By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
You might say Gregg A. Smith began his musical journey as a dancer. At the age of 3, he manned the jukebox at his mother’s cafe just outside of Honey Grove, Texas. Customers would toss change for his dancing performances, and it was enough to get him hooked on the power of sound.
His life’s journey took him to New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, he picked up instruments like the harmonica and trumpet and picked up some All-State honors for singing as well.
After graduation, he followed a friend to Chicago. There, Smith was immersed in the world of some of the best Blues musicians in the country.
“It was the highlight of my life at the time,” Smith said, adding that his stay in Chicago was cut short by the need to return home to Portland to attend school because of draft status (the Vietnam War was still going on at the time). While attending college, Smith continued to push his musical boundaries with other musicians in the Oregon and Washington areas.
In 1983 he returned home to Texas. He met up with Eric Scortia — then a student at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) — which ended up starting both a lifelong friendship. Their musical partnership has taken them around the country, and in fact, the world.
On Nov. 2, Smith debuted his 18th album — titled “The Real Deal” — with a release party held at Six Springs Tavern in Richardson. The show was opened by Shake Anderson, who has a long list of musical accomplishments of his own. Listen to NDG’s interview with Smith and see clips of his performance from Nov. 2 at NDG’s YouTube page.
With more than 100 of his biggest fans and closest friends, he introduced a whole new slate of tunes. The album runs the gamut of original songs recalling his childhood (“Jumpin’ at the Juke Joint”) to a personal arrangement of Gregory Arnold Smith’s “Living On The Dark Side of Love.” Plus, there is a lot more in between.
The music features the well-seasoned vocals of Smith and the thick texture of instruments behind him, a fact that was pivotal to the artist in the recording process of the album.
“Thanks to a lot of great support from my band members, as well as a great studio called the Kitchen Studios, and a gentleman by the name of J.P. Painter; worked very, very hard as well to give us the best quality of sound from the studio,” Smith said. “I produced the album, Eric Scortia is the co-producer on the album. He and I also wrote three songs from the album.
“I covered some great, great songs on this album, some cover songs that I always wanted to record myself. Overall, I’m more satisfied with this production of an album than all the other 17, simply because I feel like I really got a chance to do it in a way I have always wanted to do an album.”
“The Real Deal” is now available for download online, and Smith is gearing up to perform the new material wherever he gets a chance. To that end, Angela Buffington from the Trinity River Blues Society was also on hand at the release party. She shared with the crowd her organization had named the new album as the best released in North Texas this year. With that honor, Smith will go on to put his latest release up against Blues music being produced all over the world in later competitions.