It’s been a busy 12 months for Melbourne’s Ben Wright Smith. Off the back of the release of his indie folk hymn ‘Storm Boy’, Wright Smith has been furiously tinkering away to dish up the first in a trilogy of EP’s set to storm the Australian music scene in the coming year. PSYCHOTROPICAL is a short but sweet collection of Americana-esque pysch pop tracks, providing a taste of just whats to come from this songwriter, and leaving us wanting more.
Following his acclaimed 2017 debut album, PSYCHOTROPICAL stands as an ode to another promising era for Wright Smith, who has already nabbed a heavy rotation across 20 Australian music stations. Having gigged every inch of the red desert and a considerable hunk of the States, this familiar face knows the music biz – and wants to give you some advice. Check out his tips in this weeks Savvy Seven below!
1) Who was your first musical inspiration? Why? Who inspires you now?
I grew up in Melbourne and not in a super musical family so my first love was the skater punk scene. The first gig I ever saw was an underage Grinspoon show and that made me want to play music forever. Bands like Frenzal Rhomb and Bodyjar captured me instantly, not because of the punky attitude, but because they’re melodies were and continue to be so awesome. I think there are still distant echoes of that stuff in some of my music. From there it branched out to so many different styles over my growing up and now I think I just love music that I feel has a real honesty to it. After touring all last year I’m getting the most inspiration from my fellow bands playing around Melbourne. I go see bands all the time and there is so much amazing diverse music being played around which was a great inspiration to me this year while I’ve been recording back home.
2) What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?
I think it can be hard but its important to take care of yourself while on tour. The whole thing can be so overwhelming and if you’re playing a one off show in another town, that’s one thing. Once you’re on a string of shows and playing every night I can tell you that the exhaustion creeps up and there’s no worse feeling than playing a bad show because you’re burnt out. That being said there are always moments you’ll find during a tour when its great to remember you’re in music for fun. There will be loads of time to celebrate so if you’re anything like me its important to remember not to get too ahead of yourself.
3) What has been one of the most defining moments in your career?
I think when I first heard my song on the radio was when I realised that I could really do this. I recorded an acoustic song when I was 19 and sent of a CD to the community radio station Triple R. I was at my friend’s parents place and we were all listening. Its still an amazing feeling when something you made that’s very personal gets broadcast to an unknowable amount of people listening.
4) How has your music practice changed over time?
When I was young I loved practicing because it meant I didn’t have to do homework and every little thing I did felt like a breakthrough. In many ways now I’m playing all the time so I’m improving a lot just doing that. In some ways I’m also trying to unlearn some things that I’ve learned trying to push to create new music. Those happy mistakes can lead to a whole new bunch of songs you couldn’t have written before. I cut out the blues notes in my playing earlier this year and being brought back to playing pure pentatonic scales lead me to writing a lot more of the most interesting parts on the new music.
5) My top business tip for new artists is…
Always put music first. You can network all you want and try to get your album to as many people as you can but the reality is when you strike a chord (no pun intended) a lot of people will take interest in you. Often you’re better off at home working on your craft and making sure what you’re working on is getting better and better as apposed to trying to schmooze up to industry types. The best people to be working with are the people who really understand and believe in what you’re doing and that can take time, so I’d say, in the mean time make as much cool music as you can.
6) My biggest career mistake has been… What would you do differently now?
I think its hard to look back in retrospect because everyone drives down a road littered by mistakes. I’d say for me that in the past perhaps I didn’t understand the magnitude and perhaps wasn’t ready for some of the successes that came my way. As a result, I wasn’t able to make the most of certain opportunities when they were presented to me. If you get a song on the radio and start touring and working with other people its very hard to know exactly what’s going on. Sometimes its easy for people to speak past you and you nod and agree. With the pest intentions people who have been in the business for a long time understand that side better than you do. Its important to speak up at these points and make sure you fully understand what the situation is. You want to be in control of your own career and vision and while someone may be helping with the best intentions you will be the one who it affects.
7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is… What do you think can change that?
Music just can’t really be free if you want people to keep making it. So my advice would be. If you like an artist, especially someone who’s not playing stadiums, its very nice to buy their album. Each song they make they invest so much time and money into and you’ll never be able to appreciate it listening to it on a shuffle playlist on Hot Hits Spotify or whatever. If you invest a little in an artist and actually own a part of the music, you’ll really give stuff a good listen and you’ll hear more and more in it too. For instance, if you play my songs backwards they often sound like me singing in a strange Alien dialect. You just can’t do that on Spotify.
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