By BRUCE DENNILL
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Nathan Smith recently released two new singles – and a long-awaited album of original works. Closer is Smith’s first gospel release. Decisions is a song about love and relationships not always working out the way we think they should. The song was originally written many years ago – before Smith got married – and is about waiting for someone to respond to your feelings while still hurting from a previous relationship.
The single ties in with the rest of the album, Here’s To The Now, which is themed around the life stories of Smith and the people around him. The album came about, he says, because he musically wanted to share the stories close to his heart while doing what he does best – playing guitar.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
My father, Pat Smith, was the person, mentor and teacher that influenced me to play the guitar at first. He was such a fantastic musician and I had the direct privilege of being taught by him. He introduced me to the likes of Toto, Jimi Hendrix, and others, who then later carved my passion for music and guitar playing.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I think, fundamentally, it has stayed the same, but grown with the times, so to speak. It started as a challenge for me to get to the different milestones, then it later became more about the art form and expression.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
I don’t actually wish I wrote any other musician or writer’s song! Because it would be what it was then. But in light of the question, the song Stop This Train by John Mayer speaks to me, musically, lyrically and emotionally.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
In song arrangements, it’s of utmost importance connect with the lyrics. That way, the correct feel usually is applied. And in production, I think it is really important to do pre-production rehearsals to get a good idea of what sounds and vibe you want to create before tracking.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
It’s an equal balance for me, I first look at lyrics, then start carving the feel of the song, but I must say, my guitar parts and solos are a strong contestant here…
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
My Gibson Les Paul Custom Plus USA guitar. I inherited it from my father.
What are the stories behind Closer and Decisions – the genesis of the songs, the people involved, the muses behind their creation?
Closer is the one gospel song on the album. It’s a song about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s a song about keeping my focus on the the most important thing – Him – and the rest is just detail. Decisions is a song I wrote a good few years ago, about love not always going according to our preconceived ideas, and that love isn’t always on time. Toto somehow comes to mind…