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Matt Smith is trying to fit 20 pounds of stuff in a 10 pound bag

“I’m still trying to figure out how to properly present my art”

Matthew Smith: dreaming of San Diego, living in LA.
Matthew Smith: dreaming of San Diego, living in LA.

Drummer Matthew Smith has been a fixture in San Diego for quite a few years, playing with the Matt Smith Neu Jazz Trio, Juice Box, and Fresh Veggies Micro Brass. He gigs often enough around town that it’s easy to forget he’s no longer living here, and has settled in Long Beach, a move that began when he returned to school for his graduate degree at CalArts in Santa Clarita. While he can still be seen with different bands at Panama 66 (including February 24 and March 3), he’s also performing frequently up north with a band called Phat Cat Swinger, and teaching jazz drums at Palomar and Saddleback Colleges.

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Smith and his wife Rebecca bought their Los Angeles County home last year. For now, he’s still cool with making the commute south as needed. “I feel a deep longing to go back and live in San Diego all the time,” he says. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in the next ten years.” He’s also recording and releasing his own original material, in the form of periodically dropped singles. “My process is to release a new song every two months. I’ve amassed some recording gear, and I’m trying to play as many instruments as I can, including doing my own vocals. I’ve blocked my time out so that, 30 days before the release date, I’m doing various amounts of promotion, hyping the upcoming drop. I’m not going to be releasing an album at the end, but this is an experiment in promoting my abilities as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.”

Smith released his first single, “Responsibility,” in November, and his second single, “Cool Man,” on February 10. “I’m looking to drop music in April, June and August,” he adds. “Those are my target months. I’m doing all the singing. I’d say you could call it ‘jazz-adjacent,’ but maybe it’s closer to ‘indie rock’ with jazz harmony mixed in. I’m also playing bass, guitar, drums of course, and I’ve got a plethora of keyboards at my house where I’ll be recording it. I’ll be adding samples and textural effects and mbira as well. I even added some trombone on ‘Responsibility,’ I used to play that instrument a lot, but not much anymore.”

If Smith’s ambitious project sounds like he’s on a mission, well, there’s a reason for that. “I’m going to be a dad in April, so I know everything is going to change overnight. For the first time in my life, I’ve been able to sit back and not have to worry so much about the hustle and grind. This band Phat Cat Swinger has been really helpful in that regard; they’ve been keeping me busy with steady, well-paying gigs that I love to do. It’s a swing band, kinda Brian Setzer, rockabilly-adjacent. We do a lot of gigs at Disneyland and the band has a big six-week tour coming up in September, which is going to be great. But with my kid on the way, I’m trying to fit 20 pounds of stuff in a 10 pound bag. That’s probably the reason for all of my creative output in the last six months. I gotta do it now!”

As if impending fatherhood and a packed schedule weren’t enough, Smith has also embarked on a parallel career as a visual artist, designing concert posters and similar images. “My wife bought me an iPad in 2019, which I used basically for reading music. Then the pandemic hit, and I started drawing. I started out by drawing my friends, and they came out better than drawing people I didn’t know. Then I started designing flyers for people.” Eventually, he was commissioned to design the 2022 CalArts World Music & Dance Festival poster. “That was huge for me; I had to go out and buy a bunch of programs. As far as what I’d like to do with it: recently, I’ve put out some buttons and pins with my art on them that I’ll be selling, in correlation with the ‘Cool Man’ release. I’d love to have a show, an art show, something like that. I’m still trying to figure out how to properly present my art, because it’s all digital. I feel like I’ve put out a lot more visual art in the last year than musical art. But I feel like that’ll even out here in 2023, as the world is seemingly coming back to its feet.”

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Matthew Smith: dreaming of San Diego, living in LA.
Matthew Smith: dreaming of San Diego, living in LA.

Drummer Matthew Smith has been a fixture in San Diego for quite a few years, playing with the Matt Smith Neu Jazz Trio, Juice Box, and Fresh Veggies Micro Brass. He gigs often enough around town that it’s easy to forget he’s no longer living here, and has settled in Long Beach, a move that began when he returned to school for his graduate degree at CalArts in Santa Clarita. While he can still be seen with different bands at Panama 66 (including February 24 and March 3), he’s also performing frequently up north with a band called Phat Cat Swinger, and teaching jazz drums at Palomar and Saddleback Colleges.

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Smith and his wife Rebecca bought their Los Angeles County home last year. For now, he’s still cool with making the commute south as needed. “I feel a deep longing to go back and live in San Diego all the time,” he says. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in the next ten years.” He’s also recording and releasing his own original material, in the form of periodically dropped singles. “My process is to release a new song every two months. I’ve amassed some recording gear, and I’m trying to play as many instruments as I can, including doing my own vocals. I’ve blocked my time out so that, 30 days before the release date, I’m doing various amounts of promotion, hyping the upcoming drop. I’m not going to be releasing an album at the end, but this is an experiment in promoting my abilities as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.”

Smith released his first single, “Responsibility,” in November, and his second single, “Cool Man,” on February 10. “I’m looking to drop music in April, June and August,” he adds. “Those are my target months. I’m doing all the singing. I’d say you could call it ‘jazz-adjacent,’ but maybe it’s closer to ‘indie rock’ with jazz harmony mixed in. I’m also playing bass, guitar, drums of course, and I’ve got a plethora of keyboards at my house where I’ll be recording it. I’ll be adding samples and textural effects and mbira as well. I even added some trombone on ‘Responsibility,’ I used to play that instrument a lot, but not much anymore.”

If Smith’s ambitious project sounds like he’s on a mission, well, there’s a reason for that. “I’m going to be a dad in April, so I know everything is going to change overnight. For the first time in my life, I’ve been able to sit back and not have to worry so much about the hustle and grind. This band Phat Cat Swinger has been really helpful in that regard; they’ve been keeping me busy with steady, well-paying gigs that I love to do. It’s a swing band, kinda Brian Setzer, rockabilly-adjacent. We do a lot of gigs at Disneyland and the band has a big six-week tour coming up in September, which is going to be great. But with my kid on the way, I’m trying to fit 20 pounds of stuff in a 10 pound bag. That’s probably the reason for all of my creative output in the last six months. I gotta do it now!”

As if impending fatherhood and a packed schedule weren’t enough, Smith has also embarked on a parallel career as a visual artist, designing concert posters and similar images. “My wife bought me an iPad in 2019, which I used basically for reading music. Then the pandemic hit, and I started drawing. I started out by drawing my friends, and they came out better than drawing people I didn’t know. Then I started designing flyers for people.” Eventually, he was commissioned to design the 2022 CalArts World Music & Dance Festival poster. “That was huge for me; I had to go out and buy a bunch of programs. As far as what I’d like to do with it: recently, I’ve put out some buttons and pins with my art on them that I’ll be selling, in correlation with the ‘Cool Man’ release. I’d love to have a show, an art show, something like that. I’m still trying to figure out how to properly present my art, because it’s all digital. I feel like I’ve put out a lot more visual art in the last year than musical art. But I feel like that’ll even out here in 2023, as the world is seemingly coming back to its feet.”

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