Local Artist Reaches Great Heights
Zak Smith, Jersey Americana Artist
By Dominique Vinas
Everyone has a dream, a goal they wish to achieve, or a statement they wish to make on the world. It’s true that everyone has their desires, but there are only a selected few who turn their thoughts into a full-fledged reality.
This takes not only a dream, but the passion and the patience to learn how to be the best.
Zak Smith, Jersey Americana artist and songwriter for 15 years, is a prime example of how dedication gets you to the top.
With inspiration from musicians like “The Clash” and “Woody Guthrie”, great writers like Joyce and Oscar Wilde, and even Martin Luther King Jr. and Emma Goldman, it’s no surprise this 31-year-old talent is making his mark in the music industry.
Smith takes pride in his music and his accomplishments, because it certainly didn’t all happen overnight.
Growing up as a child in Montclair, NJ, he was a reader who dreamed of becoming a writer. This dream of his consumed him so much that he taught himself how to play guitar solely through looking at old books, and he even perfected his voice all on his own, without any lessons.
Once Smith mastered these skills, he just had to get his name out there, and he was persistent.
As an 18-year-old college Freshman at Vassar College in Upstate New York, he began his music career by doing gigs at the local coffeehouse on open mic night.
After he became more recognized, he did countless amounts of shows in all different types of venues, big and small. He had a full catalog of songs and went on to record 5 albums and on EP.
The amazing thing about Smith is that he produces all of his own work.
In 2013, he won Best Male Vocalist at the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards and was also featured in the book “Are You Listening” (The top 100 Albums of 2000-2010 of NJ artists).
So what inspires such award-winning music?
“When I feel strongly about something, the best way I can express myself is through writing. It can be anything from girlfriends, things that are going on in the world, political topics and controversies, I express it all through songwriting,” said Smith.
Good music is what makes Smith “feel great”. He expresses how it changes dull, ordinary life into something exciting and new, and that’s what he hopes his fans experience while listening to his tracks.
When asked about his most recent album, Signs of Life, he had a lot to say. It was very different from the previous work he’s done. It was basically all acoustic and stripped down to its bare form because he wanted his fans to see a different side of him.
“I usually play a lot of full-band rock shows and I’ve recorded a bunch of full-band rock albums, so this is the most intimate album I’ve ever put out,” said Smith.
Smith feels that if a song is good, it will work without all the horn sections or guitar parts and if it doesn’t, then he gets suspicious about it.
He also has a lot of inspiration while putting his songs and albums together.
“I love the sound of Ray Charles and the Raelettes, and other groups where there’s three female backing vocalists, so I have a lot of that on the album,” said Smith.
Smith isn’t just a solo artist either; he’s actually a part of a band. They’re all from New York and live in Brooklyn, except for the bass player who lives in Queens.
“Pretty consistently the past couple years, I’ve been playing with an electric guitarist named Gavi Grodsky, a drummer named Keith Robinson, a keyboard player named Dov Manski and a bass player named Pete O’Neil,” said Smith.
He refers to all of them as “top notch musicians.”
He expressed how his band changes from show to show, and depending on the size of the venue they’re performing at, he has a close knit with a lot of musicians and switches off from time to time depending on circumstances.
Even though Smith has just finished his latest album, he never stops working and he is constantly evolving. He recently finished recording demos for a bunch of songs he wishes to put out as a full-rock album.
“Sonically, it will be a vast departure from Signs of Life, but it is certain to be the best stuff I’ve ever come up with,” said Smith.
Visit Zak Smith’s site below to learn more about him and purchase his new album, Signs of Life.