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Smooth Hound Smith Put in the Work

East Nashville-based band, Smooth Hound Smith will be at The Southgate House Revival on Thursday, May 10th! Smooth Hound Smith is a foot stompin’ American roots and rock band founded by Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle-Smith. They perform a varied style of folky, garage-infused rhythm and blues. Using primal foot percussion, complex, fuzzed-out, finger-picked guitar patterns, warbled harmonicas, tasty harmonies, and syncopated tambourine, they are able to create something rugged and visceral.

They have traveled over 150,000 road miles, played over 800 shows in their tenure across America, Europe, and Canada, all in the last 5 years. They have played headlining shows, toured as support for the Dixie Chicks, The Record Company, The Secret Sisters, Lindi Ortega, Anders Osborne, and Jamestown Revival!

Even with all of their success thus far, Smooth Hound Smithare still very much DIY operation. Very impressive for what they have accomplished.

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We spoke to Zack prior to their show at SGHR and he had some great stories and advice for us!

To say that you have paid your dues is an understatement. Tell us about your journey…
We began playing together in 2012. I was doing a one-man-band-type of thing, playing foot percussion while singing, playing guitar, and harmonica when Caitlin and I met. She sat in with me on a few songs during a performance when she visited me in Nashville, then I moved back to Los Angeles to be with her, and we just kept doing it; I couldn't imagine playing shows without her. We both decided to commit to it, and, while living in LA, we hustled to get 3 hours-worth of material together (covers and originals) so that we could start playing the bar scene around town. The foot drums became a necessity due to the rowdy nature of the venues we were playing; they weren't true music venues, but more like bars that also had music. They were loud and raucous with lots of people talking and shouting. We couldn't go into places like that with sad, acoustic folk songs and try to win people over, and at that point we couldn't afford to split our meager earnings with a drummer and bassist, so we improvised, and I used my kick drum along with a foot-operated snare drum propped up on my homemade milk-crate-and-bungee-cord mount and started finger-picking guitar to have movement in the music with an alternating bass line. It worked well. It was frenetic enough to keep people intrigued and interested, and we could pull it off successfully as a two-piece. We basically hit the road after that, intermittently recording a few full-length records, and ended up settling in Nashville where we're now based.

Primal foot percussion? Tell me more…
Well, I'm not the best drummer, so I'm pretty limited with what I can do rhythm-wise with my feet, so we put a lot of attention in song arrangements. Caitlin's percussion adds a lot.

How was it to tour with the Dixie Chicks?
It was such a blast. Natalie Maines apparently heard us in the house music of a venue in LA we were set to play at, then used the music recognition app, Shazam, to find out it was us. She mentioned that she liked the music on Twitter, then we kind of struck up a friendship. She ended up doing guest vocals on our 2016 release Sweet Tennessee Honey, and shortly after, we saw that the Chicks were going on tour again, so we submitted as an opener. We ended up doing 21 shows with them domestically, and 4 shows up in Canada. It was definitely a far cry from the dive bars we started out playing, and since then, it's really hit home that we need to be professionals, so we try not to "car camp" in the van anymore. We used to sleep in a lot of Walmart parking lots...

What has been your craziest time on the road thus far?
Man... so many things. The Dixie Chicks thing was crazy. There's no way to prepare yourself for playing night after night in front of 20,000 people in arenas and amphitheaters. Before we did it, I tried to imagine what it would look like, and when we were actually there, side stage at the first show, it made my heart race like nothing else. We had a very short set, 20 minutes, I think, and we played all the songs so much faster due to the adrenaline, that I think we ended up doing 7 songs in 18 minutes, haha! Another crazy thing was back in the day, we used to play at this one bar in LA, and the patrons would get so crazy...like, the bar would be packed on a Wednesday night, and people would be blackout drunk. This one girl was on another planet and tried to stab a guy with a candelabra. The place had put them on their cocktail tables for ambiance! The next week we played there, and those were gone. The road is a crazy place.

Being that you are still very much a two-person DIY operation, it is very impressive of everything you have accomplished so far. What advice do you have for a local band just starting out?
We're actually very excited to be expanding our sound and bringing onboard more band members. We'll of course still play duo shows, but I'm really enjoying playing with a bass player and a drummer. I get to stand up, not do foot drums, and just focus on guitar and singing! As far as advice, the only thing I can say is that you have to put in the work. Play as many local shows as you can, try to build a following, and when you feel like you're performing at a high enough level, save money and go on tour. Don't go broke; it has to be sustainable. Also, it's important to understand every aspect of the business. Do your own press, book your own shows, advance them with the production guy, handle your own merch, etc. Do all that stuff at least for a little while so you learn the ins and outs and can appreciate what goes into it. Don't expect anyone to make you a success; it's on you.