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Barrett Smith of Steep Canyon Rangers | Full Interview
Cris Cohen interviews Barrett Smith of Steep Canyon Rangers. They discuss:
What it is like to join this band as a new member
How getting his Master of Arts degree in Counseling has altered the way he communicates in everyday life and as a musician
Really committing himself to the bass after joining this band
The challenges in covering James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James"
Steep Canyon Rangers website: steepcanyon.com
(This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity. Images from artist website.)
Cris Cohen: I want to start off with the new single “Sweet Spot.” How did that tune come together? And was it always the plan to have everyone take a turn doing the lead vocal on that?
Barrett Smith: No, that was not always the plan. It just happened that way. Graham wrote “Sweet Spot,” for the most part. He started “Sweet Spot,” let's say. Graham has a lot of songs that he’s started that are working their way through the Steep Canyon Rangers’ arrangement machine. And he has a lot that he hasn't given to us I'm sure as well. But that was one that had started making the rounds.
Come to think of it, I want to say, from the very beginning, Graham pictured that with different people singing different voices maybe. I don’t know. The way this band processes a song… at this moment, almost every single one of them comes from Graham. They may come straight from Graham and go straight to the stage. More likely, they're going to go through one or all of us. We process it and it turns into this, it turns into that.
We went into the studio and recorded that single because Woody was leaving the band. I'm not sure we really knew why we were doing that, but we just thought. “This is an intense moment for us. Let's go record stuff.”
Cris Cohen: “This is our comfort zone, this is our soothing blanket,” so to speak.
Barrett Smith: That’s what we do. It was soothing and also a little exciting. Because if there's something that can really put some juice emotionally in some song or some recording session, it's almost like, “Let's harness this power while it’s potent.”
Cris Cohen: I never thought of that, but that is an interesting take on it. “Let's take advantage of our emotions in the moment” kind of thing.
Barrett Smith: And we did. And some of the lyrics that came out expressed that. Because in the end, we all did contribute to that. Woody wrote one of the verses. My wife and I wrote one of them. Graham kind of edited all of them. I want to say Mike Ashworth maybe wrote one. And then as far as who sang what, we did that the way we always do things in the studio. We just kind of jump in, produce ourselves, and let it fly.
Cris Cohen: And it's interesting that Woody’s leaving was the impetus for it, because it's such an optimistic song. It's not a sorrowful song. In that way, was it a pep talk for yourselves?
Barrett Smith: I'd say so. We've been pretty glass half full about the whole situation of Woody leaving. I don't know if we're just trying to make it this way and look at the bright side of things, or if it is this way, or if there's even any difference, but there's a lot of optimism in it. We're all very close. And so there's this optimism of Woody making a change that he knows is a right change for his life. And we love him so much. And so there's an optimism in that, just knowing that somebody we care about so much is making a huge change that’s going to be really positive in his life. It’s hard to put into words, but there are new optimisms of us changing really drastically, really suddenly, and yet having the stability and more than enough goodness and talent and skill to just keep trucking on. And to keep trucking on in a new way. There is optimism in that as well.
Joining The Band
Cris Cohen: It's also interesting because, going back through past interviews, that's a lot of what Graham and the other guys said at the time that you joined the band. So it’s interesting that now you're seeing this from the other side of things. It makes me wonder, first off, in anticipation of whoever may join in the future, what is it like to join this band?
Barrett Smith: It's really good to join this band. The band has what seems to me to be a unique, really natural, organic, family kind of thing. I don't think ‘wholesome’ is quite the right word. But there's a lot of goodness.
On the downside of joining this band, it can be a pretty steep learning curve. You're entering a culture that's really well-established that you're not a part of. It’s just mountains of inside jokes and subtle understandings of the way the organism operates. And then musically, there's a lot to the music. In a way that's really complicated because it's highly arranged. If somebody sits down and teaches me one of these songs -- as they did -- they would say, “Oh, it's easy. You just have these chords, and it's easy.” And then when I studied it myself, I was like, “Yeah, it has those chords in it, but they go this way in the first verse, and then you flip them around backwards in the second verse. You put a stop right here. And then in the third verse, it does the whole thing again, but no drums. And you do this little lick. And then the fourth time…”
It's just constant cues and more chords than they think. I think it was Mike Ashworth -- they were teaching me one of the songs -- and he was like, “It's like three chords and the truth… and then seven more chords.” That was funny.
But overall, it was great to join this band. And we will take on a new person in the band. And I feel I'm in a unique position with that person, being the newest new person in the band to help bridge that gap and learn those hard arrangements and fit in.
Cris Cohen: If nothing else, it sounds like you can communicate to the other guys. It's easy because you've been doing it for a couple of decades. But to a new person, it's not as easy as it seems.
Barrett Smith: I've done that. And culturally as well, that's just a steep curve. It was really different when I came along. I've been really close individually with everybody in the band for a really long time. We've played on projects together. I’ve played at three of their weddings. I've been around forever, just not in the band. So when I showed up, even with that (history), it was like, “Oh God, this is a real culture here and a lot of things I'm not familiar with.” But it'll be a lot more so for a new person.
Cris Cohen: That also makes me wonder, what makes for a good Ranger? You obviously have to have chops, technical proficiency on your instrument. I'm assuming it’s got to be someone that also has vocal experience. But beyond that, what are the less obvious intangibles that make up a good Steep Canyon Ranger?
Barrett Smith: For it to be a new person, there's a lot of emphasis on being a good person, who is good to hang out with and can keep it cool, can stay really cool under pressure. Someone who has their head on straight and is fairly stable and resilient. We’re coming to find out those things are just as important as anything. Because we spend a lot of time together. And if you throw a wrench into that machine that's particularly problematic or a hassle in some way, we can absorb things like that pretty well, but we definitely don't want to.
A Degree In Counseling
Cris Cohen: It is interesting that you used the term “head on straight,” because from what I read, your first love is music, but your second love is counseling. And you are even in the process… or finished getting your degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University in Counseling. You said, “It has altered the way I communicate with people.” That's quite a big statement. Can give examples of ways that it's altered the way you communicate?
Barrett Smith: In regard to counseling?
Cris Cohen: Or, even as it pertains to music.
Barrett Smith: In music and every day, off the top of my head? Being a good counselor, one of the really important things is — let's just say getting your own shit out of the way, being a good listener, and really seeing the client, really seeing them fully and listening and taking it all in so that you can be of service to them. If I could do that really well, just in everyday life and as a musician, that would be good, for all of us. We would all do better to communicate.
Cris Cohen: And it also struck me as an interesting statement, because you can tell with this band there's a lot of communication going on in the midst of a song. And seeing you guys perform at That Music Fest, as you're doing things on stage, as different people take the lead, there's a lot of unspoken communication going on. Would you actually say that studying all of this has helped you musically?
Barrett Smith: I would. I think so. I think it helped us musically. I definitely now have a different perspective in the midst of that communication: “Why am I?” I'm trying to communicate something to Graham. And there's a little more of an understanding of, “Why do I need to communicate this?” And maybe I don't. Maybe there's a better way. You can get a little selfish. Insecurities or defense mechanisms, those things can be sneaky and undetectable. I'm a little better at detecting them now. It maybe changes what I communicate and how much I communicate and maybe makes me a little more of a receiver. If I want to change the course of action in some particular song, I have more and more faith in my motives for it. They're the greater whole, or it’s going to make somebody feel really good, or it’s going to make me feel really good, or whatever.
Cris Cohen: And then on the flip side, is there any way that your work in music has influenced how you are as a counselor?
Barrett Smith: Definitely, no question. I'm a lifelong musician. I've been pursuing that really heavily since I was probably 14 or 15. I'd say that is when I really dug into classical guitar. I was doing the classical track for a long time and I dug in. It's more in my core, as far as training and lifestyle. When I was studying counseling in school, there was a lot about music that informed the way that I approached that. I'd say most importantly that I've been teaching music lessons. I've been doing that since I was probably 20 years old. It was generally a weekly session with a person, one-on-one. That person is sitting in a chair, I'm sitting in a chair, and we hang out for an hour. And when I started really looking at the counseling session, the way it tended to go, where it should flow, I realized I've been doing some form of that this whole time with some students who came along. It was in a way as much counseling as it was music. But then you start thinking about why you want to do this. What does this mean to you? And then certainly studying counseling has totally changed the way I teach individual and private lessons, which I don't do so much. But when I do, it is different.
Cris Cohen: It also brings to mind… one of the guys I worked with is a drummer named Daniel Glass, who’s just released his own material. He played with Royal Crown Revue and Brian Setzer. And he also teaches. One of the things he's talked about is that there are teachers who are frustrated because of the internet and the fact that you can now just go online and learn anything in terms of grooves, patterns, whatever. But his whole thing is “Well, if that's all you're bringing to your teaching session, then you really need to dig deeper anyway, because it's got to be more than just, okay, play this pattern.” And that seems to lend itself to what you were talking about, about really connecting with the student and finding out, “Okay, what is your goal, desire, motivation, etc.?”
Barrett Smith: I like that. That's a good idea. That's true. You can get online and learn. It's wonderful. If you have an internet connection, then you can access YouTube. And now you're looking at unimaginably vast mountains of good music and instruction. But you're right, there could be the difference between reading a self-help book and actually having a therapist. (The online material) is not going to be tailor made to you. There are also some people who will do way better just getting online at their own pace and with their own schedule. I think that's pretty fair. But generally speaking, you're going to get more out of a good one-on-one teacher. And I'm just a fan of getting off of a screen, whatever the application is, getting off of the screen and making more human contact. It's amazing how connected Zoom is. It really is like we're sitting in the same room basically right now. It's pretty good.
Cris Cohen: Full disclosure, my current therapist does not live in the same city that I live in. So this is how we do our therapy sessions. I love the fact that, even during the pandemic lockdown, I still had access to those therapy sessions. And it was still maybe not as good as in-person, but still really high-level because it was still that one-on-one.
Barrett Smith: It’s pretty good. This technology, it’s incredible. As much of a fan as I am getting off the screen, I guess at some point I'll stop being surprised, but I'm constantly surprised at how well this works, how much of the in-person, person-to-person, in the same room benefits you can get from this. It's creepy, actually. I don't want that to be the truth. I could run into you three months from now and it would be like there was a time we hung out together, that my knowledge of you isn't that much less—but this is on the screen.
The Upright Bass
Cris Cohen: And then an interesting aspect of this is… because again, there's all this technology and streaming of your music catalog. But the upright bass is a very organic instrument. And talk about going back to old school, back to basics. I'm curious, what drew you to that instrument in the first place? Because it’s massively cumbersome. It must be a humongous pain in the ass to travel with. What made that love connection for you?
Barrett Smith: Full disclosure, what drew me to the bass, first of all, was that I got a bass from a guy for really cheap. I owned the bass. And I bought it because it was really cheap. I had the money and I thought, “Okay, I'm going to have a bass in my house.” And then, not too long after buying that bass, do you know the band Town Mountain? They're from Nashville.
Cris Cohen: I know the name.
Barrett Smith: They're a great band. Many years ago, when Town Mountain was first performing, they needed a bass player for a tour they were doing. I knew those guys, they knew me, and I had a bass. And they were like, “Well, you have a bass. You're a good musician. Why don’t you play bass with us. I can't say that I was really drawn to it, that I loved it necessarily. The instrument presented an opportunity to tour around with some guys that I really liked in a cool setting. So the bass allowed me to join them. A couple of weeks later, I was in Colorado with these guys, having a great time touring and playing. And then I stayed with that band and continued playing bass. But I was always a guitar player. I put so much in my life into that. It wasn't until a little ways into joining this band, Steep Canyon Rangers, that I really, fully took accountability for like, “Okay, I should devote myself more to this specifically, do what I need to do to turn myself into a really good bass player, as good as I can be.”
Cris Cohen: That's fascinating because you’d think you would have to have that perspective before even getting in this band.
Barrett Smith: I had a bunch of experience playing in a bluegrass band. And these guys, when I first signed on and started playing, they knew what they were getting and there was no mystery in there. They were happy with what they got.
Cris Cohen: Was there any particular moment – day, week, month, whatever – where that mental switch happened?
Barrett Smith: There have been a few, as far as devoting myself to it more. That happened a few times in some corners that I turned before joining the band. I was working as a musician, but not touring with any bands. I was putting together bands around Nashville for just for a one-night thing for different little events: weddings, corporate events, whatever. And I was putting together bluegrass bands. It's a lot easier to find guitar players than it is with bass players. I found myself playing a lot of bass. And so that turned the corner, I got better doing that. And then I joined the band. I thought to myself, “Okay, I'm going to serve this band better. I should really buckle down and be better.” There's something about really devoting myself to playing the bass.
When Woody was leaving and suddenly things were shuffled around, there were lots of options as to how the band could reconfigure (itself). And some of those configurations (had me on) guitar. And then as it played out, it looked more and more like the best way for this band to be going forward is with me on bass and not guitar. And there's something about that knowledge, it gets me excited about a new commitment to up in my game. Based on who I am, I think I am a better bass player right now than I’ve ever been.
Bassist / Composer
Cris Cohen: That's awesome. And with the most recent album “Arm In Arm,” I addition to the singing and playing, you are listed as a composer in the liner notes. And it's interesting, because I've heard about a number of bassists who become producers. Because – not to knock the other instruments – but bass players tend to listen to the whole performance. It's rare for a bass player to take a solo, for instance. And so, it's more about meshing and things like that. Do you think being a bass player is what prepared you to be a composer? And also, as composer, what does that involve with a project like this? Especially as you said, Graham wrote most of the songs, so what does the composer do in this instance?
Barrett Smith: Speaking to that, in this particular instance, “Arm In Arm” or the album that we're putting together right now, it doesn't so much have to do with being the bass player, or the banjo player, or the mandolin player, or whatever. But how that works right now, as a composer / arranger, is that Graham will almost certainly have written every song that's on this next album. He's the source of the songs. But his whole life as a songwriter has been almost completely with this band. I'm speaking for Graham here. I cant say this with 100% certainty. But to some degree, this band can become part of this songwriting process. You can take something so far, knowing that it's going to get picked up or changed by somebody else. You can take really raw ideas, ones that aren't fleshed out at all, and just thrown them out to the band and things happen. He brings songs into the band with an admirable open-mindedness and flexibility.
Cris Cohen: It is fascinating how much you guys do collaborate. It's another thing that comes up again and again in interviews, as opposed to, say, those singers ? songwriters who just bring stuff in to their band and go, “Alright, here it is.” With the co-writing credits, I'm guessing, the original demo of the tune and the finished product, it would be fascinating to hear the two of them back-to-back. I'm guessing you would notice a distinct difference.
Barrett Smith: Definitely. There are some that remain similar. But ideally, there will be at least a song or two that we haven't put any time into at all, that we can just bring in to the studio and record right there. The way Bob Dylan or Miles Davis or in that Beatles documentary, the way an idea just came in, actually got processed right there on the spot in the studio. And we did that with the last album. There are at least two of them that we really had not worked on very much. But most of the time, if you take the original demo, some little voicemail that Graham sent to one of us, and we hear now what that song was on the stage or on an album, I'd say they tend to be a totally different tempo, different message, different lyrics. That's one of the magic things about this band: How it collaborates in the song processing department. It's really fun to do.
Performing With Symphonies
Cris Cohen: It's also been fascinating delving into how you guys collaborate with others. For instance, this band has done a lot of stuff with symphonies. And I'm wondering, did you have experience working with symphonies before this band? How does working with a symphony change your perspective on a song?
Barrett Smith: Yeah, that's great. I had a whole classical musical past life. But as a classical guitar player, I didn't have any experience playing in front of a full symphony orchestra. Classical guitarists do that. And there are symphonies, concertos, guitar concertos that do exist. I never actually did it. They tend to be really difficult and hard jobs to land. I played a lot of chamber music, small orchestras and guitar quartets, tons and tons of those. But now ironically playing with this band I get in front of a full symphony. And it's cool that we do that.
And we do it because the whole concept was introduced to us, because somehow that crossed Steve Martin's path. This was before my time. I'm not sure what the impetus for that was. But playing with the symphony and having a chart written out for some song, specifically for stuff with Steve, that's how that started. And then after I came along, we took that idea and ran with it. We looked around and said, “Wait a second. We can pay this guy to come up with a really good arrangement for a symphony orchestra for this song that we have. We pay him and we get the charts. And if we have enough of them, we can actually contact symphony orchestras all over the world, potentially, certainly all over the country.” And that becomes this whole other thing we do. It's really cool to do.
Even though I do have this classical music background — when we step into that concert situation with the symphony orchestra, it's Nicky... Because he's way more accomplished than I ever was in the music world. He’s way more knowledgeable and he's played a bunch of stuff as violinist. He’s the guy who communicates. He’s the guy looking over the conductor's shoulder and checking out the score and making dynamic changes. Maybe I do that every once in a while, but I'm not as adept with that as Nicky is.
And it does change the songs. For one thing, when we a song has changed over time so much for us, the one difficulty is when we make the chart for a song. It's a chart made for that song as it existed in one point in time. And then it's frozen that way. You flash forward a couple years, and that song now is really different. We've added a bar here, added a new verse or changed this, changed that. And we have to rewind back to that frozen moment where that chart was, where it used to be in the past.
Cris Cohen: I never thought about that. “What version are we playing this evening?” Because there are so many incarnations of a particular tune. I never thought about that as an extra challenge — not only knowing the song, but knowing all the different variations that you guys can choose to play on any given night.
Barrett Smith: There's a lot of material and material changes constantly.
Upright Bass VS Bass Guitar
Cris Cohen: I've gone to a number of shows where the band is doing the full electric thing, and then they do an acoustic set. And the bass player will bring out a double bass. I just saw Barenaked Ladies at the Red Hat Amphitheater and they did that. But you stay with it constantly. I'm wondering, what advantage does an upright bass have over, say, a bass guitar?
Barrett Smith: That's a good question. In my case, it's just the instrument that I play. I don't even own an electric bass guitar. I think tonally it's different and its weight has more meat and body to it. There have been times where we've talked about having an electric bass in the band for certain songs and there would be a lot of benefit to that. I have picked up electric basses and messed with them. They have qualities that mine doesn't have. But for me, it's what I'm accustomed to. I don't like playing electric bass that much. I would get used to it if I had to. If they said, “You have to play this,” I would do it and maybe come to love it. But as it is, I like the big, upright bass.
And the band was such a staunchly traditional band for so long, traditional bluegrass band. And then once Mike Ashworth joined, he was playing drums and Graham's writing was changing when I joined. There's so much that is moving us away from the tradition of bluegrass that, for me, having an upright bass in the band is one thing that keeps us anchored in traditional bluegrass. Even just the visual of it, anything that keeps us somewhat tethered to that world, because at our heart, that's what we are.
We still are a traditional bluegrass band. But any bluegrass traditionalist is going to look at our band and be like, “They're not traditionalist.” Because we betrayed a lot of what that is. And not to make any statement or anything. It was just what we wanted to do and sing in our truth. That's the way the band is developed.
There's something about having the upright bass in the band that is important to me to keep us in that way. So, at least the instrumentation feels more like a bluegrass band, because I always want us to be a bluegrass band. And actually, maybe, I should question why that is. Maybe it doesn't matter.
Cris Cohen: As a geek about this kind of stuff, I've gotten involved in many discussions about what makes something rock versus jazz versus whatever, and trying to classify things. With the “Arm In Arm” album, it's not traditional, but there is still that bluegrass through line, that pulse in every song. To me, that's what makes things exciting, when you turn a corner and you explore new territory. And it's always going to sound like you, but it's still exploring into new material. To me that’s exciting.
Barrett Smith: It’s exciting to us, too. And it feels true. Ironically, it feels really true to bluegrass in a deep way. I'm dealing with bluegrass music for so long, the way I've always perceived it is… think about jazz, what we just conventionally think of as jazz. And you think about jazz, early jazz, its roots, jazz as it existed, just in New Orleans. It was a music that didn't really exist anywhere else. So then it moves to New York, and then to Kansas City, and it moves to Chicago. You’ve got to believe that in 1960 or 1958, there was some guy sitting there with his trumpet on a stoop in New Orleans and somebody was playing at him —Miles Davis, or John Coltrane – and that guy was, “That bullshit is jazz.”
Today, who would ever hear “Kind Of Blue” and not call it jazz. It absolutely is jazz to us. So when you compare that to bluegrass, you think, “Oh, wait, if that traditionalist in New Orleans, my hypothetical trumpet-playing traditionalist had his way, jazz never changed.” It's just like this artifact, that it never would have been what it is. It never would have survived. It would just die and be in a museum somewhere with maybe some archaic preservationist doing it now. I'm really glad that traditionalist is around, because he has his own tradition and that traditional jazz survives, and it's something different.
So when you look at bluegrass, the bluegrass doesn't change. It stays in the form of the Stanley brothers and Bill Monroe, maybe Flatt & Scruggs. If it stays in that form, then it dies. If it changes, then it survives. And we're a part of that change.
And I want to go to a bluegrass festival and hear somebody kicking into some Flatt & Scruggs and have it be the way that it's supposed to be; doing it really right. Accidentally, that's what we do when we're warming up to go out on stage, like all Flatt & Scruggs.
But I also want it to survive. So when people complained about New Grass Revival or Nickel Creek, or Yonder Mountain String Band, or a Steep Canyon Rangers, I get it. And we're a part of that evolution that will in time be the survival of this American string band form, that we maybe will still call bluegrass, just like Chick Corea is jazz.
Cris Cohen: I recently interviewed Michael McDermott, who's the drummer for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. And she released an acoustic album. “It's acoustic,” I said, “but it's still punk.” There's no distortion, obviously, or any of that kind of thing. And he said, “The punk is still the attitude that you bring to the song.” And I would say, that backs up what you're saying. There's a bluegrass vibe that, even if it's done in a non-traditional manner, it still has that essence to it.
Barrett Smith: I think that's true. As you're assessing and categorizing and naming things — if somebody wants to come along and say, “the Steep Canyon Rangers is bluegrass,” then I say, cool. Great. And if they want to say it's not bluegrass, then I'll say, that’s fine, too. Neither of those perspectives are going to have that much impact on what we do. Maybe a little bit, but very little… especially in these moments with so much change going on. We’re very much just trying to find what we think is exciting and/or beautiful and/or connecting with people, and then pursue that directly. If it gets called this, or it gets called that, I'm not saying that doesn't matter, but it doesn't matter that much to us.
Covering James Taylor
Cris Cohen: And then along the lines of influences and inspirations, for the “North Carolina Songbook” album, you took the lead on the cover of James Taylor's “Sweet Baby James.” And it made me think about, when you talked about joining the band, where they say, “Oh, this is easy” and they teach you. I'm just curious, because it sounds like it would have been easy, your voice and his range and that kind of thing… not a lot of intense instrumentation. But to do it well, what I'm wondering is, how is it wrong to assume that that's an easy song to cover? What are the challenges in doing that well?
Barrett Smith: Right off the top, James Taylor, is one of those writers who's so popular and so familiar. Let's say you're just picking up a guitar and learning to play and you want to play “Sweet Baby James.” It's more harmonically complicated than you expect it to be. And that's true of The Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, but not really Bob Dylan. And that's not good or bad, it's just harmonically complex, or in layman's terms, is just a bunch of chords in it. And so right off the bat, that's true, “Sweet Baby James” and a lot of James Taylor songs, they deceptively come across as something that's really funky easy listening. And then they're harmonically more complex than you think they're going to be. It’s a great song.
I think the challenge becomes, at least for me, playing that one over. I’ve played that song and sang it for my whole life and thought about it, thought about it, thought about it, changed the way I thought about it, about what's going on in that song, about what's beautiful about that song. Our version of it was driven by those questions, that haven't been asked a lot and answered a lot. So that when it comes to the moment of actually singing that song on a stage or at a fest, that's the combination of a lot of wonderings and processings and feelings. And we played it the other night, actually, last weekend, for the first time in a long time. It happened again. It was beautiful in a different way. I remember thinking three-fourths of the way through the song, “Oh, yeah, this is really powerful and beautiful in this way. And I should try to remember what that is.” But more importantly, I should remember what the next line is. Now I've forgotten what that thing was, but we'll uncover again when we perform it.
Cris Cohen: That's really cool, that you can still find stuff, this many years later of hearing the song and performing the song.
Barrett Smith: Partially, that's a matter of perspective. We're living our best and we can do that with anything, no matter how simple or complicated it is. And then also, there's something to be said for transcendentally good, amazing writing with a writer who is a poet like him, or Bob Dylan, or Townes Van Zandt or really great poet / singers / songwriters. And I find with them that I cannot get to the bottom of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” no matter how hard I tried. Every year it changes, every decade. And I just love “Sail on silver girl, sail on by…” How gorgeous that is. A lot of it is just great writing.
Cris Cohen: That covers all of my stuff. Is there anything we didn't cover that you want to talk about?
Barrett Smith: No. I enjoy these things. It was just cool to sit and talk with somebody who’s actually interested. I'm living it so much. It's fun to talk with somebody who communicates really well. That’s all, I'm good. There's nothing else I feel I need to say in particular.
Cris Cohen: I could go on like this for days.
Barrett Smith: I love talking about music, and especially about this band, because it’s my favorite band in a way. I know more about it than any other band, that’s for sure.
Cris Cohen: Speaking of that, there are tons of layers within all of these songs that you guys put out. I don’t know that a successful song has to have that depth, but it makes it more interesting to come back to sometimes, again and again.
Barrett Smith: It's a credit to Graham as a songwriter and then to Graham's personality that he is so open and flexible with it all. Because it's one thing to change the chords, or the keys, or the feel of the song. But sometimes the meaning will take off and change. Graham's songs often are layered and complex enough for that meaning change to happen. On the front end of it, everybody in the band gets to play a role into changing those meanings for better or for worse. It always for better it always ends up. And Graham can referee the whole time. Most of the songs will change a few times before it finds its true identity as it lands on the album. And sometimes they found their true identity on the album and then they changed to something a year later.