Featured Artist of the Week: Jay Smith (Smitty)
Name: Jay Smith (Smitty)
Age: (Prefers to keep people guessing)
Instrument: Mainly guitar and vocals (can play several others)
When Jay Smith was in high school, the music teacher ran out of instruments for him to learn. He said he played his first show at the age of 14, got invited to play in bars when he was in college (such as The Brass Pub, which he's played at every Sunday for 20 years) and now he's a dad by day, musician by night. Smith, known more widely as Smitty, is a full-time musician and family man who says he deeply appreciates his wife's support (both lovingly and financially). He is currently working on an album that's been in progress for 10 years and will be heading to Nashville for a month in November to work on it. He says once that album gets done, he's hoping the opportunity will arise for him to fulfill an item on his bucket list: to play on The Grand Theatre stage.
How and when did you discover your love of music?
I was seven. I used to sit around and just watch family friends play at my (house). My parents would have parties all the time. They were hippies. So I was born in the 70s and they’d come over and I’d just watch my Dad’s friends sit around and play guitar and sing. I used to bang on pots and pans and cardboard boxes with wooden spoons. So I got a set of drums when I was seven. And I’ve literally loved music my whole life.
Is your family musical?
My uncle was my mentor really. But he passed away just this year. He was the kind of guy where you’d go to the house and he’d have banjos and guitars and fiddles and he’d just let you pick up whatever you wanted.
Are you an individual performer or are you part of a musical group?
Both. I’m solo most of the time because there’s no money in being in bands around here. But my band The Furleys is a trio.
What do you like about performing music?
First and foremost, I love the acoustic guitar. I love the acoustic guitar and everything about it. But then I like watching people’s faces sometimes when I’m playing, when they're singing along, but they’re also looking and going ‘how’s he playing all of those parts: singing, playing harmonica, doing it all at the same time?' I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything about music I don’t like. Except for bar owners sometimes.
What’s the biggest audience you’ve ever performed in front of?
Thousands of people. I’ve opened up for Blue Rodeo. I’ve opened up for Kim Mitchell. I’ve opened up for David Wilcox. I mean, they’re all big Canadian draws, right? Yeah, like, a few thousand (people).
Do you write your own music?
Yep… I haven’t written anything solid in about 10 years just because I was so content and happy with being married and having kids.
What musicians have influenced your music?
First and foremost, songwriting would be John Prine… He’s my biggest songwriting influence. But Blue Rodeo, Jim Cuddy and Greg Taylor. Ryan Adams. Currently I’m really digging a guy named Jason Isbell.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to him (Jason Isbell) a lot. And I’m back to – I used to be a big Wilco fan. And definitely Chris Stapleton.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
I’ve taken the microphone to the teeth before. Like, people coming up onstage and bumping into my microphone stand and hitting me in the mouth with it. That’s pretty embarrassing. Or, if I’m playing with the band, I’ve actually played and my guitar straps come off my guitar and my guitar pretty much fell and hit the dirt.