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Late Bloomer

College jam sessions
led Smith on music career

By Jarrett Boyd
Contributing Writer


CARROLLTON, Ky. • "You won't find out about Steve Smith by talking to him. You have to listen to his music to know what he's thinking," says Stan Boyd, a friend of Smith's who has been listening to this talented Carroll County songwriter for several years.

Steve Smith

"He is a real intellect, with a deep spirituality, and it's revealed through his lyrics," Boyd said. Whether hunched over his guitar or caught up in the rhythm of his percussion, Smith looks more like a graduate of the Charles Atlas Course for total muscular development than the accomplished musician and songwriter that he is.
But just as laboring over the words to his original compositions is an intellectual exercise, so, too, is keeping fit to this Carroll County High School graduate who attended Georgetown College on a football scholarship and today stays in shape by rock climbing, biking and farming. In between, he works in the wet chemistry department of North American Stainless.
Those who have seen Smith perform in person or who have bought his CDs might be surprised to learn that he did not start playing the guitar until he was 29 years old. "It wasn't until I was in graduate school at Eastern that I learned to play," said Smith.
During his time at Eastern Kentucky University, Smith met Dr. Wayne Jennings, who hosted regular gatherings of guitar players. "I thought they were the coolest things ever. Everyone traded songs and jammed for the afternoon. I realized then that a person could truly make music, and from there, something just clicked."
After leaving Eastern, Smith continued to just "noodle around, and write a few songs."  When he heard about the program at the local public library called ėCelebrate Carroll County," he ventured out to perform.
Shortly thereafter, he met Kevin Stonerock, producer of Carrollton's outdoor drama, ėThe Point in Time."
"Joining the cast and singing in the group ėBottom Dollar' with Stonerock and his wife, Laurie, and John and Jane Harrod, changed my life."
Now with a showcase for his original songs and a group of talented musicians  with whom to perform, Smith entered a period of intense creativity. Bottom Dollar made an album titled, "The Story in the Stone," featuring several of his songs.
"I still have people call to see if we have made another CD or if we are going to be performing anywhere, but it isn't logistically possible for us to get together very often," he said. Still, they have worked together on other albums. Smith's first solo CD, "gods were there," was produced by Stonerock with the rest of the group providing back-up vocals.
Stonerock, who has worked in Nashville, Tenn., and produced several CDs, says of  Smith, "He is one of the most creative performers I have ever worked with " truly a wordsmith, and I love that his melodies are so unpredictable."
While the first CD has a folk flavor, Smith's interest in percussion and his move toward a harder-driving sound is reflected in his second effort, "Strange Child." On this CD, Smith worked with Beau Haddock, a Lexington musician and a founding member of The Little River Band.
"Steve is one of the most genuine musicians I have ever met,"Haddock said. "I really admire his artistic endeavor; it's not part of the mainstream." Smith is quick to give credit to those who influenced him. "Paul Simon, Dylan, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor," he says. "The acoustical performers today are standing on their shoulders, whether we know it or not. I really struggle with the lyrics, but like Paul Simon says, everything begins with the melody."
Today, Smith works from home, a log house in the middle of his family's 38 acres near Ghent, Ky. He and his wife, Kim, director of nursing at the Carroll County Hospital, incorporated a recording studio into the dwelling when they built it just three years ago. Lately, he has been working with Boyd, Scott Robinson and his brother, Brad, to mix the spoken word with music. He is also working with a story teller, Laurie Schimmoeller, from Monterey.
"I would love to do an album of children's songs, and collaborating with her seems a good starting place." Smith wishes more people had access to his music, but admits, "I am terrible at marketing."
Whether he has commercial success or not, Smith has a compulsion to create. He continues to be inspired by his wife and three children: Jessie, a high school senior; 14 year-old son, Duncan; and 12-year-old daughter, Bailey. "Strange Child" and "gods were there" are available at Noe's Video Radio Shack outlet in Carrollton or may be ordered directly from Smith at Box 513, Ghent, KY 41045. "The Story in the Stone" is sold out. 

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