Basic Folk Podcast: Chris Smither

The one and only Chris Smither! Influenced by Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smither’s guitar playing is centered around the beat and around the groove. He mics his feet during concerts and loves being able to sound like several different instruments as his heroes did. Smither says, “Groove is the essence of engagement.” He’s lived an extraordinary life that started off moving around due to his linguistic parents’ careers. He ended up in New Orleans for the bulk of his childhood, with a short stint in Paris, that allowed him to become fluent in French (among other languages). Something notable about Smither: as a songwriter, he has the hardest time with the lyrics, which is strange as the son of language professors. He talks about the impact of their work in his own songs.

We also get some great stories from Smither: like showing up at Eric von Schmidt’s house in Florida that eventually led him to moving to Cambridge, MA. Once he arrived, he started hanging around incredible musicians. A young musician named Bonnie Raitt in particular took to his song “Love You Like a Man,” and recorded it. Nearly 40 years later, it’s still a staple of her live sets. We get to hear about the kind of career that Chris had envisioned for himself and why his alcoholism held him back for over a decade. Smither also talks about his relationship with his father, particularly through his song “Father’s Day.” He re-recorded that and 8 other of his older songs for his latest album More from The Levee, which also includes one brand new song, “What I Do.” Chris Smither is a treasure!


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