Singer-Songwriter Adam Smith is a natural. Born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, raised in Cloverlick, Kentucky, and discovered on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, Adam is self-taught and naturally inspired to create his moving, original music.
He discovered the piano on his own as a 7-year-old in the sanctuary of the old Baptist church deep in the woods of Cloverlick. Soon he was playing whenever he could, composing tunes by ear—and by sight. “It was a visual thing for me,” Adam says. “I would see a pattern on the keyboard and play it. I could see shapes in the keys, and the shapes would make music. It was a fun game to me. It still is.”
To this day, Adam only writes music that makes “pretty patterns” on the keyboard. “It may sound good, but if it doesn’t make beautiful shapes, it doesn’t give me the same satisfaction.”
A visual artist as well as musical, Adam easily combines the two forms.
“To most people, visuals are just visual things, and sounds are just sound things. I’ve been painting and drawing as long as I’ve been making music. I think it runs on the same current. It all comes from the same place.”
Influenced early by an eclectic mix of female artists such as Cyndi Lauder, Amy Grant, and Wilson Philips, it wasn’t until Adam heard Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album that he began to put lyrics to his songs. “It changed my life and the way I think about and hear music.”
Picking up the guitar and teaching himself to play around the age of 18, he eventually began performing regularly at open mic nights, beginning at the Preservation Pub in Knoxville, TN. “That was a formative time of my life, when
I gained so much experience and confidence playing in front of an audience.”
His visual approach to music carries through to the guitar, but with a twist.
“With the guitar I can’t see the instrument like I can the piano. So I feel the shapes instead of visualizing them.” A remarkable way to make music, with uniquely emotive results.
During his younger days, Adam eked out a living working odd jobs at places like the local Arby’s or Family Dollar stores, all the while playing his instruments, visualizing his music and writing his songs. He eventually found himself in Harlan, Kentucky when he began to nurture a desire to move to the Big City and be discovered on Broadway—the street of dreams in Nashville, not the Big Apple.
Tuesday, came in Wednesday, got my $200 check and was gone that night to Tennessee.” Arriving at 5 AM, Adam explored the city on foot, feeling a new happiness and freedom to be in Music City. He began asking where Blue Bird was, the open-mic mecca, and soon made his way to the sidewalks of Broadway, singing for passersby and peddling a 5-song CD he’d manage to record some months earlier. “I was horribly nervous and frightened by the experience, but it wasn’t long before someone noticed me and took me under their wing.”