Richard Smith Interview
By Freddie House

Appeared in the AFG Sound Hole - Issue 10 (April 2000 - editor: Burt Zeldin)

Richard Smith and his new bride Julie, the cellist on Muriel Anderson's CD, Theme for Two Friends, were in Southern California recently. Richard put on a concert at Kirk Sands Guitar Shop. I know there are a few of you that are upset that you didn't know about it, but never fear, Richard will be back soon and will be putting on more concerts here in Southern California. Richard has moved from England to Nashville and so we should be seeing and hearing a lot more of this amazing guitar player.

Richard Smith

What are your musical goals now that you live in Nashville?
On my CDs of the past, I had a lot of country, jazz and bluegrass numbers. I hope to make an album soon using some of the Nashville musicians and get a different feel for the music using double bass and various other techniques that I would like to try.

At what age and how did you become interested in playing the guitar?
I was about 5 years old. My dad played the guitar and I heard him play “Down South Blues” from the album The Atkins-Travis Traveling Show, and I asked him to show me how he did it and so that is how it all started. This is also about the time that I first heard Chet play and became interested in his music.

Were you ever interested in any other instruments other than the guitar, or any other music other than fingerstyle guitar?

The guitar was always my main instrument and only in the last 10 years or so have I been interested in learning any other instruments. I started playing the banjo because of the bluegrass sound of Ricky Skaggs, and I liked the way it sounded on some of Chet's, and Jerry Reed’s records. I started playing it when I was about 17 years old and have never really worked at it like I should. There was always the classical and jazz music around, but fingerstyle was my main influence.

Tell us about the first time you met Chet.
Chet came over to England to play in London at Her Majesty’s Theater and it was there that I first actually met and played for him. It was very exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I was about 11 years old at the time.

Was Chet's music popular in England when you started playing and were growing up?
No. Very few people knew about Chet there during the 50's and 60's and his name wasn't generally known. Through high school there weren't many people who knew the music I was playing. He had his following, but it was very small when I was growing up.

You do a lot of Django Reinhardt's styles, licks, and music. When did you first hear his music and let it influence you?
Around the same time I heard Chet, but it wasn't until much later on that I really started to work on his style. I enjoy his music very much now, and it has had a big influence in my playing.

Are you able to read music?
I had a few lessons when I was about 10 years old and was taught how to read music, but grew tired of it. Then in high school I learned how to read music a little more. I know what the notes are and so on, but I can't really pick it up and read it like I would like to. That is one of the things I want to work on.

Do you use a lot of alternate tunings?
I don't use a great deal of different tunings, but that is something else that I want to explore more because you can get a great deal of different sounds, and I want to try them out more.

You do a lot of big band music and some classical numbers, have you always been interested in doing those kinds of music on the guitar?
There are some great classical pieces that I like to play, and so much good music of other musicians and other instruments that don't get translated onto the guitar, and I find it interesting as to how they sound on the guitar.

Do you have a certain regimen worked out as to where you devote a certain amount of time to practice every day or anything like that?
No, I have never done that. I feel that if you are practicing and not enjoying it, you aren't really learning anything, or generally that seems true in my case. I have only practiced when I felt like it and have never followed a particular practice schedule.

Are you a collector of guitars?
No, I only have a few for the different sounds that I can get from each kind. My primary guitar is the nylon string guitar, which is easy on the nails and plays nicely. I have one of Kirk Sand’s guitars that I have had since 1992. Kirk is building a signature model for me which I am looking forward to.

Are you looking into doing studio work in Nashville?
Oh yes. That is one of the reasons for moving here to be around and play with various musicians and to get some experience as a band musician. I think it helps to play with new people so you can learn new things and have as many influences on your music as possible.

Is there a possibility that you and Julie might work together?
Yes, we will probably be doing some things together. I am looking forward to playing different styles with other instruments, and getting some new sounds, and maybe we will try writing more.

2000 - Association of Fingerstyle Guitarists