Jamison Smith has been a consistently active part of the Upstate music scene for over 15 years, and has hosted Sunday Songwriters at Brickhouse Pizza for ten years. He’s one of the few musicians I know who has kept this level of involvement going for the long haul, and he does it while working in the field of mental health/addictions treatment, AND while raising a family-a combination which in my mind makes him a music scene superhero!
Q) What motivates you to stay involved with performing and hosting as you juggle your work and family schedule?
A) It all means so much to me that I feel blessed and honored to be able to do it or be a part of it. My family, my job, the music and my friends that are involved in the music are really a big part of my identity. I think I’d have a vacuum in my life without any of that..Also, having a very understanding wife that trust and loves me enough to allow me to do what I love that is probably most essential thing in my life that allows me to manage everything.
Q) What’s your earliest musical memory?
A) Singing in church and at home listening to “Old Flame” by Alabama and “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers while my mom played it over and over on her old record console.
Q) Were you involved in music in school?
A) I started singing in choir at church very young. Took some piano lessons, but never got into it. I broke my foot playing football when I was 12 and had to sit a lot. I started beating on my dad’s old Fender acoustic. I loved that guitar so my mom and dad bought me a Peavey T-27 electric and guitar lessons from Gene Wyatt. I regret it now, but I wanted to play like Slash, so I quit after a year or so. I still can’t play like Slash and missed out on a great opportunity to learn, but I would sit in my room and play all day and night after school. I was really quiet and shy in high school, but was in chorus and when the teacher found out I played she asked me to play in a band, mostly country, for a school show. I was writing these cheesy love songs, which is hilarious because I’d never even had a girlfriend, but the band liked it and so I played one of the songs at that school show. Most people didn’t even know I played guitar before that, but all the sudden I was getting asked to parties and to hang out at people’s houses… it was strange and awkward for me at the time, honestly, but there’s a good chance I would have never played outside my bedroom if not for that. The next year we got asked to play the same show and we did Guns n Roses and Nirvana covers which didn’t go over as well with the parents, but we had a ball and I was bit. All I wanted to do was play. I actually wrote a song for our graduation. It was pretty sappy, but I guess it probably should have been for that age and time period.
Q) What are a few songs you gravitate toward whenever you play?
A) Covers… Bill Withers stuff, Van Morrison stuff, Radiohead, Beatles, and Merle Haggard. Originals… Oh Stormy Nights, Tomorrow and Today, Tommy Song, and lately Baseball with a 6 Year Old.
Q) Which current artists inspire you?
A) Dawes, and Jason Isbell.
Q) How did Sunday Songwriters get started?
A) Haha… necessity. I started it to make money for daycare every week just before my son was born. It was just the open mic at first.
Q) Who are a few musicians which have been a part of Sunday Songwriters since the beginning?
A) Ha… me. A lot of people came for a while, but for the whole 10 years. Robbie Caldwell was a big help at the start, but moved to Austin. John Scoggin was out early on and still plays. Donovan Brooks, Tim Bethea (once he moved back from TN). Matthew Kelly and Angela Easterling have been playing a long time.
Q) How would you describe the music at Sunday Songwriters?
A) We have always had mostly solo acts that play mostly original material. There are exceptions, but very few people play covers and if they do, they are usually fresh interpretations. I really try to encourage everyone to do original material, without discouraging covers.
Q) What inspires you as a songwriter?
A) I’m not sure. Every song is different. When I started it was events in my life mostly or emotions I had, like a crush on a girl, frustration, and a lot of mimicking other artists lyrics. Now, it’s a lot of things I see and really a lot about how others see and feel. Counseling has impacted that. Trying to figure out others emotions and empathic is a lot of my songwriting. But it usually starts with a story I hear or an event and then I take the creative liberty to invent the story, though sometimes it’s completely invented.
Q) What advice would you offer for new songwriters?
A) I don’t know that my advice is worth much, but I would say do it for the right reasons. Inspiration, creativity, and expression are way more important than being rich and famous, in my opinion. I think if you’re gonna be any kind of artist it should be some internal drive that moves you to do so. External motivations are too unpredictable and unreliable because they are external and mostly out of your control. I think you should do whatever it is you choose to do because you can’t imagine your life without doing it. I don’t know if you can find true peace and contentment without that.
You can see Jamison host and perform on Sunday nights at Brickhouse Pizza in Spartanburg each week, starting at 7:30. He also performs in Milgram’s 27, bigFoLK, Ragamuffins, and Brandy Lindsey and the Punch. Catch Milgram’s 27 at Main Street Pub on 9/1, and Brandy Lindsey and the Punch at the Peddler on 9/27 (both in Spartanburg).
Alison Hughey, Contributor
Alison has been involved in performing arts throughout her life. She is a graduate of Converse College & a music therapist. She also serves as the Vice President of Carma, Inc. Alison covers Upstate Performing Arts stories for Upstate Exposures. Contact her at AlisonDTurner@Mail.com