We had the good fortune of connecting with Shevy Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shevy, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am from the prairie land of central Kansas- a little town called Haven (unofficial town slogan is “just one letter away from Heaven!”). Most of my family are all makers and creators, but for very practical reasons. Everything they make feeds, houses, or improves the life of another. I think watching my mom and dad continually take raw materials and resources and craft them into the most useful pieces of our lives impacted the way I make music and art. My dad is a master carpenter, but my mom knows just as much about it- and he really appreciated that about her which was fortunate to see that mutual respect growing up. They hand-built my childhood home side-by-side, and their projects were their pleasure. Now, I live in the heart of downtown LA, but my ethos is pretty much identical. I love creating from scratch… making a beat and then layering bass, keys, guitar, and weird self-sourced sounds over it. Early in my career, I was usually brought in as the lyricist in co-writes, but now I do equal parts lyrical work and producing. I feel useful when I’m finishing ideas in the recording studio, and oftentimes that spills over into my sculpture world. My art practice utilizes woodworking and sewing… so essentially I am still filling most of my days with the things I loved most as a child- music, craft, and fabric.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I signed my first publishing deal as a teenager, so I never really had a “pre-industry” life. I have a massive interest in processes and am quite meticulous and detailed by nature. I think being able to apply that with versatility has been my comparative advantage in my career. Musically, I’ve been on the writer side, the touring artist side, the musician side, and the producer side. So by this point I feel I can sit with an artist and their team and kind of know how to provide the result that each party needs. I love getting lost in guitar parts and reverb plugins… but I also really dig the psychological and relational parts of working with artists. I’ve also created a number of songwriting programs both for private practice and use in public schools; I’ve found I love teaching beyond what I can express. Helping a kid write her first song is just never not the most rewarding thing in the world! I’m at an exciting juncture again in my career, because I now have this viable visual art practice growing in tandem with my audio career. The pieces I’m building are outgrowth of things I’ve made for my own purposes over the years. The difference is now I am realizing that there is a commercial interest and excitement around these ideas. So, I’m putting on my entrepreneurial glasses and paying more attention to the cost of materials and sourcing- and cooking up some weird little social campaigns which I’ll employ to launch in the first quarter of 2021. I want my marketing to be art, too. I don’t mind tedious tasks- they satisfy my desire for processes. So I’ll be doing a thousand little business details over the holidays.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love guests. I’m going to pretend that said visit is in non-Covid times and get wild. I would start with a hike up Eagle Rock in my beloved Topanga Canyon. I lived there for a decade and could not recommend the mountain air more highly- especially after a flight. Then we’d cruise down Tuna Canyon for the panoramic view of the Pacific and head to Malibu for the day. Picking up a few breakfast burritos at the stand by the hardware, we’d journey to Point Dume. The rest of the day would involve nothing but swimming and sunning on that perfect bluffy beach. The rest of the time would be spent gallivanting around LA proper. I am the hugest fan of my city and get my bon vivant on whenever possible. On the west side, we would hit Felix and Caffe Delfini for Italian and Salt Air for ambience. Cassia is also a winner. I don’t really shop a lot of clothing retail because the sample sale life in this city is too alluringly sensible. So, I would definitely check my sources to see if the Cooper Building or 260 have anything good going brand-wise. On the way back downtown, I would recommend one little shop, though- Salt Surf in Culver, for their perfect sweats and tees. They get it. Once downtown we would be strictly on foot. The Broad and MoCA are easy, world-class, and so satisfying. I love happy hour at H&H Churrascaria, sushi from KazuNori, and the secret best rooftop view of the city is Sibling Rival at The Hoxton. (They also have a brunch pizza that is immaculate.). At some point, my labrador, Brook, and I always end up with guests at the Broadway Zinqué location for wine and their most perfect dish called “le bowl”. If the Clippers are playing at Staples, I would try to snag tickets to that… I love them, they are scrappy and clearly not the favored child in these parts. After that, the night inevitably ends with wine on the rooftop of my building with snacks and conversation. The LA rooftop life is really unrivaled and honestly tends to provide all my favorite moments with guests.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I will be eternally shouting out John DeNicola. John was my first producer when I was 16 years old, and he was so classy and patient in making sure I had an understanding of the process and a say in the sound. I didn’t realize back then how extraordinarily lucky I was to have my formative experiences in the studio with such a kind and positive person. John worked in the coolest studios in Manhattan with the raddest studio players- so, by proxy, he also gave me the most fabulous introduction to working in New York. He really set me up to always feel at home and knowledgable in any studio or session. He and his wife Debra are dear friends of mine to this day. They were my first examples of “the industry” and set the bar for talent and integrity ultra high. He recently released a solo record with his renditions of his huge hits like, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes”… I highly recommend!
all images by Vivienne Lilac