Our friend, hip hop artist, and fellow music blogger Joshua Smotherman (J. Smo) took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions. He lets us into the mind of a true music loving professional and shares his advice for others trying to make it in this crazy thing we call the music business. Watch the interview here:
Where did you get the name J.Smo?
The short answer is… it is a compacted version of my full name (Joshua Smotherman). The longer answer is my partner in BUNKS was also named Joshua and we’ve been friends since when we were 10 years old.
People used to call for us by name “Josh” and we’d both respond and people would laugh. That got old after a while right? So then it eventually became Smo and Gro, the inseparable duo.
When I moved out here and started being a solo artist, I just added the “J.” for J.Smo.
How did you get started in Hip Hop?
I’m not really sure but I’ve always been drawn to it. Not just the music but the culture and everything it represents. The struggle, the community, the action, and of course the music, dance, art, etc.
We used to write songs in all genres but somewhere along the line we started making Hip Hop. I used to play in a nu-metal band…I did that for about a year.
A lot of it had to do with the technological revolution and the face we couldn’t afford hardware but we were able to get software, though. The first thing I learned was Fruity Loops then onto Cubase, ProTools, VSTs and so forth. I went to school for production so I was able to learn professional studio equipment as well as all the home recording we were doing throughout the years.
I guess for a while I felt like I had no right to be a Hip Hop artist because I wasn’t from the city but somewhere along the line I just screw it. This is me, this is my thing, and I’m just going to do it. Once I chose to be a Hip Hop artist, I left everything else behind and just focused on Hip Hop.
How would you describe the J.Smo sound?
That’s a really good question and I don’t have an answer really. I’m influenced by boom bap, classic era of Hip Hop, and the bass of the dirty south and specifically the 3-6 Mafia/Memphis sound.
I don’t really know but it’s definitely the J.Smo sound…the BUNKS sound…Bringing Unmatched Noise Knowledge & Sound. It’s definitely that.
What are your influences?
Life. The human experience. The things I see, the people I meet, the stories I hear, the stories I live. It’s everything. As far as artists, I learned to play guitar to classic rock and all eras of the blues. As far as Hip Hop, one of the first tapes I bought was MC Hammer then it was 69 Boyz, Naughty by Nature, Notorious BIG, Tupac and on and on. Outkast is a huge part of my life. Blackalicous, The Roots, Jurassic 5…but I guess the one group that I really connected with, when I was a music fan, is Atmosphere.
These days I don’t really go out looking for new music. Because I’m a music blogger, there is so much music in my life there is always something new for me to listen to.
What is your songwriting process like?
I just sit down and do it. That’s the simple answer. I turn knobs, push buttons, and play things until they sound right, feel good and make me nod my head.
Tell us about your recent release Purgatory?
The cool thing about Purgatory is that I always wanted to work with a live band so this project is a collection of songs where I have remixed, collaborated or worked directly with live musicians and bands on new songs. Each song is with a different band from a different genre from various locations around the planet.
What’s next for J.Smo?
A lot more activity. Networking events, shows, conferences. My kids are older now and go to school 8 hours a day so I have more freedom to get out and engage the community. I don’t necessarily need to be the dependable, reliable stay-at-home-dad all hours of the day so I can get out more and start to be my own individual again.
What advice would you give to other artists on the rise?
Don’t quit your day job…seriously. No one is going to come find you and hand you a deal anymore. Times have changed. You have to find your audience, connect with them, engage them and keep building until you have the clout the support to negotiate deals with bigger entities.
At the end of the day, you have to be a self-starter.
You have to get out and learn for yourself, educate yourself, experience things for yourself (whether good or bad) and just learn. If you are unable to get up and dig up information on how YOU can get your music licensed or how to market YOURself or how to treat YOUR music like a business…then YOU’re not going to make it.
Keep up with the music of J. Smo and B.U.N.K.S. HERE.
and learn from him on his BLOG