Smooth Hound Smith Keeps Versatility As A Focus
Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle-Smith first met in California. He was just leaving for Nashville to start a musical career. But some long phone conversations and continuous text messages kept the two in contact and soon she'd traded one driver's license for another. The couple began playing shows, married and went on the road with the Dixie Chicks.
They recorded two albums, including 2016's Sweet Tennessee Honey — which features a guest turn from Chicks' vocalist Natalie Maines, as well as Sarah Jarosz and Jano Rix (The Wood Brothers) — and are working on a third.
Smooth Hound Smith performs at Barleycorn's on Saturday, March 24 and at the Dyck Arboretum in Hesston on Sunday, March 25.
Jedd Beaudoin: How did going in to make a second record differ from the first time. Some acts never get to that second record.
Zack Smith: I've heard a bunch of people say it and I like repeating it: You have your entire life to write your first record and six months to write your second record. That was how we felt. We booked studio time and, a couple weeks out, we realized we didn't have enough songs. We buckled down, finished ‘em and a lot of ‘em we tweaked in the studio. We ran out of money toward the end and did a few in our living room. It's kind of a mishmash of styles and genres and vibes on that record. Caitlin and I both hate albums that are the same top-to-bottom, everything's the same tempo, the same vibe. We like our record to sound like a really great playlist or mix CD.
Listening to the two records, one thing that has struck me has been the variations in mood. It occurred to me that you're probably people who grew up listening to albums and the arc or an album.
Caitlin Doyle-Smith: That's definitely true. Zack is a millennial. I am not.
ZS: [Laughs.] I am not a millennial.
CDS: You are. But we grew up listening to albums. It's important to us to have a listening experience from start-to-finish, top-to-bottom. Both of us grew up listening to the radio and CDs and vinyl. It's a little bit of a different experience for us.
I have heard some people say that CDs may no longer move in storefronts, but at shows, they're something that people continue to pick up for whatever reason, like a souvenir. Do you find that to be true?
CDS: I think when you'd go into Wherehouse or Tower Records, a lot of times you'd have an idea of the music you wanted to buy. I don't think, for most shoppers, there was a lot of impulse buying. Nowadays, if people go to a show, they're already invested, they can spend $10-20 and have a CD. There's something about being able to hold it, look at it, put it in your CD player. It feels right.
ZS: The tactical experience. A lot of times we end up signing it and I think a lot of people just like to have that little keepsake. They like to look at our picture and keep it under their pillow. [Laughs.]
It's pretty hard to sign an MP3
ZS: Even signing a download card is pretty lackluster.
I was asking you about the emotional arc of a record. How does that translate to putting together a live show?
CDS: That's a tough question.
ZS: This is something we think about all the time. It really depends on the live show. The Prairie Window Concert Series is a seated show. It allows us a little more breathing room. Those are fun because we get to tell stories about things we've seen or funny things on the road. Then we also get to sort of rock out. I find those shows to be a wider breadth of experience for the listener. We also like to play rock ‘n' roll rock club bar shows. It's zero to 60 the whole time.
CDS: It's good to be versatile because we have fans that follow us around and see us in different types of atmospheres. They'll say, "Oh, we saw you playing at this club in Chicago and you rocked out." And then they'll come back and see us at this concert series where we're telling stories. I think it's good to be versatile like that, especially for a listener and audience member.
ZS: It keeps it interesting for sure.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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