LA based singer and songwriter Grant Smith is an artist who offers an undeniably unique and captivating approach to original music. After revelling in the beauty of Broken Eyes and his most recent release Better Up There, it was a joy to be able to chat with him and find out more about how his style and his passion for music came to be. Here’s the interview in full.
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Grant Smith – it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to chat with you, thank you for your time.
Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to speak.
How long have you been making music, and who or what first inspired you to start?
I remember I was five years old, I saw my grandpa playing the keys at a Christmas party, and I tried it out for myself. I knew I would be playing for the rest of my life. My grandpa gave me his piano and the rest is history.
Your voice is incredible, were you trained vocally? Who do you think inspired the style in which you sing and perform?
Thank you, again it’s appreciated. I’ve never had any formal training but I consider my history in busking as what formed my voice. When you’re singing in a crowded area to complete strangers, you have about thirty seconds to amaze them and you have to be heard. That’s why people like Ray Charles and Ed Sheeran have always inspired me. They have powerful voices and when they sing – people listen.
What does Better Up There mean to you?
Throughout life there are screenshot moments I can’t forget. Things someone did to me or a way in which I betrayed myself. I make the mistake of letting it shut me down to an extent. When I’m in those weak moments I feel safer ‘up there’ in my head than in my heart.
All of your songs seem to deal with slightly off-centre or unexpected subject matter. Your lyrics come through as completely fresh, unusual yet effective and emotional all at once. How does your songwriting process generally begin, and how do you know when a song is finished and ready to be shared?
I generally start with an idea based on a feeling and the song forms itself from there. A finished song might be totally different in subject matter and melody than what I sat down to write. When I finish a song it feels… full. There’s no more work I can do that would really benefit it without changing the song entirely. The song has a tendency to write itself and I don’t want to interfere.
Does your creativity manifest itself in any other ways, outside of making music?
I’m passionate about painting and design, but music is my main mistress.
If someone only has time to hear one song, to get an idea of what you’re about, which song would you recommend they listen to, and why?
I’d recommend Drug, from the Empty Words album. It’s my personal favorite, and probably the best song I’ve written. I’m not sure there are many who would agree with me, everyone seems to have a different idea. That song is the essence of me, playing piano and singing – exactly how I started.
What do you hope listeners get from your music?
An escape from whatever is holding them down. Or maybe to know someone else feels the same way.
If you had to choose one song from throughout time that you wish you could have written, what would it be – what comes to mind, and why do you think it connects so intensely?
Take Me To Church by Hozier. Melodically, and lyrically, that may be the most brilliant enigmatic song that has ever been written.
How important is live music to you, and what can audiences expect from a live show?
If it weren’t for my fantastic producer, Marc Solomon, I would despise the recording process. My music career was born in a live setting, and I’d much rather play to a crowd of twelve than be streamed by millions. Live performances are where you get every bit of energy I have. It’s difficult to get the same effect with a recording. My best attempt was the Empty Words album. I recorded the entire record in one take, and that’s how music should be. You get one chance to connect.
If you could perform absolutely anywhere, for one night only – any event or venue in the world – where would you choose?
The rooftop the Beatles played on. Just me and a piano, I think that would be wild.
What are your plans for 2018, and what’s the bigger picture?
I’ve released three singles in the last quarter of 2017, and another is on the way. 2018 is all about content. Expect a lot of releases, and a lot of presentation.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Again, thanks for the opportunity to speak. I’ve always loved the interview process.
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