1. Look forward to catching your performance here in Adelaide. I have seen and enjoyed all your past Adelaide gigs. This is the first time you will be appearing at The Trinity. Do you know much about the venue? It is a delightful space acoustically and the audience is always attentive and respectful ...and it's a church! Does performing in a church hold any trepidations for a troubadour like yourself?
Hi David, No, I don't know anything about the venue, but your description has me looking forward to it. I have a lot of experience playing in churches-it's a fairly common place to play in the States. I think it's more of a novelty for the audience than it is for me.
2. You will find our summer quite welcoming after viewing those snow bound scenes in the States! A former home ...New Orleans ...it must hold a special place in your heart ...and music. I have often wondered about New Orleans ...post Katrina. Have you been back? What is the spirit of the place like?
Yes, I've been back a number of times, and there is a lot of progress being made, though the biggest problem is still getting the people back ...they were scattered to every corner of the US, and a lot of them have no idea of how to get back ...a lot of them had never been out of Orleans parish in their lives ...but they're very high these days ...it was just Mardi Gras Season, and their football team just won the Super Bowl.
3. I remember at your last performance here, marveling over a shiny ultramarine acoustic guitar that you were playing ...and it didn't have a port. You must have quite a collection. Care to give us an insight into it.
I still have that guitar and another one just like it, but these days I'm playing a Collings twelve-fret cutaway that I'm in love with ...in fact I want them to build me another one just like it, in case something happens to this one. I still have most of the guitars I've ever owned, about fifteen of them, including a couple of old Epiphones that are sentimental favorites.
4. I'm curious, when you tour ...it's with how many guitars? ...and the guitar/s accompanying you on this tour?
Just one, the Collings.
5. Touring, travelling and performing ...it must be in your blood. For a solo performer like yourself though ... no troupe, no road crew, no entourage ...you see it as a blessing? Some would this isolation as a curse?
It's both, but on the whole I rather like it, and it's by far the most economical way to do it. I don't quite understand how groups manage to make a living, what with expenses being what they are.
6. Your song writing ...there is a literary side to it. Lyrics have a richness about them and there is a delightful play on words. It doesn't surprise me that you have contributed a short story to ''Amplified'', a collection of 15 short by songwriters such as Robbie Fulks and Mary Gauthier. Tell us about Amplified and your contribution. Are there some other Smither novellas in the pipeline?
The editors approached me about making a contribution, and it appealed to me because accepting the assignment would mean accepting a deadline. Deadlines are the way I get things done ...without them things just drag on forever and never seem to get finished. I've started a couple of other pieces, and if I can figure out a way to enforce a deadline they might get finished too.
7. Your latest album "Time Stands Still"...there is your engaging foot tapping rhythm and your mesmerizing finger picking ...and if there is any accompaniment by other musicians it is always so subtle and understated that it is barely noticeable. I did pick up in your engaging cover of Frank Hutchison's "Miner's blues'' something different. Some delightful cymbal tinkering and brushing! Have you ever entertained the prospect of "The Chris Smither Band"?
The cymbal tinkering on that piece is actually something called "prepared piano"...a grand piano with bits of metal and pipe laid
somewhat haphazardly across the strings. Impossible to replicate exactly. I did that record as a trio, with David Goodrich and Zak Trojano, and we've done a number of gigs together. Their playing is subtle, as you note, but I think that if you heard the tracks without them playing you would be astonished at the difference ...by how much they are actually doing.
8. I read somewhere that the album was recorded in just three days! I am fascinated by this. Other exquisite albums have been the outcome of a seemingly short time in the recording studio. Things must have really clicked in place or is this the norm for a Smither album? I suppose you want to be prepared but not to the extent where things get over rehearsed and over cooked!
You have it exactly right. I don't bring unfinished material into the studio, it's a waste of time and money, but I don't go over it too much with the band because ideally we want to capture the point at which everyone has just caught on to what the piece is about but hasn't finished exploring it .
9. Noticed another Dylan cover on your new album. Dylan must get peeved at how cover versions of his songs are greeted with more public acclaim than his originals!
Nice of you to say, but I doubt Bob Dylan gets peeved at much these days. If I had everyone under the sun covering my tunes I wouldn't care how much acclaim they got. I'd give 'em some myself.
10. Mississippi John Hurt, Lighting Hopkins, Fred McDowell, Son House ...I am sure they influenced and inspired you. Did you get to see or meet any of these greats of country blues?
I met and spent time with most of them, one of the exceptions being Lightning. Too bad, because he was one of my favorites and an enormous influence.
11. Hope you enjoy your Australian tour. Noticed you are playing some Festivals but also shows at The Brisbane Zoo, Joe's Waterhole, The Mechanics Institute, Trinity Church, Burke & Wills Winery, Northcote Social Club ...venues all hand-picked by you as inspiration for your next album right?
12. Now Chris, this is where you can be brutally honest. What has you said back home about Australia and Australian audiences?
In perfect honesty, nothing but good things. I've always been treated amazingly well in Australia, the audiences are among the best anywhere, and the country has a kind of wide-open energy that reminds me of the way the US was when I was a kid ...like anything is possible, anything can happen, and probably will.
13. Where to after your Australian tour? Projects that are in the pipeline for Chris Smither? Care to tell us about what 2010 has got in store for you?
Summer festivals in the US, an Irish tour, Spain, the Netherlands, Tonder Festival in Denmark, I'm keeping busy. I'm gonna get two weeks rest in the South of France too., That's a biggie.
Thanks Chris for taking time out to share some of your thoughts with the subscribers of "South Australian Roots and Blues".
Editor: SA Roots and Blues