South Shore musician Mike “Mic” Smith was out on a chilly, windswept beach, late at night, when inspiration struck.
“In a nutshell, I had just finished up a gig and it was late at night. I went out to secret beach, I don’t know why. It was freezing, super windy,” Smith said. “We were getting ready to leave, and long story short, we heard something. We couldn’t tell if it was someone crying or laughing. It was some girl walking along the beach, bawling her eyes out barefoot with a T-shirt on. You know, I had my thermals on and a hoodie and a beanie.”
Smith and his companions eventually calmed the distraught young lady, and Smith had found the muse for the “stairway” in his musical career.
“Angel in the Wind” is the title track of Smith’s newly released debut album, a set of original tunes spanning several years of songwriting. Smith plays acoustic and electric guitar, often with a loop pedal, and sings.
“It’s been a couple years now, some of this stuff is stuff that I played when me and Strange Weather went on that little tour,” Smith said. “They’re all originals. There’s some that sound kind of like ’90s rock acoustic type of thing, there’s some that sound folky in a sense, there’s a couple that have a little bluesy feel to them.”
To record the project, Smith headed over the hill to Carson City to work with Vince Gill at Play Your Own Music, working in two- and three-hour sessions over a period of three weeks.
“He’s awesome. He’s pretty open minded to whatever with a little bit of intuition on different ways to do stuff, because that was my first time in the studio,” Smith said.
“We were trying to do it track by track, individual recordings, but that wasn’t working for me. I just wasn’t feeling it at all because I had never done it like that, so I asked him if I could just plug in how I do every day. We figured out a cool way to do that, so it’s more like a live in studio album.”
Available digitally on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, “Angel in the Wind”was released Thursday, April 13, in a party at The Loft in South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Village, something of a first for the venue as well.
“It’s gonna be in the theater,” Smith said. “They’ve done a few burlesque shows, but nothing like this.”
Smith grew up in the San Bernardino Valley, taking up music in his early 20s.
“I just always wanted to (play),” he said. “Then my girlfriend bought me a guitar when I was like 21, 22, and I just started messing around with it.”
Smith played a handful of open mics and a one-off gig in a biker bar, getting his stage legs for a few years before he deciding to move to South Shore in 2008 to teach snowboarding at Kirkwood. He quickly jumped into gigs around town, playing at Fresh Ketch and Marriott periodically, and booking regular gigs at Base Camp Pizza when they opened in 2011.
Onstage, Smith uses a Boss loop pedal alongside wah and delay pedals. He plays a Fender acoustic, a Fender Stratocaster, and just acquired a Crafter hybrid electric guitar.
“It’s got an acoustic pickup under the bridge, semi-hollow, and then it’s got a humbucker under the neck,” he said.
Smith appears regularly around South Shore, including Sunday afternoons at Base Camp Pizza. He is looking forward to the summer music season, but for now the buzz is about this release party.
“I want to focus on this and make it a good time,” Smith said. “This is the first time I’ve ever headlined my own show and my first album I’ve ever recorded.”