Curt Smith is a musician, singer and songwriter, whose soaring voice is instantly recognizable to the millions of worldwide fans of Tears for Fears, the British group he co-founded in 1981. Still an active, acclaimed musician more than two decades later, Smith released his second solo album, "Halfway, pleased" via his own KOOK Media imprint in May, 2008.
In addition to his solo career, the prolific Smith has also written music for television and is collaborating on a theatrical musical. His next creative goal is to compose for film. "The idea of adding a visual component to the lyrical and musical composition," he says, "appeals to me."
Smith, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally hails from Bath, England, where he and Roland Orzabal met when both were teenagers. They first formed a band at school, for which Smith taught himself to play bass guitar – "we needed a bass player!" – and later formed the band Graduate, which achieved fame in Europe, and released its only album in 1980.
After disbanding Graduate, Smith and Orzabal founded Tears for Fears. TFF’s debut album, 1982’s landmark "The Hurting," went on to produce three international bestselling singles – "Change," "Mad World," and "Pale Shelter" – each with indelible lead vocals provided by Smith.
Their 1985 sophomore album, "Songs from the Big Chair," was even more successful, yielding hits including "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (memorably sung by Smith), "Shout," and "Head Over Heels" (which Smith co-wrote). The duo spent the next several years recording their 1990 album "The Seeds of Love," which proved to be another bestseller the world over, but Smith left the band shortly after its release. "It had become unbearable," he says now. "This was due to fame as much as to the personal friction between Roland and me. I could either stop altogether, or continue in a better environment on my own. I moved to New York and found the latter."
Smith acclimated to life in New York by hosting an MTV show, as well as a new music radio show that was syndicated to over 300 U.S. colleges, and by teaching a music industry course at New York University. Then, in 1995 a mutual friend introduced Smith to songwriter-guitarist Charlton Pettus. "I liked him, even though he used the word ‘meritocracy’ in the first sentence he spoke to me," Smith jokes. "I liked his passion. I’d spent so much time around people in the industry whose prime concern was business and income, that talking to someone whose love of music was so obvious made me realize why I’d become a musician in the first place."
Smith and Pettus began writing together and formed a band called Mayfield. "It was first and foremost a live band," Smith explains. "I wanted to play gigs in small clubs, and record without the use of too much technology." Mayfield released a self-titled album in 1997. "I loved it," Smith says. "Technically it could have undoubtedly been better, but that would have been missing the point."
In 1998 Smith’s wife Frances was offered a prestigious position in Los Angeles. "It was a big decision as we both loved New York so much," Smith recalls, "but the opportunity was just too good to turn down. Sometimes you have to embrace change and see where it leads." Within a few years it led to their two daughters being born, and to Pettus and his family, for unrelated reasons, also relocating to Los Angeles.
During 2001 Smith began work on what was to become "Halfway, pleased," but the project soon had to be put on hold: he had begun speaking to Roland Orzabal again after 9 years of silence. Their conversations culminated in TFF reforming for 2004’s "Everybody Loves A Happy Ending," which led to a worldwide tour, so it wasn’t until 2006 that Smith had time to resume work on "Halfway, pleased."
The semi-autobiographical album explores Smith’s relationships with his children, parents and friends. "I prefer writing slightly cryptic lyrics," he confides, "that take some thought, and rely on the things that are left unsaid but hinted at." Even the title is autobiographical, Smith notes, with its all-important comma: "I figure I’m about halfway through life," he smiles, "and I’m quite pleased."
The album’s 15 introspective, filmic tracks range include the yearning ballad "Seven of Sundays" (which also appears as a bonus track, sung in duet with French artist SO), the lush harmonies of "Greatest Divide," the compelling progression of "Two" and the hypnotic rhythms of "Addict." The album includes as additional bonus tracks acoustic versions of "Seven of Sundays" and "Coming Out" and a live version of "Snow Hill." All the songs except "Seven of Sundays" (written by Charlton Pettus and Chesney Hawkes) were co-written by Smith and Pettus.