British Columbian native Bonn Smith was living the dream. He had landed a gig as a VJ on Muchmusic when he was abruptly dismissed from his job. So what happened next? Smith embarked down the road he is currently walking, that of musician.
Smith retreated to his home on Galiano Island, writing and recording his debut effort Secret Lives. The relaxed atmosphere of his surroundings combined with the indirect influence of a musician like Jack Johnson definitely comes through each of the songs on Secret Lives.
Bonn recently took the time to chat with the MusicNerd Chronicles with respect to where he’s been and where he’s going:
What role did where you grew up play in shaping who you are today?
Growing up on Galiano Island, BC completely shaped who I am as a person, and an artist. The islands are a very special place and I feel blessed to have grown up in a community that puts such a great emphasis on the arts. Unlike most kids, who walk a couple blocks or hop on a city bus to get to school, I took a boat. It was a grueling one hour commute each way! Sometimes we’d pass by huge pods of killer whales though so there’s an upside to everything I guess.
Did growing up there play any part in influencing your music?
My album, Secret Lives, was recorded on Galiano Island, in a small studio which sat directly on the ocean. In between recording sessions, or while my producer was mixing I would usually grab my guitar and head to the beach. The island definitely wove itself into the album, there are two very reggae-infused tunes (Far From Home & Hitchhike Bound). Far From Home was actually written during the recording process, a collaboration between myself and Daniel Elmes (my producer). Dan has an impressive history in reggae music, having even played with The Wailers.
What did you grow up listening to? Do you come from a musical family?
I grew up listening to all different kinds of music, from stuff like the Eagles to chill folk (Jack Johnson) and lots of hip hop. I enjoy jumping from genre to genre, as there’s so much to learn from each type.
My dad played guitar and sang my sisters and I to sleep fairly often when we were growing up. I like to think that’s why I got interested in playing – doesn’t every kid want to grow up to be like his ol’ man? My sister plays casually, and my Poppa (Grandpa) makes the most beautiful guitars from scratch! He’s made me two over the years, one steel string and one nylon. He picks the wood, bends it into shape, and even inlays amazing designs of nature, birds etc on the neck using mother of pearl. I’m very lucky to have two of these priceless guitars.
Do you see your dismissal from Much as having been a blessing of sorts?
I believe that being let go from MuchMusic was a blessing in disguise. At first I was completely in shock, I couldn’t believe that my life as a VJ was over as quickly as it had come. After the news I fled back to the island in an attempt to process what had happened and reevaluate what to do next in life. The answer became quite apparent when I realized that the only time I was truly happy was when I was songwriting and playing my guitar.
At that point, did you feel you had nothing to lose by pursuing a career in music?
I can remember the moment when I realized that music was the answer for me. I was at home on Galiano, writing what is now known as The Cell – I had just finished improvising the chorus when I literally stopped and said aloud, “I can do this. I can be a musician. I am a musician.” Recording my album was the obvious next step, so I started researching producers – and two weeks later, it was underway.
What plans do you have when it comes to promoting Secret Lives?
Promoting Secret Lives has been a very fulfilling experience. I’m currently a marketing student at the Business school at the University of British Columbia, and it’s been great fun applying what I’ve learnt in the classroom towards my music career. My degree hasn’t focused on the music industry at all, but many of the same principles apply, although I strongly believe that all success really boils down to is persistence and a strong sense of self.