JOSH SMITH: Catching up with the Bluesy Axeman as He Hits the Road

“The best advice I can give is do it because you love it, because you have to, because it’s so much fun you can’t not do it.”

Josh Smith is a man of few words – he prefers to express himself through poignant melodies and his tried and true custom Tele. I had the chance to sit down and talk with Josh recently about his upcoming European tour, and here’s what he had to say.

You first started playing guitar at the age of 6 and you were performing in a house band by age 13. A year later, you released your first solo album. What inspired you to pursue music professionally at such a young age?

I was drawn to the guitar and music immediately. I was given a guitar at three and [there was] something about it that has hooked me and never let go. Then, once I played on stage and got a response from an audience, it was all over. I knew that was going to be my life’s pursuit.

Did anyone else in your family play music?

Not my parents – my Uncle David Frank plays piano, but he was in California. Meanwhile I was growing up in Florida so for all intents and purposes, no.

In an old interview you stated that as a teen, you fashioned yourself after other young blues prodigies such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang. Would you still classify yourself strictly a blues player or something else?

I just meant that seeing my peers have success I thought I was on that same path. I’m a blues player at heart, but I love all music and try to bring back pieces of everything I like to my own thing.

You decided to move to Los Angeles in 2002. What was it like riding into town back then, a lone axe-slinger in the Wild West?

It was a shot in the dark. I had no idea if I could make it and would never have succeeded without the support of my wife. Once I arrived, I realized I needed a whole bunch of new skills I had previously not focused on.

How was L.A different? Did you ever regret the move?

I never regretted it once. I moved purposely so I could find a way to make a living as a session guitarist and sideman. For the first nine years in LA that was my focus. Doing that kind of work made me a better musician today than I would have ever been had I only just focused on my own solo thing.

Was it tough balancing family life while also pursuing your goals as an entertainer?

It’s always tough, but I’m lucky to have such a supporting wife and kids. It’s hard being away as much as I am, but it’s amazing knowing that they have my back and they want me to reach my fullest potential.

A couple months ago I got to see you perform at the Baked Potato in Studio City and I was very impressed, you have some soulful licks and amazing chops. You reminded me a lot of great players such as Robben Ford, Eric Johnson, and John Scofield; players who have mastered this jazzy blues kind of fusion. Where did you learn all of that? Were you formally trained at a music school or conservatory?

I’m not formally trained, I’m just obsessed (laughs). I work really hard and when there is something I want to learn then I want to learn it to the best of my ability. I’m driven in that way…always trying to study as much as I can and having those studies be a part of my musical vocabulary. Then when I’m playing, I filter that vocabulary through the blues.

Are you looking forward to checking out any particular European sites while on tour this spring? You’re mainly going to be in Germany and the Netherlands, right?

On this next tour, yes. Right now, I’m in the UK. I love traveling and sightseeing. It’s an amazing perk to this career.

What gear will you be taking with you on tour?

I have a set of Morgan amps that I can leave in Germany so I’ll have those there and fly with my pedalboard and guitars. It’s always a pleasure to get to use my own gear when overseas instead of relying on the [venue’s] backline.

While we are on the subject of gear, your product demo videos are well known in the guitar community. You’ve also helped to design signature guitars, amps and speakers with Morgan amps and Eminence speakers. How did that come about?

I’ve worked with Eminence and Morgan going on 10 years now. I love these companies and being involved in designing their products. I feel I have a good ear and insight for things that make sense.

Aside from touring, do you have any other new projects in the works?

I have a new live album/Blu-ray in the can that I’m working on. I’m also producing a lot of other artists in my studio and I really enjoy that.

What are some last words you would like to impart to people just starting out on guitar or who are maybe thinking about picking up the instrument?

The best advice I can give is do it because you love it, because you have to, because it’s so much fun you can’t not do it. Then take every gig you possibly can.

Follow on Twitter @joshsmithguitar

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