We interviewed John Smith after seeing him play at the Greenman Festival in 2007. What a lovely man he is.
What do you love about the Green Man Festival?
Everything! Such a unique atmosphere. They always put on good music and everyone smiles. And they have the best cider.
What was your personal highlight, who did you enjoy listening to?
Vetiver. My girl got me listening to them a few weeks previous and so I thought I knew what to expect, but seeing them live was one of the most profound musical experiences I’ve had. Battles were immense, too. Their drummer is an insane beast.
You have some very original guitar techniques, from where do you take influence?
Lots of the great players, like Leo Kottke, Nick Drake, John Renbourn and Eric Roche. I saw Eric using the guitar-as-percussive-instrument techniques and it was really impressive. The lap-guitar-tapping thing I do is sort of a combination of that and seeing lap-slide players like Kelly Joe Phelps. My favourite style is 4/4 fingerstyle, and there are so many good players. Clive Carroll is one of the best.
What on earth inspires you?
Mud and guts and lanes and fields. My friends and my girl. Folk music. It’s raining outside in Liverpool, where I live at the moment, and it will rain for the next seven months, so I have to try and be inspired by the damp.
You toured with John Martyn, how was that?
When it started I hadn’t played to a thousand people before, all sitting and listening for a pin to drop. There’s nothing better than getting an audience on your side who weren’t expecting it. John’s a lovely man and he’s been very good to me. Those tours were a great experience, but playing to thirty people is still scary.
This is a blank question, in fact, not a question at all! Please just say what you feel!
I feel good. As I write I am chewing on muesli, which is a tasteless, horrible thing. It is a disciplinary measure designed to counteract the excesses of touring. There are few jobs which allow you to behave absolutely appalingly, and I should like to stay on the good side of my conscience. However! I have a policy of trying out a Curry House in every town, should the opportunity arise. I am fascinated by them and find them to be that rare thing, a place where tension and relaxation exist side by side, at times nullifyng each other so that what you get is a place that is very much like the physical embodiment of a trance. Though the body disagrees with the ingestion of spiced meats at midnight, the mind finds the situation to be elevating, almost transcendental. ‘Everest’ in Cheltenham does an astonishing Tandoori Lamb.
What can we expect to see from John Smith in the coming months?
I’ve got gigs up the yin-yang. I’m on tour with Cara Dillon in September, Davy Graham in October and then my first solo tour is happening throughout November. Everyone should come along! After that I’m going to hide for a bit and make another record, which is going to be quiter than the first and stripped of any superfluities. I need to buy a new Hi-Fi. My single ‘The Bird and The Worm’ is out on 7″ and sounds nice. I’m hoping to make millions of pounds. If I do, you’ll see Curry Houses bearing the Smith Family Crest all over the land.