A Rocking Sound

The grouping of Bruce Smith, Zeke and Spencer Jarmon, Conner Church, and Grammy-winner Randy Caballero forms The Bruce Smith Band, who first joined together back in 2004. Bruce Smith, the singer/songwriter headlining the band, has followed quite a path to reach his position in this acclaimed roots-Americana band: landscaper, congressional staffer, gubernatorial volunteer organizer, all before his current success as a musician. Now based in Austin, Texas, Bruce led the band to perform at a Lubbock tribute to the great Buddy Holly back in early September. Holly, whose personality has extended far beyond his tragically short life, is among Smith’s principal influences, and his museum was the spur for the song “59 Stratocaster” on the band’s album Til the Wheels Fall Off from Blackwall Records. In light of both the poignant song and the Lubbock tribute, Jupiter Index wanted to ask Bruce Smith a few questions about the events and the music. He was kind enough to reply.

Kevin LaTorre: How old were you when you first heard Buddy Holly’s music? Do you remember your first reaction to it?
Brian Smith: I was probably around 6 or 7...I just thought it was so lively and exuberant, infectious and made you move

Can you describe the atmosphere in the Cactus Theater in Lubbock when you paid your tribute to Buddy Holly on the 82nd anniversary of his birthday?
For me, the atmosphere was one of utmost respect and reverence...to be included in this celebration of Lubbock's most favorite son on his birthday, with some of Lubbock's most talented performers, was a most tremendous honor and privilege...and being welcomed so graciously by Darryl Holland (owner of Cactus Theatre), Don Caldwell (a Lubbock music icon) and all of Don's assembled singers, musicians and crew was beyond special and heartwarming...the crowd was most generous and appreciative and meeting a lot of them afterward was most gratifying...was really cool to hear that the "Buddy" signature that adorned the stage was the same sign they have been using for some 25 years or more...the initial respect and reverence transformed into the joy and abandon of playing to honor one of the all time greatest practitioners of rock 'n' roll music there will ever be...

Do you have much history with the Lubbock musicians who headlined that tribute with you at the Cactus Theater?
It was my first time meeting all of them and they could not have been more kind or generous...

Did anything else at the Buddy Holly Museum inspire you?
Just being there with all the memorabilia and stories and history was absolutely magical...I will say the year before when I played at the Buddy Holly Center/Museum for Buddy's birthday was overwhelming in playing for his lovely widowed bride, Maria Elena, and Buddy's brother, Larry (who gave him his first guitar) along with Duane Eddy and Kimmie Rhodes...

Can you describe the experience of writing music in the same land where Holly himself wrote?
I can't...Buddy Holly is one of the most amazing artists we will ever see...his impact on my life and music is more than profound...I am in awe of aspiring to capture any percentage of connection with an audience that Buddy Holly did, and forever will do, with all who are fortunate enough to hear his music

How would you compare the Detroit music scene you grew up in with the Austin scene where you are now?
When I was growing up in the Detroit area, Motown and soul music was grooving right along with some great rock and roll and blues music and I think everything was positively influenced by that cross pollination, Country Joe called in Rock and Soul music...in Austin, I think blues, country, bluegrass, r&b and rock'n'roll are all coming together in an Americana, roots type vibe...there's a lot of different styles represented and all incorporate the various influences into their own form.

Why do you value expressing your personal experience in your music?
It's very therapeutic and cathartic and it's tremendously satisfying...to have anyone say that one of your songs touched them or influenced them is a reward without measure...I am first and foremost a music fan...if I am able to impart to someone else what music has done for me, then that is a tremendous blessing
Have you written or performed tributes to any other of your musical influences (Sinatra, the Beatles, etc.)?
I wrote a song called Elvis & Marilyn and there are allusions to my heroes in a lot of my songs...in '59 Stratocaster there is an allusion to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, "smilin' gently to that heavenly band"...

Is there any specific place that you prefer for writing new music? (And what is your song writing process like for you?)
When I first wake up seems to be the favored time right now...I wake up with an idea and try to flesh it out before the distractions of the day begin...but any time any where, just trying to grab those songs that Bill Monroe said are out there in the air...

Talk about your recent work with the music producer David Z (Prince, Etta James and A ha), what was that like for you? (What was the creative process like?
Another tremendous and humbling honor...his concentration and focus and musical sensitivity was something to behold and be a port of...at one point he took a plastic pill container and reduced the amount of pills to get the right sound he wanted for added percussion...I was in awe and amazement for the whole process...he also couldn't have been more kind or gracious

Which song still stays with you from the recording process? And why? 
They all do...there all so close to me and to hear them get developed and come to life is a dream come true...
'59 Stratocaster is especially that way because everything really came together so nicely to pay tribute to the Great
Buddy Holly, Spencer's guitar is just so pretty...30 Days and Elizabeth and Spring stand out and See You Walkin' from working with David Z...but believe me, they all mean a lot to me

Would you like to add anything more to the readers?
Just thanks so much for taking precious time to check out our music...time is tight and I appreciate the personal investment it takes to check out new and different things and all the better if that becomes a positive experience...it's always a two way street...and then always, the most important thing to one and all, Rock On!

by Kevin LaTorre