The busy life of Jay Smith

Halifax musician Jay Smith certainly has his hands full these days.

Not only is the 32-year-old guitarist a father of two young children, he has a blossoming solo career that is starting to gain momentum, and also plays guitar as a member of Matt Mays band as well as in Matt Epp’s band. And did we neglect to mention that Jay is turning heads as a songwriter in his own right, having written with artists including Jimmy Rankin, Slowcoaster and Gordie Sampson?

The talented musician will be performing a solo set on Thursday evening at the Tide & Boar Pub in Downtown Moncton. Also performing is acclaimed lo-fi rockers Deer Tick while Jay will be pulling double duty, playing a set with Epp as well that evening.

Having got his start with Cape Breton rockers Rock Ranger, Smith joined Mays’ band prior to the recording of Mays’ 2008 effort Terminal Romance. Add in Jay’s performance commitments with Epp and one has to wonder when he can find the time to sneak away to write songs for himself.

“I write all the time,” Jay insists. “There is never a shortage of material.”

In August 2010, Jay released his self-titled debut. The 10 songs contained on the record are primarily guitar-driven rock songs that show that Jay’s solo work hasn’t fallen too far from the tree of his past.

“I have been heavily focused on songwriting for the past six or seven years,” he says. “But making records is so expensive and I just never had the money to do it right. With this record though, I had applied for funding for the record and ended up getting approved which gave me the confidence to finish the project.”

Asked if having the opportunity to write and perform with such a diverse range of bands and musicians ends up influencing his solo work, Jay admits that it is definitely the case.

“I am fortunate enough to know some amazing songwriters and always learn a few new tricks when I play with other artists as well.”

When talk turns towards whether Jay could see himself settling down to become a songwriter for others and leave band life behind, he realistically acknowledges that he is not necessarily “where the action is” for that to be an option.

“I have written songs for other people and some folks have done my stuff which I am all about,” he says. “I helped co-write (Cape Breton jam-rock band) Slowcoaster’s new single ‘BYO Life’ with Steven from the band.

“To write songs for a living though, I think that I would need to move to Nashville or Los Angeles; you really have to be where it is happening. It is a tough industry to get into and I really have no interest in moving anywhere like that.”

Article published in May 10, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript