Nashville based singer/songwriter Z. Smith released his latest album Smoke Before Fire this past spring, with the single “Devastated” quickly becoming a fan favorite, and recently signed an exclusive management deal with Arrow Music Agency.
You said that in college your “main goal became to prove to myself that I could take large steps and accomplish goals on my own and that’s what led me to getting my first project together, organizing live shows and starting to map out my own path.” What direction do you see your career going now that you’ve signed with Arrow Music Agency?
I’m still following that same mindset, wanting to prove myself and show that I can take big steps in this industry. With Arrow, we now have a more structured plan rather than just a general idea of where to go next and I’m excited to take strides on a larger scale. I feel like Chris and my manager Christine have a good understanding of where I want my career to go and how to get my name out there and really find my own lane in the market. More shows, continued progress with production, and working with sponsors are where we are heading next to do just that.
Your album, Smoke Before Fire, follows your story, your struggles and transformation, on your journey from Cincinnati to Nashville. What is it like to see how fans have responded to such personal lyrics?
I love hearing what people think of the album, good or bad. To hear how someone else was affected by the lyrics, or how they may have interpreted them, is what makes me want to keep doing what I do. Some of those who are closer to me have started to pick up on some more subtle lines and that is what means the most to me because I know I’m being heard. With my style of writing, it’s great when a certain line catches someone’s ear that they might not have heard or really paid attention to the first or second time they heard the song, but then they hear this one small part and it all clicks. That’s why I listen to Hip-Hop and it’s fulfilling when one of my songs has the same effect on someone else.
You learned the recording process in high school. As you’ve grown in your career, is it still your favorite part of making music?
Definitely. Recording is where I feel most creative and can bring life to the words I’ve written down. As I continue to record, I’m learning more and more about the process of making music and I can hear progress being made. It’s where I have the most fun and find myself the happiest.
What’s it like to be growing in popularity and more recognized? Do you enjoy that aspect of the business?
It’s humbling. To gain any type of recognition is a blessing and it’s a great feeling to become more known for what I love to do. I absolutely enjoy it.
If you were to compare yourself to another male artist, who would it be and why?
To be entirely honest, I’m really not sure who I’d compare myself to. By friends, I’ve been compared to Chris Webby, Futuristic, Hoodie Allen, and somewhat Logic and I can see some similarities but I’ve tried not to compare myself to other artists, especially those I look up to. There are a ton of artists across history who inspire me, but as far as comparisons go, I make what I think sounds good and try to follow my gut.
Who are you a big fan of and what do you find most inspiring about his/her music?
I’m becoming more invested in Joyner Lucas’ music. That guy showcases such raw honesty that it’s shocking and deserves nothing but respect. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for new music to release as I am for his joint project Angels & Demons.
Where is your dream venue?
Playing Riverbend Music Center would be surreal. To come back to Cincinnati on its main stage, in front of a crowd of people who come from the same place I do, and showing out for those who have been with me since the beginning, that’s my ultimate goal.
Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
In five years, I want to be in a position where I can take care of those around me. I don’t consider myself materialistic but I know there are a lot of finer things our world has to offer and I want to give my friends and family a chance to experience those things. If everything goes the way we’re hoping, I have aspirations of headlining tours, creating multiple albums, collaborating with some of the industry’s leaders, all in the hopes that I can bring my family to a new level of happiness and leave my mark on Hip-Hop.
If you could dabble in any other genre of music, which would it be?
Easily Traditional Pop/Crooner/Jazz-Swing Music, whatever you want to call that genre. Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Bublé, Ella Fitzgerald, all of those artists had/have an unmatched talent mixed with a sense of class that you can’t help but admire. I would make that jump in a heartbeat if I possessed the skill.
What’s something you wished people asked you?
I have a lot to say about my family and those closest to me. There are so many people in my life that I’m grateful to have, but, unfortunately, I don’t get to see as often as I wish I could. I could go on for days with stories about my friends and all the stuff we used to do together. Those are guys that stuck with each other no matter what, through hell or high water, and still all talk on a daily basis and I think it’s pretty cool. I’d really like to talk more about them and how they shaped who I am today, I couldn’t ask for a better group. As for my family, I’ve got a great sister, mother, father and grandmother that I want the world to know about.
What are five things you can’t live without?
4. Skyline Chili
What’s your motto or the advice you live by?
“A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’”
Don’t think too much.
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
It can get tough to manage everything, but when it comes down to it, you have to make time in your schedule to make music. There have been plenty of nights where I’ve stayed in or stayed up to pursue further career steps, but it’s always been worth it. When something means a lot to you, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice and you always find room in your schedule for it. With that being said, I’m very thankful to have Christine on my side. She takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders when it comes to the business side of things and gives me a lot more time to focus on the fun stuff like making new material and content. Also having the support of my family and my close friends adds fuel to that fire.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing or playing?
So right now, my boy Big M and I have a little side project in the works that we’re planning out and wanting to get off the ground. It’s a podcast that we’re tossing around ideas for, and without giving too much away, it’s called “Under the Sun.” Mason’s my oldest friend and putting this together with him is a blast. He’s probably the most interesting person I know and any time we get to put our minds together, it’s a very good day.