what’s going on.
If you could collaborate with any other artist, past or present, who would it be – and why?
Ed Sheeran without a doubt, he’s definitely one of the best songwriters alive at the moment. And a fantastic performer.
What’s one of the main lessons you’ve learned about yourself or about life over the past twelve months?
I’ve definitely learned to roll with the punches and take whatever is coming. As long as you keep your goals and your morals, your principles, you can push through what comes your way.
What’s next for you?
I’ll continue to work on this new single, my album when I get back, and for now I’ll keep doing what I do here in Afghanistan.
Is there anything else we should know?
I just appreciate the opportunity to speak again! And hopefully I’ll have some more news soon!
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Visit Grant’s Website for more music & information.