Founding member and guitarist for rock group “Heaven and Earth”, Stuart has been making music since the 70’s and has worked with numerous artists such as, Joe Lynn Turner, Ritchie Sambora, Glenn Hughes, drummer Carmine Appice, among many others. Here, Stuart chats with us about his early musical years, Heaven and Earths new album “Dig”, his guitars, and much more.
June 12, 2013
Guitarhoo!: To begin, what intrigued you to get into music and when did you first pick up guitar?
Stuart Smith: I first became intrigued by the guitar when I heard “Telstar” on the radio and then when I was nearly 8 years old some friends of my fathers on the RAF base gave me a Spanish guitar as they were being transferred overseas and couldn’t take it with them.
G!: Who were some of your early musical influences?
SS: Originally classical music but then after I got turned onto Rock & Roll I loved bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Free, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Groundhogs, Focus, etc.
G!: You met with Ritchie Blackmore at an early age and he became a mentor. How did you guys meet and what is some of the most valuable advice Ritchie has passed on?
SS: We originally met at a party after a Deep Purple concert but became better friends later on. He was the one who suggested I move to America to pursue music. I would say the best advice he gave me was, “It’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out”.
Ritchie Blackmore and Stuart Smith
G!: When did you join your first band and what kind of music were you playing?
SS: My first real professional band was Sidewinder when I was 17 and we played rock
G!: Did you release any albums with your early groups or did you mainly tour?
SS: We mainly toured but there was one album released.
G!: In 1998, yourself and Joe Lynn Turner contributed the track “Alma D’ Alma” to the “Sounds of Wood & Steel” album by Taylor guitars. The song has a nice breezy Nouveau Flamenco vibe to it with some blues licks interspersed. What inspired this song and who’s taking the first main solo and who’s taking the second?
SS: While I was in the middle of recording the first Heaven & Earth album, Joe Lynn Turner flew in to stay with me to write and record. At the time Taylor Guitars had a deal with Windham Hill to bring out this compilation of acoustic songs and they asked me to participate so I invited Joe to do it with me. I had the main riff, Joe came up with the bridge and he also came up with the title, which means “Soul to Soul”. As far as I remember Joe does the first solo and I do the second. I haven’t heard it in a long time.
“Alma D’ Alma” by Stuart Smith and Joe Lynnn Turner
on Taylor Guitars compilation album “Sounds of Wood & Steel”
G!: You’ve just released your 3rd album “Dig” with “Heaven and Earth”. How would you say your musical vision and sound has evolved from the bands debut?
SS: I’m not really sure it has. I tend not to follow musical fashions and just play what I want which is rock. As for the sound we recorded “Dig” uses the old 2 inch tape which, in my opinion, gave us a much warmer sound.
Heaven and Earth EPK Video
G!: The video for the first single “No Money No Love” is really well done, great groovin’ tune. Who did you work with on the video and how long did it take to complete?
SS: The video for “No Money, No Love” was directed by Glen Wexler, who designed our album cover and was produced by Jeremy Alter and Meiert Avis who did the videos for Evenescence and Paramour. The video was shot over a 3 day period. The first shoot was in Fuch’s Mansion on Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles and the rest was filmed in Quixote green screen studios in Burbank. Of course the post production work took a lot longer.
Heaven and Earth “No Money, No Love” Official Video.
G!: Will Heaven and Earth be touring for Dig, if so, where will fans be able to see you live?
SS: Definitely. We’re working on getting a booking agent right now.
G!: Which guitars are you recording and playing live with?
SS: On the recording I used a Strat, a Les Paul, a Telecaster, a Taylor Leo Kotke 12 string, and Babicz and a Breedlove acoustic. For live work I use a Strat and the Taylor.
G!: You’ve collaborated and performed with quite a few talented musicians throughout your career. Who would you drop everything to jam with if you had the chance?
SS: That’s a tough question. Not sure I’d drop everything as I’m playing with my dream line up now but I’d love to get to play with Jimmy Page or David Gilmore.
G!: After having a career spanning 4 decades so far, what would you cite as your fondest memory?
SS: Again, it’s all been fun but I would have to cite sharing the stage with Ritchie Blackmore, Paul Rodgers, Buddy Guy, Keith Emerson, Steve Lukather, Slash and David Paich would have to be up there.
G!: Looking at the local music scene where you started and compared to today, how would you describe the differences?
SS: It’s a lot more convoluted today. There’s so much rubbish out there now and way too many people in positions of power within the industry that don’t know the difference. When I started you had to be reasonably good to get a gig. Nowadays any idiot with enough money to do the “pay to play” thing can get up there and bore you to death for an hour. Most promoters today will cram 6 bands onto a stage in the course of the night just because they’ve been paid to put them there.
G!: Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to young musicians embarking on their journey?
SS: The first thing is what my father told me when I told him I was going to be a musician. He said “Do it well”. I think that applies to anything in life. Don’t get involved with drugs or drinking too much, they will destroy your creativity. Don’t waste your time with people who are constantly negative, they will bring you down to their level and dishearten you. Play your chosen instrument every chance you get but don’t be afraid to put it down and walk away from it for a while if you feel that you’re not progressing. Learn to play as many styles as possible. Practice! Always try to work with people who are better than you. Exercise and stay in shape, look like you’re meant to be on that stage, not like you’re no stranger to the buffet. Exercising will keep the mind clear as well. Try writing songs with as many people as possible. Believe in yourself and be prepared for a lot of rejection. Never give up and never, ever let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed. Enjoy the journey, it generally takes longer and is more interesting than the destination.
G!: Stuart thanks for taking out the time for this! Rock On!
Interview © 2013 Guitarhoo!