Looking for a soothing, soulful rock band? Well look no further than NJ’s own Zak Smith. Playing mostly in the NYC area, 2011 was a great year for the budding musician. He garnered a powerful fanbase with his East Coast tours as well as coast to coast buzz with his 2011 Haunted EP. This past April he released a full-length self-titled album.
Growing up listening to rock, blues, alternative, folk, and Irish music, the Garden State singer/songwriter has molded a great amalgam of Americana, rock, and soul. With influences from artists like Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and The Beatles, Smith has created stripped down, bare bones feel-good, toe tapping music that will touch your soul.
Stand out tracks: “Brand New Party,” “Raise the Moon,” and “Cynthia”
ESBMusic caught up with Zak Smith to talk about about being inspired by living in NJ, where he likes to play in the Garden state, and his plans for the rest of the summer.
ESBM: How did you start playing music?
Zak Smith: When I was about 14 I had a friend who was into music and started playing all these Led Zeppelin albums for me. Before that I was obsessed with comic books and hadn’t really been into music at all on any level. When I started listening to those Zeppelin albums over and over again they became like super heroes to me and rock music became the only thing I was obsessed with. I started playing guitar after that and trying to write songs.
ESBM: Being from NJ, have you been inspired by living here?
Zak Smith: Yeah, for sure. A ton of creative people have come from here, Springsteen obviously, but also Frank Sinatra, Lou Costello, Allen Ginsberg. The Sopranos is the greatest TV show of all time to me. I grew up where a lot of it was shot. I pass the diner where that last scene was shot almost every day. So, I think if you’re drawn to creative stuff and you’re from here there’s a lot of people to look up to as successful inspirations and as role models.
ESBM: How long have you been playing music?
Zak Smith: I took piano lessons when I was around 8 but I stopped after a while because I hated to practice. Then at about 14 my parents bought me a guitar when I had become really serious about music.
ESBM: What inspires and influences your music?
Zak Smith: I think the easy one is relationship things. Girls have always been as big a source of inspiration to me as the Beatles. That’s probably true of every heterosexual male artist ever though. I’m also into “protest music” type songs a lot. That phrase “protest music” got a bad rap at some point when Dylan stopped singing political songs. Like it was too on the nose, or it was uncool to be associated with any movements. But some of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard are songs that are very on the nose and pointing out specifically bad people or unjust things. Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, old union songs, a ton of old Irish songs…I love music that calls people out for being liars. I love songs that should make the bad guys in them scared, that’s very powerful to me. That type of song is not always easy to write though, its easy to slip into saying things you don’t really feel if you try to sit down just with the intention of trying to write a “political song”.
ESBM: What is your favorite place to play?
Zak Smith: I really like the Starland Ballroom in Jersey. Its one of the biggest stages I’ve been on and the sound is really good there.
For more information on Zak Smith check out his official website, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Zak Smith will be playing a few dates this month in NJ and NY (see below). Be sure to check him out and get his full-length here!
Zak Smith Live
08/07 Asbury Park, NJ The Stone Pony
08/20 Asbury Park, NJ The Saint
08/23 New York, NY M1-5 Lounge (RAW ARTISTS SHOWCASE)
09/15 Teaneck, NJ Mexicali Live
10/13 New York, NY Rockwood Music Hall