By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
It's an old story: Talented local musician makes a serious stab at success in the biz, only to play his heart out in a mostly indifferent South Florida music scene. He records, he tours, he practices his balls off. He does all the things it takes to make it. The response is a collective beach-day yawn as the dial turns to Power 96.
And then the inevitable See ya, Miami, wouldn't wanna be ya, as yet another TLM makes for the greener pastures of Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, wherever. The only question that remains: Who's next?
Chalk up yet another casualty to local apathy, as blues guitar prodigy Josh Smith packs his case and heads west to Los Angeles. And while the average TLM gives it at least till his 23rd birthday before calling it a day, Smith is not your average TLM.
Still just 22 but already with nine solid years of professional music experience under his belt, Smith is not acting on youthful impulse and blind optimism. This is a calculated move by a seasoned bluesman in a slump, one who's played in every state in the union and who needs to shake things up in the land of greater opportunity.
"Right now I have bar none the best band I've ever had in my life," says the frustrated Smith, who's toured nearly nonstop for the past six years. "But it's the least-working band I've ever had. We just recorded some demo stuff that blows away the four albums that I've released, but I'm not even gonna bother with putting it out. I've done it already, four times -- it's just time for something new."
Smith was a bluesman from the start, listening to his parents' LPs of blues greats like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Freddie King. "That's what my parents listened to, so as a kid that's what I thought everybody listened to," says Smith.
After six years of lessons, his parents took him to an open blues jam. When he got up to play, the audience went wild at the sight of this skinny twelve-year-old kid playing the blues, and Smith was forever hooked.
More than a novelty act, the kid could play. So much so that he earned the right to sit in with the big boys: players like Johnny Copeland, Kenny Neal, and Matt "Guitar" Murphy.
But Smith's move now is not out of bitterness and defeat. From the vantage point of six years of touring, he still sees South Florida as not that bad of a music scene.
"Everybody complains about their scene when they're here. But when you leave, like I have in other places, it's not so bad in South Florida," says Smith. "And the blues scene is much better than people think it is, because there's a lot of people who are really serious about the blues here, who know the roots and understand the music. But people here want to party and dance, that's the overwhelming vibe, and we've never been a dancing kind of band. We're a band that people come to watch."
As motivation goes, maybe it's what blues great Jimmy Thackery, a former guitar prodigy himself, once said about Smith that has him itching for adventure: "Josh is three heartbreaks away from being a true blues guitar genius."
One down, two to go.