by Scott Roos
photos by Deanna Roos Photography
Geoff Smith, aka the primary creative force behind rootsy, folksy project Gunner & Smith, has an everyman quality about him. Or at least on the surface level he does. That’s not to say that he’s average or a “jack of all trades, master of none” kinda fella. It’s more along the lines of the fact that he’s a good dude - somebody you’d wanna go out for a beer with and shoot the shit. You’d probably talk about sports or the weather. He comes off the kinda handy guy that you’d call if you needed help doing an odd job around your house. In short, Smith is affable, relatable and loyal to a fault. At least that’s been my perception of him so far…
To be perfectly honest, I have no clue if the dude could help me change a flat tire or hold the ladder while I climb up on my roof to chip the ice off my trailer chimney (I don’t actually live in a trailer anymore but I used to). It’s just the vision I have of him for some reason. I’m probably mostly basing this imagery I have of him on physical appearance and a few chance encounters with him to be perfectly honest. Visually, Smith presents as a tall, stocky fella, with a long ass beard, ball cap upon his head, a plaid shirt and baggy jeans with a giant pair of work boots affixed to his feet. So there’s that “working man” vibe about him; stereotypically speaking.
In truth though, Smith’s tools of the trade are his guitars and, whilst he may be able to swing a hammer, I really have no idea, he’s obviously more comfortable being a singer-songwriter. He adores performing for people and connecting with them.
"Sometimes you just do something because you can't necessarily do something else. It's not like I'm not capable of doing something else but I just can't not do music,” Smith begins tentatively in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
Smith is a deep thinker - a soft spoken guy. Kind of an old soul. He has a background in religious history even at one point working on a master’s degree in the subject. Much of his songs, then, revolve around the subject of his religious upbringing and the general loss of innocence that involved a changing worldview as he got older and more into adulthood. These themes reflect strongly in his recently released full length entitled Hear You In My Head which dropped this past September.
“I grew up going to church, doing church stuff, and then as I got older and got into my early adult years, my beliefs started to switch and change. I think a lot of my writing over the last couple of years has been trying to come to terms with what that means,” explains Smith, “You know we were all taught to understand the world in one way and then all of the sudden you don’t really think that it works anymore. You gotta basically adjust your worldview and from a philosophical and personal standpoint there’s a lot of thought and effort that goes into that because that's the kind of person that I am.”
“It reminds me of a city. There's parts of it that fall into ruins but they still kind of affect how the city is built right? And then there's other parts you keep and you protect. And other parts you have to tear down and start all over.”
Songs like “Something More to Give”, “Hear You In My Head” and “Find Your Own Way” Smith feels deal directly with these topics. You can tell by chatting with him that this record was a very personal journey essentially helping him come to terms with the topics he’s covering. His hope is that others who hear his words and listen to his songs will be able to identify and relate.
“For me, it's my hope that some of those thoughts and ideas that I wrestle with are similar thoughts and ideas of others. Even me talking about my relationship with religion - there's a lot of people like me that go through those same things as I do. When I heard somebody that I kind of respected explain and talk about their journey in that area it made me feel less alone and that I wasn’t just figuring out things on my own. It made me feel that there's other people that are like me in that way. So maybe my music will have some sort of connection there,” says Smith.
“I have to tell myself that there's people out there that want to hear it. The thing as a musician and as an artist is you have to have that thing where you tell yourself that you do have something valuable. There is value in me continuing to say it.”
Well, I can relate. Many people can, have and will. Smith’s songs are just built that way. He’s a poet and a thinker. A prophet? No… A picker and a preacher? Perhaps. His music is cerebral - like him. His performances sort of a stripped down, laid bare affair and I have a feeling he wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether it be 15 people or 50 or 150 in his audiences, Smith does what he does and that's all he can do - keep reaching people.
"You meet people and they really have a meaningful time at your show. And that's the thing that really connects with me. So for me really quantifying it down to numbers and things makes me anxious and uncomfortable but then you go play a show for 15 people and one of them comes up to tell you how good it was and wants to talk to you about stuff. There's something about that that's special and if there wasn't then why would half of us do this because half of us, we're going out playing, sometimes people are there sometimes they aren't but we still find those little things. You have to be able to take those little moments and allow them to fuel you."