Following the release of a number of stunning singles from Grant Smith, we finally got the chance to interview the singer and songwriter during his much deserved down time – Grant is currently serving in the US Army in Fort Sam Houston, TX. We talk music, songwriting, singing, self improvement, mental health, serving your country, Ray Charles, colorblindness, and much more. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Grant – great to be able to chat with you finally, thanks for your time! For those who don’t know, how would you describe your sound and your approach to songwriting?
Great to speak with you again! In terms of style, no matter what genre a specific release is under, I consider myself a blues singer. I write and sing what I feel when I have the need to write. I feel what my hands want to play and sing what comes.
What does Shake Me Down mean to you, and what do you hope people take away from it?
Essentially, Shake Me Down is about anxiety – about ADHD. This song is about struggling against some obsession, some part of you that won’t let you go. The lyric “Please shake me down, oh I beg you, my love!” Isn’t directed at a lover, rather our own brain. We need to give those terrible parts of ourselves love and patience, and a little bit of a slap on the wrist at times.
You have a beautifully unique singing voice, how have you honed your abilities over time, and who would you say originally inspired this style of singing?
When I was beginning my career at fairs, on sidewalks, outside amusement parks, I needed to grab attention. I couldn’t do it quietly. My voice came from being strained and honed over the course of eight hour days on the street corner. In the end, it worked well in my favor. I always admired the old blues singers like Ray Charles. Those who didn’t care if their voice broke, they sang with passion.
How long have you been a musician, and are there any areas of music you still want to develop or improve?
I’ve been playing the piano since five, but didn’t really come into my skin as a songwriter and performer until around the age of twelve. I’ve played a myriad of instruments but the one aspect of music is love to succeed in someday would be composing for large orchestral ensembles.
What made you decide to join the US army, and in what ways has the experience affected you so far as an individual and as an artist?
I think it’s important for everyone to serve their people, their country, in some way. For me, I can spare my time to give to the people. Since I’ve joined, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of silence. Even in training surrounded by heavy simulated rounds, my head goes into a silent space where I can think. My music since has taken on some more depth, as I grow a wider depth of understand and breadth of knowledge.
In my job, as a Combat Medic, we are taught to practice empathy and patience. Because of this, my music has become less ‘angsty’ as I start to think about what’s more important, what my role is as a potential life saver.
You put a lot of yourself into your music, this latest song in particular delves quite deeply into your personal feelings. Why do you think today’s society struggles so much with feelings of anxiety and depression, and what do you think we can do to improve the situation?
I think a large part stems from not really spending time with ourselves, being alone. Everyone seems to be afraid of being alone, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. More people, especially young people, need to have that drive to say “this too shall end”. More people need to wake up each morning, even when they don’t want to, and kick that day’s ass. Accomplishment, personal courage, is the greatest cure for depression.
Do you get much time to perform live and to record new music when you’re not serving?
Right now, in training and afterward, the Army is a 24/7 job. On the weekends I do spend some time to write, unfortunately for now my releases will be slow to come, but high quality.
What’s the songwriting process like for you, and when and where do your lyrics tend to emerge?
I could be in the middle of marching in formation or on the ground in the woods. I am seldom near an instrument, so generally my music comes to me when it feels like it. If something is bothering me, or maybe feeling amazing, I will write a quote about the feeling in my notebook and branch off of that.
What are some of the most important values for you that you wish to express or present in your music?
Of the values I’ve been taught here, and learned throughout life, one of the most important is personal courage. Waking up each morning, sometimes throughout the night, because of a sense of duty or pride or just necessity, is so important. Knowing that you’re strong enough to hop out of bed, say “Good morning, shoes!” And head out the door at a moment’s notice. Drive, motivation, that feeling of “I want this” is what I hope people can feel after listening to my track. It may not always look or sound glorious, but we are always fighting with ourselves.
What is it about music and making music that calls out to and connects with you?
I love making people happy. Since I was young, I was performing for classes, schools, family and friends. My music was a great outlet and a way to succeed with that goal in mind.
What are your hopes for the future?
I will continue to serve my country, and release music. I have no specific plans for my music, other than releasing as often as possible and doing my duty as a soldier and a performer.
What’s the best thing people can do to support you right now?
Just keep listening, spread the music while my performing time is limited. Let me know how my music effected them and just reach out. I love meeting fans, it makes my day.
What’s something about Grant Smith that most people don’t know?
I’m colorblind! That’s about all I can think. If you want to know something about me, listen to my music – I’m an open book. I love the outdoors, I love people, and not so much the color red (maybe if I could see it I would like it).
If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would it be – and why?
If I could write one song with Ed Sheeran, Ray Charles, or maybe Etta James – I would be a happy camper.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks again for the opportunity to speak! Hope to be coming back with great news and more releases!
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