Doug Smith is a Grammy-award-winning guitarist and champion finger picker combining folk, classical, and jazz influences, praised by Billboard magazine as producing “inviting melodies” and “stunning finger picking.” KS spoke with Doug prior to his upcoming show at Kyoto’s Taku Taku.
How would you describe this your music in general to someone coming to see Doug Smith for the very first time?
If it sounds like more than one guitar is playing, that goes back to my classical guitar training. Classical studies and Bach inventions taught me how to bring out different voices as needed, whether it is a melody, bass line, or inner voice. Singing in choir helped as well, as I sometimes will think of a particular melodic line as being soprano, alto, or tenor lines moving in different directions. While doing my classical studies, I was playing in rock bands at night, so hopefully that energy comes through as well. I’m more of a traditional fingerpicker, with occasional tapping tunes thrown in, but either way, I like to have a strong sense of melody in my original music. Those compositions may run from the introspective and serious (as in Renewal or Order of Magnitude) to the playful and fun (as in Night of the Raccoons by my friend Paul Chasman). In live performance I like to throw in some fun American cover tunes, as well.
You’ll be playing your Kyoto gig alongside Japanese guitarists Masaaki Kishibe and Masa Sumide. How did this collaboration come about?
I’ve been on two tours of Japan with Masa Sumide, who is an amazing guitarist and good friend. He has such a strong sense of groove and is a great performer. On our last tour, we did a duet of Hit The Road, Jack which was a lot of fun! I’ve always loved the beautiful playing of Masaaki Kishibe – his compositions are so melodic. We got to share the stage at the IFSGF (International Finger-Style Guitar Festival) concert in China a few years ago. I am very much looking forward to playing with them both again!
Which guitarists, past or present, would you say have been an influence on your own playing?
Chet Atkins would be my number one, as I learned to fingerpick by watching him on TV, so I adopted his playing technique. Also, I played a nylon string guitar until I heard British guitarist John Renbourn play classical style on a steel string, so that’s what I switched to. Other big influences on me are Michael Hedges, Pat Metheny, Alex deGrassi, Leo Kottke, and Steve Hackett.
Grammy-winning acoustic-guitar-picking champion
• Taku Taku, Kyoto • Jun 29 • acoustic guitar • 7pm • ¥4,000/¥4,500 • Tel: 07-5351-1321